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Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler » Unsung Glory #4
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It’s Monday, and so LC Crunchie 0311’s excellent series, “Unsung Glory”, continues with the story of SFC Paul R Smith. Take it away, Crunchie!:

Last week you read of Lt. Michael Murphy being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On Tuesday President Bush will formally present the medal to Lt. Murphy’s family in a ceremony at the White House.

Most of you know that the Medal of Honor is the highest award for battlefield valor that our nation can bestow, awarded to individuals who distinguish themselves “…conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States…” and is held in such esteem that it is presented personally by the President in the name of Congress. Often mistakenly called the Congressional Medal of Honor, due to it being the only medal to be presented in their name, over the years it has become almost iconoclastic in the reverence for which it is held. So much so that President Truman once said “I would rather have the blue band of the Medal of Honor around my neck than be president”.

When our nation was first formed there were no medals for bravery, they being viewed as “smacking too much of European affectations” and contrary to the egalitarian ideals of the Revolution. There were however three Badges of Military Merit awarded by Gen. Washington during the war. These were the original genesis for the Medal of Honor today. On December 12, 1861 President Lincoln signed Public Resolution 82 which created the Medal of Honor for the US Navy and Marine Corps. On June 12 1862 an Army medal was authorized by Congress and both were made permanent in 1863.

Prior to WWI the criteria for receiving a Medal of Honor were not as stringent as they are today. In fact, there were 1522 awarded in the Civil War, compared to only 124 for WWI, 464 for WWII, 131 in Korea, and 245 in Viet Nam. In 1916 the War Department, in an effort to curtail abuse of the Medal and ensure its prestige and prominence, reviewed every citation for the Medal of Honor and revoked 911 of them in what became know as the “Purge of 1917”.

To illustrate the prestige the War Department sough to protect, since its inception, 3459 medals have been awarded to 3,444 individual recipients, (including nine unknowns). That is 144 years, seven major wars, and countless smaller engagements in which millions of our nation’s sons have gone in harms way, and only 3459 acts sufficient to be awarded the Medal.

There are currently only 109 living recipients, and the last Medal of Honor awarded to a living recipient was presented to Lt. Bruce Crandall on February 26th 2007 for his actions of November 14, 1965 at the Battle of Ia Drang (memorialized in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once…”). Since the Viet Nam war, there have been, including Lt. Murphy’s, only 5 acts of bravery for which the Medal of Honor has been awarded. All five have been posthumous.

Which brings us to the subject of this week’s Unsung Glory, Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith.

On April 4, 2003, SFC Smith was a combat engineer in command of 2nd Platoon, Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, attached to Task Force 2-7, 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. 3rd ID had been tasked with seizing Baghdad International Airport.

SFC Smith and 2nd Platoon were ordered to establish an enemy prisoner of war holding area and he assessed the best location to be behind some masonry walls bounding the highway leading into the airport. The courtyard formed by these walls was over watched by a guard tower, had one gate for ingress and egress, and was ideal for containing EPW’s.

While his men cleared the debris, one of the sentries reported about a dozen Fedayeen fighters and Iraqi soldiers moving into prepared fighting positions outside the gate. These, and another 25-50 that SFC Smith spotted when he arrived at the sentries position, were the lead elements of a company sized assault into Task Force 2-7’s exposed flank. SFC Smith sent Staff Sergeant Lincoln Hollinsaid to retrieve a nearby Bradley Fighting Vehicle for support and quickly organized a skirmish line of his soldiers. By now the enemy had grown in number to over 100 and occupied the guard towers on SFC Smith’s flanks as well as the positions forward of his small force of four men.

