Whether on land or sea, America’s military personnel have made many heroic achievements over the years. While everyone who fights for the country are brave, some stand out more than others. Here are 38 of the most decorated servicemen in American history.
Sergeant First Class Edward A. Carter Jr.
Edward started his military career in the Chinese Army. He was just 15-years-old, and when his age was discovered, he was forced to leave the service. He wanted to serve, so he went to Spain in 1936, and he joined the Republican forces. He joined the U.S. Army in 1941, right before World War II began. He was in a tank when it was hit, and two of the men he was with died. Edward and another were badly injured. He was shot five times but killed six of the eight men who attacked him. In 1997, he was awarded a Medal of Honor.
Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler
Joshua was born in 1975, and at the age of 19, he joined the U.S. Army. He served with the Rangers on three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2015, he was in Iraq, fighting ISIS forces. He invaded an ISIS prison and helped release 70 hostages. Sadly, he died during the mission. He was awarded a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, and the Medal of Patriotism.
Colonel James H. Kasler
James joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1943. He flew an F-86 Sabre fighter jet during the Korean War and shot down six enemy planes. In August 1966, he was flying in the Vietnam War when his wingman’s aircraft was destroyed. James flew low to protect the pilot after he ejected. When James’s plane was hit, he had to eject, but was captured by the North Vietnamese and was tortured. After being held prisoner for 2,401 days, he was released in 1973. He won 76 awards, including two Silver Stars and nine Distinguished Flying Crosses.
First Lieutenant Vernon Baker
Vernon tried to join the army in April 1941 but wasn’t allowed due to his color. In June, he was accepted. After landing in Italy, he was wounded and was in the hospital for two months. When he made it back to the frontline, his unit was attacked. He knocked out three machine gun nests that killed all but six of his men. He led a battle the next day, and they took the mountain. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 1997.
Vice Admiral Joel Boone
Joel studied at the Naval Medical School and joined the Navy full-time after. He was deployed to Haiti in 1916. In 1917, he was a surgeon in France. He showed great courage while he treated the mounded men under enemy fire. He earned the Medal of Honor, six Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Service Cross.
Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley Jr.
Eugene joined the U.S. Army in 1950 and served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. There, he served with the 5th Airborne Special Forces. He led his unit during the Battle of Lang Vei, and they were trapped. He led repeated attacks and was shot multiple times. The 5th attack led the North Vietnamese to retreat, and Eugene was killed. He was awarded the Medal of Honor after his death.
Major General Merritt A. Edson
In 1917, Merritt joined the Marine Corps and was posted in France in 1918. In World War I, he served in China and Central America. He also served in World War II. His men took a ridge and were assaulted by 3,000 soldiers. He held out, and after, he won the Medal of Honor for his courage and leadership.
Colonel Neel K. Kearby
Neel joined the U.S. Army in 1937. During World War II, he was posted in Australia. In 1943, he and four of his men ran into 40 Japanese fighters. He shot six of them down and won the Medal of Honor. He was the first fighter pilot to win the award. In all, he made 22 kills. In March 1944, his plane was shot down, and he was killed.
Major Louis Cukela
Louis joined the U.S. Army in 1914. After two years, he was honorably discharged. He joined the Marines in 1917 and saw action in many battles. He was awarded the Navy Medal of Honor in 1918 for his bravery. After, he captured four of the enemy, and he won two Medal of Honor awards. He is one of just 19 men to have received this honor twice.
Sergeant First Class Sammy Lee Davis
Sammy joined the army in 1965. In March 1967, he was posted in Southeast Asia. On November 18, 1967, his unit was ambushed. He grabbed a machine gun and was hit. Despite his injuries, he saved three of his men who were trapped on a floating mattress. For his bravery, he was awarded the Medal Of Honor.
Sergeant William Henry Johnson
William joined the army weeks after America entered World War I. He was on patrol in May 1918 when a band of German soldiers approached. He tried to fend off attackers with grenades, a large knife, and his fists. He suffered 21 wounds. The French honored him with the Croix de Guerre, and 50 years after his death, the U.S. awarded him with the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross.
