Medal of Honor Recipients from Washington, Part 3: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 6/02/2012
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 10128

Three Washington residents were awarded the Medal of Honor for exceptional valor in the Korean War. During the Vietnam War 12 Washington men of valor received the medal. This included the only Seabee to earn the medal, as well as service members from the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force. As of October 2013, three from the state had been awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan: Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry, who became the second living recipient since the Vietnam War; Staff Sergeant Ty Carter, who like Petry continued on active duty at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and Captain William Swenson, who became the first Army officer since Vietnam to receive the Medal. This is Part 3 of a set of three that includes all Medal of Honor recipients that lived in Washington or are buried here.

Walter C. Monegan Jr. (1930-1950). Walter Monegan was born in Massachusetts and entered the army underage in 1947. When his false enlistment was discovered in January 1948 he was discharged. In March 1948 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1950 he was assigned to Seattle, where he married and made his home. Private First Class Monegan shipped out to Korea and was part of the September 15, 1950, amphibious landings at Inchon. During the breakout from Inchon on September 17 and 20, Private First Class Monegan acted with great valor. On September 20 he stepped into heavy enemy fire to destroy tanks with his rocket. He destroyed two tanks and was killed by small arms fire while attacking a third tank. Private First Class Monegan was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor for his exceptional heroism. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Archie Van Winkle (1925-1986). Archie Van Winkle was born in Alaska and grew up in Darrington, Washington. He graduated from Darrington High School and attended the University of Washington for a short time before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1942. Van Winkle served three years and returned to Washington, attending Everett Junior College and the University of Washington. He reenlisted and fought in the Korean War. On November 2, 1950, Staff Sergeant Van Winkle led a charge against a strong enemy force. Despite wounds from a grenade explosion he shouted orders while lying on the ground bleeding profusely. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for these actions. Remaining in the Marine Corps and serving in Vietnam he retired as a colonel in 1974 to live in Alaska. He was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.

Benjamin F. Wilson (1922-1988). Benjamin Wilson was born on Vashon Island, Washington. In 1940 he joined the army and in 1942 passed Officer Candidate School. At the end of World War II he resigned his commission and returned to Washington. He worked for short time and decided he missed the army. Since the army did not need officers he reenlisted as a private. By June 1951 First Sergeant Wilson was in combat in the Korean War. On June 4, 1951, he was leading his troops in taking a hill at the Hwachon Reservoir. He was wounded and while being evacuated he refused treatment and returned to the hill battle. He fought with his company and on June 6 made a one-man assault on a large Chinese force. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his June 1951 heroic stands. Wilson became a career officer, retiring as a Major. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. A physical fitness center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord carries his name.  

Marvin Glenn Shields (1939-1965). Marvin Shields was born in Port Townsend, Washington. He graduated from Port Townsend High School and then worked in Alaska mines. He joined the Navy in 1962 as a Seabee. He was sent to Vietnam in1965 and attached to the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. His unit was ambushed by a Vietcong regiment on June 10, 1965. Construction Mechanic Third Class Shields was wounded in the attack. Even though wounded he carried ammunition to the firing line. Wounded once more he volunteered to attack a machine gun that had caused his unit great harm. He and others destroyed the machine gun. Shields died of his wounds and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried in the Gardiner, Washington Cemetery. The American Legion Hall, a World War II United Services Organization (USO) building, in Port Townsend is named to recall his valor. Camp Shields, Okinawa, also carries his name.

Bruce P. Crandall (b. 1933). Bruce Crandall was born in Olympia. He was a sports star at Olympia High School. Crandall graduated from the University of Washington. He entered the army in 1953 and completed the fixed wing and helicopter course followed by flying assignments. In 1965 he assumed command of a helicopter unit in Vietnam. On November 14, 1965, Major Crandall landed cavalry troops in Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam. During the long battle he evacuated some 75 wounded, and flew in ammunition and critical supplies, all while under heavy enemy attack. In later Vietnam battles he displayed the same exceptional valor. Crandall retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1977. He worked as a city manager and then public works director in California and Arizona before moving to Washington and retirement. The Olympia High School baseball field is named in his honor.   

Lewis Albanese (1946-1966). Lewis Albanese was born in Italy and with his family moved to Washington. He graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle, worked for Boeing Aircraft, and was drafted into the army. Private First Class Albanese was sent to Vietnam in August 1966 and served with the 1st Cavalry Division. On December 1, 1966, when his unit came under intense enemy fire he charged the enemy position and engaged in hand to hand combat, killing a number of enemy. He was killed in this action and awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor. His grave is in the Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park in Seattle.

Delbert O. Jennings (1936-2003). Delbert Jennings was born in New Mexico. He joined the army in 1956 and served with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam. On December 27, 1966, Staff Sergeant Jennings' squad was defending an artillery position under attack. That day he repelled the enemy with machine gun fire and stayed forward as his overpowered squad withdrew. He killed some 15 enemy and later led volunteers to recover 8 wounded soldiers behind enemy lines. For this heroism he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Jennings made the army a career, retiring in 1985 as a Command Sergeant Major. He made his home in Olympia, later moving to Hawaii. His grave is in Arlington National Cemetery.

Bruce Alan Grandstaff (1934-1967). Bruce Grandstaff was born in Spokane and graduated from Spokane High School. He joined the army in 1954 and by May 1967 was a platoon sergeant in Vietnam. On May 18, 1967, he was leading a weapons platoon on reconnaissance near the Cambodian border. His platoon was advancing through sporadic fire when it was hit by an all-out attack from three sides. Platoon Sergeant Grandstaff braved enemy fire to save wounded soldiers and call in artillery and gunship fire. He was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor. He is buried in the Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane, where a monument to him stands. The Grandstaff Library at Joint Base Lewis-McChord was named to honor him.

Patrick H. Brady (b. 1936). Patrick Brady was born in South Dakota. He attended O'Dea High School in Seattle and then Seattle University. Brady completed Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant at graduation in 1959. At Chu Lai, Vietnam, on January 6, 1968, Major Brady flew helicopter medical evacuations in heavy fog under enemy fire. Major Brady recovered wounded under these near impossible conditions. He also landed in an enemy minefield to rescue trapped soldiers who could not get safely out. Major Brady received the Medal of Honor for this heroism. He retired a major general in 1993. Following retirement he lived in Seattle.

Joe Ronnie Hooper (1938-1979). Joe Hooper was born in South Carolina. His family moved to Moses Lake when he was a child and he attended Moses Lake High School. He served three years in the Navy and then reenlisted in the army in 1960. By 1968 Sergeant Hooper was an airborne soldier in Vietnam. On February 21, 1968, Sergeant Hooper was a squad leader with the 101st Airborne Division leading an attack on a heavily defended enemy position. Sergeant Hooper led a charge on the position, overrunning several bunkers and inspiring his men. He fought on despite being wounded. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action and became one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War with 35 medals. Hooper retired in 1974 and served a few years in Washington Army Reserve units. His civilian employment included a brief time with the Veteran's Administration, but he had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Joe Hooper is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thomas James Kinsman (b. 1945). Thomas Kinsman was born in Renton, Washington, and grew up in Issaquah. In 1967 he joined the army and was sent to Vietnam. On February 6, 1968, Private First Class Kinsman, an infantryman in the 9th Infantry Division, displayed heroism in a battle near Vinh Lang. He blocked a grenade blast with his body saving the lives of seven fellow soldiers. Private First Class Kinsman was severely wounded and spent more than four months in Madigan Army Hospital, Fort Lewis, recovering. He left the army a Specialist Fourth Class. Jim Kinsman returned to civilian life and worked as a logger out of Onalaska, Washington.

Joe M. Jackson (b. 1923). Joe Jackson was born in Georgia. He served as an Air Force pilot in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In Vietnam Lieutenant Colonel Jackson flew C-123 Provider aircraft. On May 12, 1968, he flew a C-123 mission to rescue a three-man air control team. Their forward position had been overrun, requiring Jackson to land on a littered runway under intense hostile fire. He landed the plane near the hiding place of the three, recovered them, and got airborne despite hits to his plane. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor for risking his life to save others. He retired as a colonel in 1974 to Washington and worked at Boeing. His civic work in supporting a church program to feed the poor has gained him national attention. Joe Jackson Boulevard on McChord Field honors him.

James Phillip Fleming (b. 1943). James Fleming was born in Missouri in 1943 and came with his family to Washington in 1957. He attended Shadle Park High School in Spokane and graduated from Moses Lake High School. Fleming attended Washington State University and joined the Air Force, becoming a transport helicopter commander. On November 26, 1968, First Lieutenant Fleming rescued a six man reconnaissance patrol in danger of being overrun by a much more powerful enemy force. He encountered serious obstacles to land and save the team. Despite great risk to his life and enemy fire hitting his helicopter Fleming managed to get the team aboard and take off. Fleming remained in the Air Force and retired as a colonel in 1996. 

Robert R. Leisy (1945-1969). Robert Leisy was born in Seattle and grew up in the Magnolia neighborhood. He attended Queen Anne High School and the University of Washington. He earned a commission through Army Officer Candidate School. On December 2, 1969, Second Lieutenant Leisy was leading a platoon of the First Cavalry Division on a reconnaissance mission. The platoon came under attack and he used his body to shield a fellow soldier from the blast of a rifle-propelled grenade. Seriously wounded, he refused medical care until others were treated. Second Lieutenant Leisy died of his wounds and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Robert Leisy is buried in the Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, Seattle.

