As you enjoy your 4th of July holiday …

… Remember the sacrifices paid to keep this country, its citizens, its future citizens, its traditions free from tyranny and oppression.

Of course the reason we will all be enjoying the Jersey shore, our National Parks, picnics, fireworks and apple pie is the anniversary of another year of The Grand Experiment, where a collection of 13 former British colonies took the first step towards forming a government “… by the people , for the people…”.

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty . . is finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People.”  – George Washington

Thirteen years before Washington spoke those words in his first inaugural speech, fifty-six brave men put their names to a document – The Declaration of Independence – that gave birth to a new country at the risk of their own lives and the success of a rebellion against a powerful European ruler.  In 1776, these men dared Great Britain to defy their pledge to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

And on that very same date – exactly 50 years later – in 1826 both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third elected Presidents to serve and protect this Grand Experiment succumbed to age and died within hours of each other.  In 1831 James Monroe, the 5th U.S. President also passed away.

Today, July 3 marks the anniversary of the high-water mark of the Southern Confederacy’s failed efforts to secede from the Union and enslave African people on plantations and in commerce throughout the South.  On this day in 1863, General James Longstreet’s corps, under the command of General Robert E. Lee and led into battle by General George Pickett reached the zenith of the Confederacy’s attack on Northern soil on the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  At a place known as The Angle Pickett’s Charge marked the ebb of the South’s attempt to force an end to The Civil War by threatening Northern cities and eventually the capital, Washington, D.C..

During the charge approximately 4000 Americans were killed or wounded.  The Battle of Gettysburg claimed roughly 35,000 killed and wounded.

The following day, the 87th anniversary of the signing of The Declaration of Independence, the Confederate garrison at Vicksburg, Mississippi under the command of Lt. General John C. Pemberton surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of Tennessee after a six-week siege of the city.  3200 Americans were killed or wounded during the siege.

The one-two punch of Gettysburg and Vicksburg formed a recognizable turning point in the American Civil War as Northern industrial might and an overwhelming population advantage formed an insurmountable barrier to future attempts by the South to force a political capitulation from the North.  And although the war dragged on for almost two more years, the South never really threatened the North again.

And finally on July 4, 1944 ….

Private First Class William K. Nakamura distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. During a fierce firefight, Private First Class Nakamura’s platoon became pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura crawled 20 yards toward the hostile nest with fire from the enemy machine gun barely missing him. Reaching a point 15 yards from the position, he quickly raised himself to a kneeling position and threw four hand grenades, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy soldiers. The enemy weapon silenced, Private First Class Nakamura crawled back to his platoon, which was able to continue its advance as a result of his courageous action.

Later, his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of a hill so that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura remained in position to cover his comrades’ withdrawal. While moving toward the safety of a wooded draw, his platoon became pinned down by deadly machine gun fire. Crawling to a point from which he could fire on the enemy position, Private First Class Nakamura quickly and accurately fired his weapon to pin down the enemy machine gunners. His platoon was then able to withdraw to safety without further casualties. Private First Class Nakamura was killed during this heroic stand. Private First Class Nakamura’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Private First Class Nakamura was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

And so, as you enjoy your holiday, your friends, your family … REMEMBER what it has meant to those who have sacrificed for all of us!

6 thoughts on “As you enjoy your 4th of July holiday …

  1. Don’t worry about the “oversight,” added comments by readers bring interest / life to the post you made, your intent was not to write about every 4 July MOH incident.

  2. I owe an apology to veterans of two conflicts I tend to overlook when I write these holiday posts. I can blame it on the fact that I usually write these willy-nilly in a moment when I’m motivated but pressed for time.

    That’s nowhere near a sufficient explanation. So please allow me to fix this, even with the knowledge that I’m am still woefully short on recognizing the contributions of more recent veterans of conflicts we read about everyday. My excuse here is that I wish to focus more on those veterans who will not be with us in the next few years or whose actions tend to fade from memory or in the bright light of more recent conflicts.

    Both of the following Medal of Honor acts also occurred on the 4th of July!