Captain Joe Ronnie Hooper
Joe joined the army when he was 18. In 1959, he was honorably discharged. He did two tours in Vietnam and won eight Purple Hearts, two Silvery Stars, and a half dozen bronze stars. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery. He earned this after saving several wounded men, despite being seriously injured.
Brigadier General Robin Olds
Robin was 21-years-old when he flew in World War II. During this time, he downed 12 German planes. In August 1967, he led his unit, who took on considerable fire but still hit their target. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban
During World War II, Matt took part in seven military campaigns. He single-handedly destroyed two German tanks with a bazooka. In 1944, he led his team with a severe leg injury. He suffered a wound to the neck but kept fighting. In 1980, he was given the Medal of Honor.
Major Richard Ira Bong
In 1941, Richard joined the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program and gained his wings. In 1942, he shot down two Japanese planes and earned the Silver Star. After shooting down four more, he received the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1944, he brought down 40 enemy planes, the most destroyed by a pilot in World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and died when his plane crashed in August 1945.
Sergeant First Class Jorge A. Otero Barreto
Jorge completed the 101st Airborne training program in 1960. He served as an advisor to South Vietnamese military units. He took part in 200 combat missions and was wounded on five separate occasions. He was awarded five Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars, and two Silver Stars. He was awarded 38 awards in all.
Rear Admiral Eugene Bennett Fluckey
Eugene graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1935. He continued his training, and in January 1944, he took command of the USS Barb. After 18 months of the sub, she sunk 17 ships. He was awarded four Navy Crosses and a Medal of Honor. He was given the nickname Lucky Fluckey.
Major Thomas Buchanan McGuire Jr.
Thomas dropped out of college to attend the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. He earned his wings in February 1942 and flew combat missions in the Northern Pacific. In 1943, he downed five Japanese planes and a total of 38 during his tie at war. He earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart when he was wounded. His plane crashed in January 1945, and he died. In 1946, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sergeant Matej Kocak
In 1906, Matej left Slovakia to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in 1914 in World War I. He was posted to France in December of the same year. On July 18, 1918, he charged the Germans. Later, he took command of more than two dozen French colonial troops. He was killed in action on October 4, 1918, and earned the Kocak Medals of Honor from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army.
Sergeant Major Daniel “Dan” Daly
Dan joined the U.S. Marines in 1899. A year later, he was posted in China. He held his position and took out 200 enemy soldiers. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. In 1915, he was awarded a second Medal of Honor. His unit was heavily outnumbered, but Dan led them to victory. He also won a Navy Cross for his actions.
Major General Smedley Butler
Smedley lied about his age so he could join the U.S. Marines in 1898. In 1899, he was sent to the Philippines, where he led 300 men. In 1900, his heroics earned him a Marine Corps Brevet Medal. In 1914, he was awarded a Medal of Honor for his bravery during a street fight. He was awarded a second Medal of Honor for his bravery in another battle. He is the only Marine to be awarded two Medals Of Honor for two separate actions.
Ordinary Seaman Robert Sweeney
Robert joined the U.S. Navy in 1881, where he was a crew member of the USS Kearsarge. While the ship was anchored, a fellow Seaman fell overboard. Robert jumped into the stormy waters to save him and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous act. When a boy fell between moored ships in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Robert and another man jumped in to save him. They were both awarded a Medal of Honor.
Vice Admiral John Bulkeley
John joined the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933. During World War II, he was stationed in the Philippines and headed up six vessels. In 1944, he participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion. Only one of his ship’s guns were operational, but he still managed to sink the enemy craft. He won many bravery awards, including the Medal of Honor.
Captain Edward “Eddie” Rickenbacker
Eddie joined the U.S. Army in 1917. He was sent to France and was assigned as a mechanic, despite wanting to be a pilot. Soon, his superiors granted his wish. He took out his first enemy on April 29, 1918. A month later, he took down five German planes, and he was awarded the French bravery award, Croix de Guerre. Then, he shot down 26 enemy planes and won the Distinguished Service Cross eight times. In 1930, he earned the Medal of Honor and was one of the most decorated American in World War I.
