The original Medal of Honor awarded to one of Maine’s most famous sons, Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry regiment, for his heroics at the Battle of Gettysburg has been discovered and given to a historical organization in the state.
Chamberlain’s Medal of Honor, awarded in 1893 for his actions in the famous 1863 battle, was given Monday to the Pejepscot Historical Society, which owns the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, Maine.
The individual who donated the award requested anonymity. He had found it in the back of a book he had purchased “several years ago” at a sale held by First Parish Church in Duxbury, Mass., according to the society.
Chamberlain’s last surviving descendant, granddaughter Rosamond Allen, left her estate to that church upon her death 13 years ago, according to the Bangor Daily News.
Chamberlain was a professor at Bowdoin College when he enlisted in the Union army in 1862 and was appointed Lt. Colonel of the 20th Maine.
He saw action at Fredericksburg, where the Union suffered at a catastrophic defeat and Chamberlain was forced to spend the night of Dec. 13, 1862, on the freezing battlefield, using the bodies of the fallen for shelter while listening to bullets strike nearby corpses.
Chamberlain was promoted to colonel in June 1863, just prior to Gettysburg.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor for “daring heroism and great tenacity” in leading the 20th Maine in its crucial defense of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863, a critical stand in the Federal effort to hold back the Confederate onslaught.
Medal of Honor recipient Vernon McGarity, who overcame enemy gunfire to rescue wounded soldiers and destroy German weapons during the Battle of the Bulge, died last week in Memphis at age 91.
McGarity, a technical sergeant, was positioned with the rest of the 99th Infantry Division in the Ardennes Forest in December 1944 when Hitler mounted a final desperate offensive, seeking to break through the region and make for the North Sea.
Hitler believed if the plan were successful he might be able to negotiate a separate peace with the US and Great Britain, dividing them from the Soviets and allowing the Nazis to then concentrate on fighting the Red Army to the east.
Allied forces, which had been moving toward Germany after the D-Day invasion of France, were caught unaware by the counteroffensive and were initially pushed back.
The battle proved the costliest of the war for the US in terms of casualties with 89,000 killed, wounded, captured of missing. German losses were comparable, but the Nazis could less afford the loss of both men and materiel that the battle ultimately claimed.
More than 60 years after Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr., died at the brutal Battle of Chosin Reservoir in late 1950, the Medal of Honor recipient’s remains have been recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Faith, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, was only identified last year.
The Washington, Ind., native was buried at Arlington last week.
His only child, Barbara “Bobbie” Broyles, who was just 4 years old at the time of her father’s death, attended the ceremony.
“I’m incredulous,” she told FoxNews.com. “He’s been missing for 62 years and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing that he’s been found.”
With the onset of the Korean War in the summer of 1950, Faith, then 32, was dispatched to help stop the communist invasion of the southern part of the nation.
As someone who believes that a society is judged at least in part by the respect it shows its dead, there’s little I find more depressing than a forgotten, dilapidated cemetery.
Perhaps even harder to stomach coming across the graves of veterans that have fallen into disrepair.
To see the final resting places of men who once put their lives on the line – and sometimes gave those lives, in defense of their country – and who are now effectively consigned to oblivion does a great disservice to our nation.
Apparently, others feel the same, as well.
Witness Joseph Hoesch and Martin Neamon, a pair of Vietnam-era veterans from Pennsylvania.
When the pair visited the Chartiers Cemetery plot in Carnegie, Pa., where 133 Union veterans are interred, on a grey day in November 2010, they found it disheartening, according to KDKA.
William Shemin was just 19 years old when, over the space of three days in August 1918 during the pivotal Second Battle of the Marne, he crossed the battlefield three times to rescue fellow American soldiers.
On the third effort during the battle, in which the Allies stopped the last German offensive of World War I, he was wounded in the head.
But with his commanding officers either hurt or dead, Shemin refused medical attention and led the platoon out of danger before finally collapsing unconscious.
“He distinguished himself by excellent control of his platoon at every stage of the action and by the thoroughness at great personal danger at which he evacuated the wounded,” according to the battle report submitted three months later by the division commander.
The Bayonne, N.J., native’s heroics made him the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest combat award, with his award being signed by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.
Now, nearly a century later, the Army will consider whether Shemin actually deserved the Medal of Honor, but was denied because he was Jewish.
Charles P. Murray Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading an attack that turned back a 200-strong German unit during action in Northwestern France in late 1944 and later spent his last 40 years living in Columbia, died Friday at age 89.
Murray, who grew up in Wilmington, NC, had finished his third year at the University of North Carolina when he was drafted into the Army in 1942.
By October 1944, Murray, then 23 years old, was serving as a replacement platoon leader for Company C of the 20th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.
The division had landed in Saint-Tropez on the southern coast of France following months earlier and was pushing northward towards Germany. On Dec. 8, 1944, Murray became company commander.
Vernon Baker, who was the only living black veteran awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in World War II, died last week at age 90.
Baker was one of seven black soldiers honored with the Medal of Honor in 1997 for actions in World War II.
The long-overdue recognition came after a 1993 study commissioned by the US Army described systematic racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II.
At the time, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to black soldiers who served in World War II. After an exhaustive review of files, the study recommended that several black Distinguished Service Cross recipients have their awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor.