The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor awarded for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The medal is awarded by the President of the United States in the name of Congress. There are three versions: Army, Navy and Air Force. Marine Corp and Coast Guard recipients receive the Navy version of the Medal. The first Medals of Honor were awarded on March 25, 1863. To date, over 3,400 Medals have been awarded with approximately 1,500 being awarded to Civil War service members.
There are over 400 Medal of Honor recipients interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Some of the most notable and interesting stories of Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington are recounted here. Lt. General Nelson A. Miles is one of the 1,500 Civil War veterans awarded the Medal. He lays to rest in section three and was awarded the Medal for holding his command while the enemy continued to attack at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863. He was badly wounded during the battle. One of the most recent recipients, Pvt. Henry Johnson, buried in section 25, was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 2, 2015. In May 1918, Johnson and a fellow service member were attacked by a German raiding party of approximately a dozen men. Johnson was already badly wounded when the other solider was taken by the Germans. Johnson pursued the enemy and engaged them in hand-to-hand combat. Carrying only a knife, he saved his own life and the life of his fellow service member. He earned the nickname “Black Death” for his actions.
Another World War I recipient, Marine Cpl. John Pruitt, interred in section 18, received an Army and a Navy Medal of Honor for the same act. Only 19 men have been awarded two Medals. Pruitt attacked the enemy and captured two machine guns and later captured 40 prisoners in a dugout. Another Marine, Sgt. John Basilone, buried in section 12, received the Medal for his actions in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II. He managed to put a machine gun into action and repaired another all while receiving continual attack by the Japanese.
All of the soldiers interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier have been awarded Medals of Honor. The Vietnam War Unknown Soldier was presented with the Medal when interred at the cemetery in 1984. Later in 1998, the Vietnam Unknown was disinterred and through DNA testing was identified as 1st Lt. Michael Blassie. He was reinterred in a national cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Because the Medal of Honor was awarded to the Vietnam Unknown and not Michael Blassie, it remains at the cemetery. All four Medals for the unknown soldiers are housed in the museum called the Display Room, which is located near the Tomb.
For more information on these recipients and others laid to rest at Arlington, visit the cemetery on March 25 from 11 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. March 25 was designated National Medal of Honor Day in 1990. The Cemetery has specials tour focused on Medal of Honor recipients who are buried at the Cemetery. The tour ends at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for a special wreath laying ceremony. For more information visit http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/.
If you are unable to make it to the cemetery for the special Medal of Honor tour, visit the cemetery any other day of the year to learn about Medal of Honor recipients on the live narrated tram tour.
Arlington National Cemetery
Narrator, driver, trainer and dispatcher.