Medal of Honor Recipients from Washington, Part 2: World War I and World War II

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 3/07/2012
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 10038

One Washington resident was awarded a Medal of Honor in World War I and 21 Washington residents were World War II Medal of Honor recipients. A Washingtonian became the only U.S. Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor. Six University of Washington students received the Medal of Honor for service during the world wars. (With a total of eight students honored altogether, the University of Washington is one of the leading public colleges in the country in Medal of Honor recipients.)  This is Part 2 of a set of three that includes all Medal of Honor recipients that lived in Washington or are buried here.  

Deming Bronson (1894-1957). Deming Bronson was born in Wisconsin and moved to Washington. He attended the University of Washington and played on the Huskies football team. Lieutenant Bronson trained at Camp Lewis. He served in World War I with the 364th Infantry Regiment, 91st Division. On September 26, 1918, Bronson was wounded during an offensive and fought on. Wounded a second time that day, he refused evacuation and stayed with his troops. The next day he led another attack, was wounded a third time, and again refused evacuation. In 1929 he received the Medal of Honor for his valor. After the war, he worked in the paint industry and then in a family lumber business in Oregon. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Bronson Hall, a distinguished-visitors lodge at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is named for him. A Medal of Honor monument at the University of Washington honors Bronson and seven other University of Washington students who have been awarded the medal over the years.

Donald K. Ross (1910-1992). Donald K. Ross was born in Kansas. He enlisted in the navy in 1929 and made it a career. On December 7, 1941, he was on board the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor. Machinist Ross worked in the smoke and steam filled dynamo room to keep the ship's machinery operating despite the life-threatening conditions. Ross was one the first two men in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor. Ross retired, with the rank of Commander, in 1956 and settled in Port Orchard, Washington, where he and his wife Helen ran a diary farm. In 1980 Donald and Helen Ross published Washington State Men of Valor, which tells the stories of Washington Medal of Honor recipients. Donald Ross died in 1992 and his ashes were scattered at sea. The guided missile destroyer USS Ross carries his name.

Jose Calugas (1907-1998). Jose Calugas was born in the Philippines. In 1930 he joined the Philippine Scouts, a unit that was mobilized by the U.S. Army in World War II. On January 16, 1942, as Japanese forces were attacking the Philippines, a Scout gun battery was bombed and its crew killed or wounded. Mess Sergeant Calugas and other volunteers crawled to the gun position while under attack. Most of the volunteers were driven back by enemy fire, but Calugas and another soldier brought the gun back into action. They fought valiantly for several hours. Sergeant Calugas was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor, the only Filipino to receive the medal in World War II. With the fall of the Philippines, Calugas became a prisoner and survived the Bataan Death March. As a prisoner he was put to work in a Japanese-controlled rice mill and served as a spy for a local guerrilla force. When U.S. forces returned to the Philippines, he fought alongside them. Following the war Calugas remained in the U.S. Army, earning a commission and U.S. citizenship. Calugas retired in 1957 with the rank of Captain and moved to Tacoma. He worked at Boeing and graduated from the University of Puget Sound. His grave is in the Mountain View Cemetery in Tacoma. Calugas Street on Fort Sam Houston, in Texas, honors him.

Albert H. Rooks (1891-1942). Albert Rooks was born in Colton, Washington, and grew up in Walla Walla. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1914 and became a career naval officer. During the period from February 4 to 27, 1942, Captain Rooks displayed gallantry while under heavy attack. Captain Rooks was commanding the USS Houston when Japanese forces sank it in the Battle of the Java Sea on March 1, 1942. He went down with the ship and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Rooks Park near Walla Walla honors him.

Robert E. Galer (1913-2005). Robert Galer was born in Seattle and attended Queen Anne High School and the University of Washington. In 1935 he entered naval aviation training and became a Marine Corps pilot. He commanded Marine Corps Fighter Squadron 211 at Guadalcanal in August 1942. His leadership, as well as his skill as a fighter ace, earned him the Medal of Honor. Staying in the Marine Corps, Galer again served as a fighter pilot in the Korean War. Brigadier General Galer retired in 1957. He is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Douglas A. Munro (1919-1942). Douglas Munro was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and grew up in South Cle Elum, Washington. He attended Cle Elum High School and Central Washington State College. At Guadalcanal on September 27, 1942, Coast Guard Petty Officer Munro was in charge of landing craft delivering Marines ashore. He volunteered to use the landing craft as shields to recover Marines wounded and trapped on the beach. While saving Marines he was hit by enemy fire and killed. Petty Officer Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is the only U.S. Coast Guardsman to receive the medal. His grave is in the Laurel Hill Memorial Park cemetery in Cle Elum.

Reinhardt J. Keppler (1918-1942). Reinhardt Keppler was born in Ralston, Washington. He grew up in Washington and graduated from Wapato High School. Keppler joined the navy in February 1936. On November 12, 1942, his ship, the USS San Francisco, came under heavy attack. Despite serious wounds, Boatswain's Mate Keppler pulled other wounded crew to safety. He died doing so and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Keppler's grave is in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Arnold L. Bjorklund (1918-1979). Arnold Bjorklund was born in Clinton, Washington, and graduated from Ballard High School in Seattle. He joined the army in February 1941. On September 13, 1943, in Italy, First Lieutenant Bjorklund single-handedly attacked and destroyed two German machine gun positions and a mortar emplacement. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for these actions. After the war Bjorklund spent eight months in the Walla Walla army hospital and met his future wife there. Bjorklund lived in Vancouver, Washington, his last 17 years and was a manager at a chemical company. He is buried in the Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, Oregon.

Jesse R. Drowley (1919-1996). Jesse Drowley was born in Michigan and grew up in Spokane. On January 30, 1944, on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, Staff Sergeant Drowley, of the Americal Division, jumped on a tank to lead an attack on an enemy bunker. Despite being wounded twice he remained in the lead until the bunker was destroyed. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership and valor. Drowley returned to Spokane and a career at Fairchild Air Force Base. His grave is in the Fairmont Memorial Park cemetery in Spokane.

William Kenzo Nakamura (1922-1944). William Nakamura was born in Seattle. He attended Garfield High School and the University of Washington, where his studies were interrupted by incarceration in a Japanese-American internment camp. He joined the army and served with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy. On July 4, 1944, Private First Class Nakamura attacked a German machine gun nest that pinned down his platoon. His attack suppressed fire so his platoon could escape. Later that day, in another attack on a machine gun position, he was killed. William Nakamura received posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2000 Nakamura was awarded the Medal of Honor that he had been denied due to his ancestry. His grave is in the Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle.

Joe E. Mann (1922-1944). Joe Mann was born in Reardan, Washington, and joined the army in August 1942, serving in the 101st Airborne Division. On September 18, 1944, in the Netherlands, Private First Class Mann single-handedly destroyed an enemy position, was wounded, but continued attacking. He performed guard duties that night, and the next day during an attack he jumped on a grenade to save his comrades. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His grave is in the Greenwood Memorial Terrace cemetery in Spokane. Mann Street on Joint Base Lewis-McChord honors him.

Orville Emil Bloch (1915-1985). Orville Bloch was born in Wisconsin and grew up in North Dakota. He graduated from college, but was denied an officer's commission due to his short stature (5 feet, 4 inches). He enlisted in the army as a private and worked his way up the ranks to colonel by his retirement in 1970. In World War II he served in Italy with the 85th Infantry Division. On September 22, 1944, First Lieutenant Bloch, leading his platoon, attacked and destroyed enemy positions, actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Following his retirement, Bloch started an apple orchard business in Manson, Washington, and had a home in Seattle. He is buried in the Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle.

Richard B. Anderson (1921-1944). Richard Anderson was born in Tacoma and grew up in Agnew, Washington. He graduated from Sequim High School and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in July 1942. On February 1, 1944, on Kwajalein Island, Private First Class Richard Anderson was in a foxhole under attack. He went to throw a grenade but dropped it. Then, to protect his fellow Marines, he jumped on it, giving his life. Private First Class Anderson was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. His grave is in the New Tacoma Cemetery, Tacoma. The Port Angeles Federal Building is named in his honor.

John "Bud" Hawk (1924-2013). John D. Hawk enlisted in the army in 1943 after graduating from Bainbridge High School. During the battle of the Falaise Gap in France on August 20, 1944, Sergeant Hawk, manning a machine gun, held back an enemy counterattack. Despite wounds he directed fire against advancing enemy tanks that caused their destruction. His fearless initiative and heroic conduct was in large part responsible for crushing two counterattacks. On June 21, 1945, President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) placed the Medal of Honor around Sergeant Hawk's neck on the Washington State Capitol steps. Bud Hawk returned to Washington and graduated from the University of Washington. He became a teacher and principal in the Kitsap School District, guiding the young for 31 years. The John "Bud" Hawk education center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord honors his heroism and his achievements as an educator.