    MENDONCA, LEROY A.
    Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Chich-on, Korea, 4 July 1951. Entered service at: Honolulu, T.H. Birth: Honolulu, T.H. G.O. No.: 83, 3 September 1952. Citation: Sgt. LeRoy A. Mendonca, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. After his platoon, in an exhaustive fight, had captured Hill 586, the newly won positions were assaulted during the night by a numerically superior enemy force. When the 1st Platoon positions were outflanked and under great pressure and the platoon was ordered to withdraw to a secondary line of defense, Sgt. Mendonca voluntarily remained in an exposed position and covered the platoon’s withdrawal. Although under murderous enemy fire, he fired his weapon and hurled grenades at the onrushing enemy until his supply of ammunition was exhausted. He fought on, clubbing with his rifle and using his bayonet until he was mortally wounded. After the action it was estimated that Sgt. Mendonca had accounted for 37 enemy casualties. His daring actions stalled the crushing assault, protecting the platoon’s withdrawal to secondary positions, and enabling the entire unit to repel the enemy attack and retain possession of the vital hilltop position. Sgt. Mendonca’s extraordinary gallantry and exemplary valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

    NEWLIN, MELVIN EARL
    Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 4 July 1967. Entered service at: Cleveland, Ohio. Born: 27 September 1948, Wellsville, Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a machine gunner attached to the 1st Platoon, Company F, 2d Battalion, on 3 and 4 July 1967. Pfc. Newlin, with 4 other marines, was manning a key position on the perimeter of the Nong Son outpost when the enemy launched a savage and well coordinated mortar and infantry assault, seriously wounding him and killing his 4 comrades. Propping himself against his machinegun, he poured a deadly accurate stream of fire into the charging ranks of the Viet Cong. Though repeatedly hit by small-arms fire, he twice repelled enemy attempts to overrun his position. During the third attempt, a grenade explosion wounded him again and knocked him to the ground unconscious. The Viet Cong guerrillas, believing him dead, bypassed him and continued their assault on the main force. Meanwhile, Pfc. Newlin regained consciousness, crawled back to his weapon, and brought it to bear on the rear of the enemy, causing havoc and confusion among them. Spotting the enemy attempting to bring a captured 106 recoilless weapon to bear on other marine positions, he shifted his fire, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and preventing them from firing the captured weapon. He then shifted his fire back to the primary enemy force, causing the enemy to stop their assault on the marine bunkers and to once again attack his machinegun position. Valiantly fighting off 2 more enemy assaults, he firmly held his ground until mortally wounded. Pfc. Newlin had single-handedly broken up and disorganized the entire enemy assault force, causing them to lose momentum and delaying them long enough for his fellow marines to organize a defense and beat off their secondary attack. His indomitable courage, fortitude, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of almost certain death reflect great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

  3. Nice Independence Day message.

    Historians report that Union Armies typically fire cannons to celebrate Independence Day, they also fired them in celebration of victories. It is believed that at least the rear guard of the defeated and retreating Confederate Army, an army which knew it had now lost the war by failing in their Northern Invasion, was within earshot of this cannon fire as the Union Army held the battlefield and fired their customary July 4 salute. It is very likely that some Confederate Officers knew of, or expected that Vicksburg was lost or soon to be lost also. It was a bitter retreat I am sure, even though many likely did not know the true significance of the Union cannonade to their failed cause.

    Pvt. Nakamura (MOH) was also a prior internee in the relocation camps, as were many of the men in the 442nd RCC.

    • I honestly cannot get enough of the Japanese WWII veteran/interment story. If NOTHING else makes an impression on Americans about how strong and deep the commitment to this country is, this story should hit all the chords.

      The most interesting part of my use of Nakamura’s story here is that it was completely random, taken from the website that provides “what happened this day in American military history”. I was looking for a good 4th of July connection, and of all things to see was a story about an interned Japanese who died for his country and its values of freedom from tyranny on the 4th.

      “Moving” goes nowhere near describing what my reaction was to reading Nakamura’s Medal of Honor citation.

      On the down side, I have to admit an oversight, which I intend to fix in a minute.

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