- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 2, 2005

Sacrificed life for men in 2003 battle near Baghdad

It’s the nation’s highest award for valor, a storied medal that has brought to its 3,440 recipients a measure of immortality.

Tomorrow, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith will posthumously join those exalted ranks when President Bush awards him the first Medal of Honor for the war in Iraq. Like many before him, Sgt. Smith gave his life to save his men. It was in a battle near Baghdad on April 4, 2003.

Gen. George Washington established the first medals for gallantry, but it wasn’t until the Civil War that Congress formally created the Medal of Honor. In 1917, requirements for the medal were tightened so only the bravest of the brave qualified, with their acts of valor well documented.

Only two U.S. soldiers since the end of the Vietnam War — both killed during the Somalia intervention in 1993 — have merited the medal. Sgt. Smith, a father of two from Tampa, Fla., will become the third at the White House ceremony tomorrow.

According to the U.S. Army, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and other sources, here are some facts and figures about the medal and its recipients:

• Total Medals of Honor awarded: 3,459 for 3,454 separate acts of heroism by 3,440 individuals.

• Number of living recipients of the Medal of Honor: 127

• Oldest living recipient: Former Navy Petty Officer John Finn, 95, of Chula Vista, Calif., who shot down a Japanese plane despite being wounded 21 times in the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

• Number of double recipients: 19, including the brother of ill-fated Gen. George Custer, Thomas, who won it twice during the Civil War — much to his brother’s annoyance.

• Medals awarded posthumously: 614

• Wars with the most Medal of Honor recipients: Civil War, 1,522 recipients; World War II, 464; Indian campaigns, 426; Vietnam War, 245; Korean War, 131; World War I, 124; and Spanish-American War, 110

• Medals of Honor recipients, by service: Army: 2,400; Navy, 745; Marines Corps, 296; Air Force, 17; and Coast Guard, 1

• Minority recipients of the Medal of Honor: 87 blacks; 41 Hispanics; 31 Asians; and 22 American Indians.

• Only woman to receive the medal: Mary Walker, a women’s rights advocate, volunteer Civil War surgeon treating the Union wounded near the front lines for two years and a spy imprisoned by the Confederates.

cNumber of “unknown soldiers” awarded the medal: Nine, including four U.S. unknowns, and one each from Belgium, France, Britain, Italy and Romania.

• Number of medals awarded for noncombat valor: 193. Recipients include North Pole explorer Richard Byrd, aviator Charles Lindbergh and numerous military servicemen who rescued others from sinking ships, burning planes and other deadly circumstances.

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