Brazos Trails June 9-2011
Remembering Heart Of Texas Heroes on Memorial Day
Charles “Doc” Anderson, District 56, Texas House of Representatives is helping me write my column this week.
We have heard the story of Waco native Doris “Dorie” Miller, the USS Virginia Mess Attendant who, on December 7, 1941, gunned his way into World War II history as the first African-American hero of the war. The honors bestowed upon him from his actions that day reach across the region, and across the generations. Doreen Ravenscroft and her committee are busy raising money for a giant memorial to him on the banks of the East Brazos. To help her with a donation email her: email@example.com;
This brought to mind, as we observe July 4, some of the other heroes of our area who distinguished themselves with honor and bravery in combat. Included among the many thousands of soldiers from the Heart Of Texas area who risked or gave their lives for freedom are the following soldiers who earned the Medal of Honor: Naval Commander William Kelly Harrison of Waco in 1914, Army Air Corps Colonel John Riley Kane of McGregor in 1943, Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Jack Lummus of Ennis in 1945, and Marine Pfc. Whitt Lloyd Moreland of Waco in 1951.
While in Austin, on my way from my Capitol office to the House floor, I walk by a display of all Medal of Honor honorees from Texas. It is an appropriate and constant reminder of the price of freedom. Finding out more about these individuals only deepens the respect. Here are their stories:
Prior to official American entry into World War I in 1917, Commander William Kelly Harrison was involved the Mexican Campaign in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Commander Harrison, on the USS Chester, was able to maneuver his ship into a key strategic point in the inner harbor during the night and morning hours of April 21-22, 1914 without a pilot or the use of navigational lights, and was able to “use his guns with telling effect at a critical time”, according to the citation. For this, he became McLennan County’s first Medal of Honor recipient.
Colonel John Riley Kane earned his Medal of Honor in 1943 while piloting a B-24 and leading a group on a low-altitude bombing raid on an Axis oil refinery in Romania. Due to cloud cover and the mountainous terrain, Col. Kane’s group had been separated from the main attack group. By the time he had arrived over the refinery, a different attack group, having missed their target area, had already bombed the area assigned to Col Kane. Despite the refinery’s defenses being by that time fully engaged, as well as the danger of flying low through smoke, over refinery fires, and delayed action bombs released by others in the raid, Col. Kane displayed courageous leadership and superior flying skills in furthering the attack on the refinery.
The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima is one of the most indelible images of the 20th Century, and, in 1945, a precursor to the Allied victory. But it also signified some of the most intense fighting in the Pacific Theater of operations. Nearly two dozen Marines and half a dozen sailors earned the Medal of Honor in that 36-day battle, most of them posthumously (FYI — the flag was raised on Day 4). 1st Lt. Jack Lummus from Ennis was one such recipient.
A two-sport star at Baylor who played a year of pro football with the New York Giants before the outbreak of World War II, Jack Lummus led a Marine Corps rifle platoon in action on Iwo Jima. On March 8, 1945, 1st Lt. Lummus advanced his platoon through hostile fire from the enemy’s networks of pillboxes and other entrenched fortifications.
Moving ahead of his own front lines, he survived a grenade explosion and neutralized one pillbox, and then came immediately under fire from a second supporting pillbox. Although injured by a second grenade, he staunchly continued his heroic 1-man assault, charged, and destroyed the second pillbox.
Returning to his platoon position, he fearlessly traversed his lines under fire, encouraging his men to advance while directing the fire of supporting tanks against other enemy emplacements. Held up again by a devastating barrage, he again moved into the open, rushed a third heavily fortified installation and killed the defending troops. He continued leading his men indomitably, personally attacking foxholes and spider traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the opposition until, stepping on a land mine, he sustained fatal wounds.
Whitt Lloyd Moreland was a Private First Class in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. An Intelligence Scout, Pfc. Moreland volunteered to accompany a rifle platoon on an assault against a strongly defended hill on May 29, 1951. His accurate firing was integral in helping to take the hill. Moments after, he observed and attempted to neutralize an enemy bunker some 400 yards away. Advancing under fire, Pfc. Moreland deflected several live grenades before falling next to another grenade. Unable to get up or deflect the grenade, he shouted a warning to his comrades, covered the explosive device with his body, and absorbed the full blast, thereby saving his colleagues from injury or death. He was 21 years old.
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