On Dec. 9, 1861, Iowa Sen. James W. Grimes introduced S. No. 82 in the United States Senate, a bill designed to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor.” The bill was passed Dec. 21, 1861, authorizing 200 such medals be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill and the Navy Medal of Honor was born.
- Originally the Medal of Honor was only presented to the enlisted, but on this date it was extended to officers as well. Smedley D. Butler was the first Marine officer to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
- This is the date the Navy presented its first Medals of Honor.
- The number of Marines awarded a Medal of Honor since the onset of the War on Terrorism.
- For his actions during the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff during the Civil War, he became the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
- In the chaos of the Battle of Guantanamo Bay, the USS Dolphin misinterpreted a signal and opened fire on Marines. This Marine was awarded a Medal of Honor for risking his life to signal a cease-fire to the USS Dolphin.
- This Long Island, N.Y., native earned a Medal of Honor during the Boxer Rebellion when he fought off Chinese snipers and single-handedly defended the Marines’ position until reinforcements arrived. He earned his second during the Haitian Occupation.
- This Medal of Honor recipient forged his mother’s signature on a waiver to enlist at age 14. At barely 17, he shielded three Marines from two grenades during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He survived the blast but was wounded with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel into his body.
- This Marine was photographed scaling a 10-foot seawall at Inchon, South Korea, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his exceptional courage during the Marine landing.
- He was the first African-American Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He selflessly pulled a grenade to his chest and wrapped his body around it as it exploded, saving his platoon from serious injury and death.
- These are the only two Marines that have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice.
- This Marine who grew up in Raritan, N.J., was awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding heroism at Guadalcanal. He was killed in action during the landing at Iwo Jima.
- During a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, this hero used his helmet and his body to save to jump on a grenade tossed by an insurgent to smother the blast and save the lives of other Marines in his squad, baring the full force of the blast. He was the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
- According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there have been this many Medal of Honor recipients in total.
- The total number of double recipients of the Medal of Honor.
- The total number of Marines to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
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