Victor L. Kandle (1921-1944). Victor Kandle was born in Roy, Washington, and grew up on land that would become part of Fort Lewis. Lieutenant Kandle served in the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. On October 9, 1944, in France he led his platoon on an attack that destroyed a powerful German defense. With destruction of this position Lieutenant Kandle led an attack on a fortified house and captured its soldiers. Two months later he was killed in action. Victor Kandle was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried in the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, Epinal, France.

Jack James Pendleton (1918-1944). Jack Pendleton was born in North Dakota and grew up in Yakima. On October 12, 1944, Staff Sergeant Pendleton volunteered to lead a squad attack against an enemy machine gun. Despite his wounds he moved ahead of his troops and came under heavy fire. He was killed and awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor. Pendleton Avenue on Joint Base Lewis-McChord is named to recall his valor. He is buried at the Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, Washington.

Wilburn K. Ross (1922-2017). Wilburn Ross was born in Kentucky. On October 30, 1944, with the 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Private Ross manned a machine gun through numerous enemy assaults. As fellow riflemen ran out of ammunition Ross continued to hold off the German attacks. He killed over 50 enemy soldiers and held his position for 36 hours. For his valor and inspiration to comrades he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He retired as a Master Sergeant and took up residence in Dupont, Washington.

Dexter James Kerstetter (1907-1972). Dexter Kerstetter was born in Centralia, Washington. Kerstetter was a Centralia creamery worker for 13 years before induction in the army in 1942. He was assigned duty as a cook's helper, but volunteered for combat. On April 13, 1945, Private First Class Kerstetter displayed heroism while his unit was attacking Japanese forces defending a ridge at Luzon in the Philippines. He led a small group against the hill defenses and while under intense fire he destroyed a machine gun, a mortar position, and other defenses, killing about 16 enemy soldiers. His actions allowed his company to take the hill, and for his exceptional heroism he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After his 1945 discharge Kerstetter returned to Washington. He went to work at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in 1954. In 1972 he died in a fishing accident. Kerstetter's grave is in the Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, Washington.

Robert Eugene Bush (1926-2005). Robert Bush was born in Tacoma and joined the U.S. Navy before finishing high school. On May 2, 1945, Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Bush was serving as a Medical Corpsman with a Marine Corps rifle company on Okinawa. While under intense enemy fire he rushed from one casualty to another, saving a number of comrades. He remained on the line as counterattacking Japanese forces overran it, and he fought the attackers with a pistol and carbine. After the war, Medal of Honor recipient Bush returned to Tacoma, finished high school, and went on to the University of Washington. He became a successful businessman. Robert Bush's grave is in the Fern Hill Cemetery, Menlo, Washington. A park and street in South Bend, Washington, where he lived, are named in his honor.

Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (1912-1988). Gregory Boyington was born in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, and grew up in Tacoma, attending Lincoln High School and the University of Washington. Boyington led Marine Fighter Squadron 214, known as the Black Sheep Squadron, striking at the enemy with daring. Major Boyington was shot down and captured. While a prisoner and declared missing he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His story and that of the Black Sheep Squadron have been the subject of television shows, books, and films. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Jonathan M. Wainwright IV (1883-1953). Jonathan Wainwright was born at Fort Walla Walla. He became a career officer reaching the rank of general. His soldiers called him the fighting general. He led the defense of the Philippines in 1941 and 1942, and with their fall he became a prisoner of war. General Wainwright was awarded the Medal of Honor at the end of the war for leadership and courage in the face of a superior enemy force. General Wainwright considered Washington home and made a triumphal visit to Walla Walla and other parts of the state in November 1945. Events led him to retire to San Antonio, Texas. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Richard M. McCool Jr. (1922-2008). Richard McCool was born in Oklahoma and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1944. On June 10 and 11, 1945, Lieutenant McCool rescued survivors of a sinking ship. The next day he was wounded and still led his crew in firefighting and the rescue of his burning ship. McCool served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and retired in 1974 as a captain. He spent his retirement years on Bainbridge Island.

To go to Part 3, click "Browse to Next Essay" below.


Sources:

Donald K. and Helen L. Ross, Washington State Men of Valor (Burley, Washington: Coffee Break Press, 1980); United States Senate, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973); "Donald Ross: Pearl Harbor Hero, WWII's 1st Medal of Honor Winner," The Seattle Times, June 1, 1992, p. F 8.
Note: This essay was updated on November 14, 2013, and on May 15, 2017.


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