Larry Dahl (1949-1971). Larry Dahl was born in Oregon City, Oregon, and attended Franklin High School in Seattle. In September 1969 he joined the army and trained at Fort Lewis. He served in a transportation company in Vietnam. On February 23, 1971, Specialist Fourth Class Dahl was a machine gunner defending a truck convoy. When the convoy came under attack and a grenade landed in his area he jumped on it, saving nearby soldiers. He was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor. His grave is in the Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, Oregon.

Leroy Petry (b. 1979). Leroy Petry was born in New Mexico. He enlisted in the army in 1999 and became a Ranger. Staff Sergeant Petry was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. On May 26, 2008, in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, Petry was a member of a Ranger force of about 70 conducting a daylight raid on a compound. Once the Rangers climbed out of their helicopters they came under intense enemy fire. While under attack, the Rangers moved into the compound and in the courtyard Petry led the destruction of enemy. Staff Sergeant Petry and another Ranger were wounded. They were joined by other Rangers and came under grenade attacks. One grenade landed near them and, understanding the danger to his fellow Rangers, Petry picked it up to throw it back. The grenade exploded immediately as it left his hand and the explosion severed Petry's hand. He put a tourniquet on his right arm and awaited medical care. In 2012 Sergeant First Class Petry, who received a state of the art prosthetic hand, continued to serve with distinction at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, under an army policy that now allows soldiers who have lost limbs but still meet physical standards to remain on active duty.

Ty Carter (b. 1980). Ty Carter was born in Spokane in 1980. The family moved the next year to California but returned in time for him to attend North Central High School. In 1998 Carter enlisted in the Marine Corps and attended the Combat Engineer School. Carter served on Okinawa in intelligence services. He was honorably discharged in 2002, but found civilian life lacking. In January 2008 he enlisted in the Army and trained as a cavalry scout at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In May 2009 Specialist Carter deployed to Afghanistan with the Black Knight Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment. On October 3, 2009, nearly 300 well-armed attackers surrounded Combat Post Keating, an outpost defended by 53 U.S. troops. During the heavy attack, Carter rescued a fellow soldier and carried him through a hail of bullets. Eight Americans were killed and more than 25 wounded including Carter. In a White House ceremony on August 26, 2013, attended by Carter's relatives including his wife and three children, President Barack Obama (b. 1961) awarded Staff Sergeant Carter the Medal of Honor for his actions. In 2013, Carter was serving with the 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

William D. Swenson (b. 1979). William Swenson grew up in Seattle and graduated from Seattle University with a degree in political science. In 2002 he joined the army and was commissioned as an officer upon graduation from Officer Candidate School in September 2002.  He served one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. He became the first army officer since Vietnam to receive the Medal of Honor, which was awarded for his actions on September 8, 2009, in the Ganjgal Valley of eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. Swenson, an embedded trainer with the Afghan National Security Forces, was in a 106-man column of coalition forces when it came under intense fire as it entered the valley. The attackers were on the three sides of the U-shaped valley and ambushed the column. Swenson, who was toward the rear of the column, called for air support and then with two comrades crossed 50 meters of exposed ground under fire to administer first aid to severely wounded Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook (1968-2009). He assisted Westbrook into an evacuation helicopter. One month later Westbrook died of complications from blood transfusions at a hospital in the United States. Captain Swenson went into the kill zone to rescue additional Afghan and American wounded and evacuate them. In the battle five Americans were killed and 10 Afghan army troops died. Swenson left the service on February 1, 2011, and returned to Seattle. On October 15, 2013, President Barack Obama (b. 1961) presented the Medal of Honor to former Captain Swenson.

For Parts 1 and 2 click "Browse to Previous Essay" below.


Sources: Donald K. and Helen L. Ross, Washington State Men of Valor (Burley, Washington: Coffee Break Press, 1980); Peter Collier, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty (New York: Artisan, 2003); United States Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973); Rick Anderson, "No Headlines for Hero in a War that Brought Shame," The Seattle Daily Times, May 25, 1980, p. 41; Lynne Lynch, "Giving the Medal of Honor," Columbia Basin Herald, September 15, 2011 (http://www.columbiabasinherald.com/news/article_48d76734-def1-11e0-a298-001cc4c03286.html); Marissa Petrich, "Ranger's Valor No Surprise," Northwest Guardian, June 13, 2011 (http://www.nwguardian.com/2011/06/13/10361/medal-of-honor-nominees-teammates.html); Jake Tapper, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor (New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2013); "'Your Dad Inspires Us,' Obama Tells Medal Recipient's Children," The News Tribune, August 27, 2013, p. 1; Darlene Superville, "Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on Former Army Captain for Actions During Afghanistan Firefight," The Seattle Times, October 15, 2013 (http://seattletimes.com/).
Note: This essay was updated on October 16, 2013.

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