General Douglas McArthur
Douglas fought in World War I in Europe, and his bravery earned him seven Silver Stars and two Distinguished Service Crosses. In 1942, he led the retreat from the Philippines. For his courageous actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
David joined the U.S. Army in 1946, and he was posted as a rifleman in Trieste, Italy. He also served in the Korean War. In 1951, he was awarded three Silver Stars for bravery. In 1965, he volunteered for the Vietnam War. In total, he won over 90 military awards, including a Presidential Unit Citation.
Lieutenant General James Hollingsworth
James joined the U.S. Army when he was 26. He participated in the Allied invasion of Europe and Germany. In 1966, he was sent to the Vietnam War, where he was reprimanded for taking too active of a role. Despite this, he earned four Distinguished Service Medals, three Distinguished Service Crosses, and six Purple Hearts.
Boatswain’s Mate First Class James “Willie” Williams
Willie joined the U.S. Navy in 1947 when he was 16-years-old. Three years later, he fought in the Korean War. During the conflict, he used small boats to raid the North Korean shore. In 1966, during the Vietnam War, his ship was attacked. For his bravery during the conflict, he was awarded the Medal Of Honor and numerous other awards. He is the most decorated sailor in U.S. Navy history.
Lieutenant General Thomas Tackaberry
Thomas fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1952, he commanded a company of the 9th Infantry Regiment. During this time, he earned two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross. He received another Distinguished Service Cross in 1966 following an attack on the North Vietnamese. He was also awarded three Silver Stars.
Brigadier General John Corley
John graduated from West Point in 1938. While fighting in Algeria, he earned his first Silver Star. When he destroyed an enemy machine-gun post, he received the Distinguished Service Cross. He took part in the D-Day invasion and was awarded another four Silver Stars. While teaching at west point, he served in the Korean War, and earned more Silver Stars, bringing the total to eight. He was also awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross.
Private First Class Herbert Pilila’au
Herbert was drafted in the U.S. Army. He was sent to fight in the Korean War in 1951. He and his team were ordered to capture Heartbreak Ridge. When the enemy attacked. Herbert stayed behind to cover his unit, and he was killed. He received the Medal of Honor after his death for his bravery.
Robert joined the U.S. Army in 1856. He served in the Vietnam War with the Green Beret special forces. During this time, he earned two Silver Stars and a Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. He served for 54 months and was wounded 14 times. When he was wounded, he managed to save another wounded soldier, and he won the Medal of Honor. He also earned eight Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars.
Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller
Chesty joined the U.S. Marines in 1918 and fought in World War I. In South America; he won his first award, a Navy Cross. Two years later, he earned his second. During World War II, he won his third and fourth Navy Crosses. While fighting in the Korean War, he received another Navy Cross and a Distinguished Service Cross. He is the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Rear Admiral Richard “Dick” O’Kane
Dick graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1934. He spent a lot of time in U.S. subs. He commanded his own sub in 1943 and took out 33 Japanese ships. His sub sank due to a malfunctioning torpedo, and he earned three Silver Stars and three Navy Crosses. After his death, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Rear Admiral Roy M. Davenport
Roy graduated from the United States Naval Academy I 1933. He was posted on the USS Texas and trained there. Later, he commanded his own sub, the USS Haddock. There, he earned two Navy Crosses. After sinking a 750-ton freighter and a 1,000-ton transport, he won five Navy Crosses.
First Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner
Garlin was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1941. He fought in North Africa and Italy and was promoted to first lieutenant. He won the Distinguished Service Cross, and in 2018, this was boosted to a Metal Of Honor for his conduct on defeating a Nazi attack. He also won four Silver stars and France’s Croix de Guerre.
Commander Samuel D. Dealey
Samuel joined the U.S. Navy in 1930. He received his own command during World War II. He went on six patrols in the Pacific and sunk 16 vessels. He earned a Medal of Honor for his successful attack and died during his sixth patrol when a Japanese minesweeper destroyed his sub.
First Lieutenant Audie Murphy
Audie joined the army in 1942 after lying about his age. He fought in Italy and earned his first bravery award for destroying an enemy tank in March 1944. He earned a Bronze Star. Audie was also granted the Medal Of Honor for repelling a German attack while wounded. He was also awarded medals from France and Belgium.