While the enemy reigned small arms and RPG fire on them, SFC Smith held the line, moving amongst his men, throwing grenades, firing AT4 rockets and directing the fire of the Bradley and the .50 cal machine guns mounted on the platoons three M113 APC’s. Soon the Bradley, pummeled by multiple RPG hits, depleted its ammunition and had to withdrawal. Also one of the platoons M113’s suffered a direct hit from a 60mm mortar, wounding all three men inside. SFC Smith directed the evacuation of these men and the platoons other wounded to a nearby aid station. The enemy assault was now at its strongest and threatened the Task Force aid station as well as 100 soldiers from B Company, a mortar platoon, a lightly armed scout section, and the entire Brigades flanks and lines of communication. While the enemy was at its strongest, SFC Smith and his men had lost fire superiority with the Bradley’s withdrawal and with the loss of the two undamaged M113’s who had evacuated the wounded.

After the wounded men from the APC had been evacuated, SFC Smith ordered one of his men, Pvt. Michael Seaman, to back it into the courtyard. Knowing that the tracks .50 cal machine gun was the heaviest weapon available to him, SFC Smith assumed the gunners position in the commanders cupola and told Pvt. Seaman to “feed me ammo every time you hear the gun get quiet”.

The battle was at its crisis point and it was now that SFC Smith went to work. Virtually single handedly defending the platoons line in the courtyard from an exposed position, he alternated his fire between the enemy who were crawling over the wall to his front, rushing his position from a gate on his right, and firing on him from the tower to his left. Besieged on three sides, he burned through 300 rounds of ammo, each time the gun going silent, Pvt. Seaman in the belly of the M113 feeding him another can.

The gun went silent for the fourth time, but when Pvt. Seaman handed up the next can SFC Smith did not grab it. He was dead behind his gun.

The enemies back had been broken by SFC Smith and his .50 cal. His example inspired the rest of the platoon who counterattacked and drove away the remaining Iraqis. SFC Smith’s stalwart defense of his exposed position had stopped an enemy assault, thereby preventing a penetration of 2-7’s flank and rear, defended the Task Force aid station, and allowed the evacuation of several seriously wounded soldiers.

In keeping with an unofficial tradition of awarding the Medal on the second anniversary of the act, on April 4 2005 President Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to SFC Smith’s wife Brigit, his daughter Jessica 18, and son David 11. During the ceremony President Bush said;

“Like every one of the men and women in uniform who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant 1st Class Paul Smith was a volunteer. We thank his family for the father, husband, and son and brother who can never be replaced. We recall with appreciation the fellow soldiers whose lives he saved, and the many more he inspired. And we express our gratitude for a new generation of Americans, every bit as selfless and dedicated to liberty as any that has gone on before – A dedication exemplified by the sacrifice and valor of Sergeant 1st Class Paul Ray Smith.”

19 Responses to “Unsung Glory #4”
  1. LC HJ Caveman82952 Comment by LC HJ Caveman82952

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    May God walk with this man for eternity. Unfortunately for our detractors, the true core of the American people comes shining through loud and clear…bravery and selflessness off the charts, alien to all but a few. The following comes to mind……..a gem I found, the perfect bitch slap.
    Yes, we’re an imperfect country…and some of the media delights in that,
    pointing it out to us repeatedly. But here’s a pleasant read about America
    and our unselfish motives around the world. Enjoy.

    When in England at a large conference, Colin Powell was asked
    by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just
    an example of empire building’ by George Bush.

    He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has
    sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to
    fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land
    we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that
    did not return.”
    It became very quiet in the room.
    **************

    Then there was a conference in France where a number of
    international engineers were taking part, including French and
    American. During a break one of the French engineers came back
    into the room saying “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush
    has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help
    the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?”

    A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: “Our carriers
    have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred
    people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency
    electrical power to shore facilities; they have three
    cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a
    day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water
    from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen
    helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and
    from their flight deck.. We have eleven such ships; how many
    does France have?”
    Once again, dead silence.
    *****************

    A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that
    included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian
    and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself
    standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel
    from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in
    English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral
    suddenly complained that, ‘whereas Europeans learn many
    languages, Americans learn only English.’ He then asked, ‘Why
    is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences
    rather than speaking French?’

    Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied ‘Maybe its
    because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it
    so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’
    You could have heard a pin drop!

  2. LC JackBoot IC/A-OBR Comment by LC JackBoot IC/A-OBR

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    Another fine, FINE piece in a series that needs to be told over and over to the last generation living under the Stars and Stripes.

    Crunchie, keep the fine work coming Brother.

    Boss, I move Crunchie is bestowed a fitting title of Imperial Military Historian…..seconds?

  3. LC HJ Caveman82952 Comment by LC HJ Caveman82952

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    I second, JB…..crunchie is what I call a stand up dude.

  4. Emperor Misha I Comment by Emperor Misha I

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    Boss, I move Crunchie is bestowed a fitting title of Imperial Military Historian…..seconds?

    So seconded (or thirded, since Caveman butted in, curse the naughty bits of his bottom).

    I can’t think of anybody who has earned it more.

  5. LC Old Dog Comment by LC Old Dog

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    How about a Fifth for that.

    SFC (RET)
    Old Dog

    Ya’ll can drink that sucker Y’a know!

  6. Unregistered Comment by leoni2, LC

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    Another good story, Crunchie, and I add my own affirmation that Crunchie be given the title of IMH.

    And Caveman, I’d been at that conference just to see that stupid frenchie get put in his place. :em99: ‘…so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’ So true, oh so true.

  7. LC Wil Comment by LC Wil

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    Thank you, Crunchie.

  8. Unregistered Comment by mindy1

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    I agree-crunchie should be military historian. The MOH for Murphy was yesterday. blackfive.net has it posted on his sight-I think everyone cried a little. This week’s post was also a good one about a brave and deserving person-I like stories of our heroes, so I’m glad this feature was started.

  9. Unregistered Comment by mindy1

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    P.S. I think crunchie should bind up the Unsung Glory Stories together in a book, call it America’s True Heroes or something. I loved post #1 with those quotes-hehe :em99:

  10. BigDogg Comment by BigDogg

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    Thank you for sharing SFC Smith’s story, Crunchie. May God rest his soul, and bless his wife and children.

  11. Unregistered Comment by irish19

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    What mindy1 said. Excellent idea.

  12. Unregistered Comment by nerbygirl

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    Crunchie:
    Great stories, Crunch. Only thing is, I have to re-apply my mascara again.
    Damn, we are so lucky to be Americans.

    LC Caveman:
    Thanks for your stories as well. You gave me some good lines to use against my libtard friends.

  13. LC Rurik Comment by LC Rurik

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    A little late to the accolades, due to difficulty breaking into the site today.

    Crunchie, excellent work. Thank you.
    And I also agree with both JB and with Mindy 1 post #9.

  14. LC 0311 crunchie Comment by LC 0311 crunchie

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    Imperial Military Historian? Me? Since it is unhealthy to turn down an Imperial title, I guess I can’t say no, personal risk avoidance policy.

    I just want it stated for the record that there are LC’s here who have a vastly superior knowledge of military history to mine, but I will gladly bear the title none the less.

    Thank you all for the compliments on the post, but it is so easy to write these stories. The heroes this feature is about have done all the hard work. They deserve the accolades.

    I just want people to remember them and what they have done for us all.

    As for mindy’s idea, what say you Sire? Include the comments too? Maybe in a year or two when we have enough material?

  15. LC Joe D,  A&IG/GWN Comment by LC Joe D, A&IG/GWN

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    Well done Crunchie! IMHO there would be none better for IMH!

    The brief recounting of the deeds of these most honourable of men and women can do nought but make us think of the dozens of stories of dedication and bravery that happen daily and remain unrecorded by the MSM. There are so many.
    The United States is the leader of a large Coalition that is engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, which includes troops from my homeland, and they too go largely unrecognized by an apathetic public and a pathetic media. As one who believes that we are all in this WoT together, I read of the courage and steadfastness of our American cousins and thank G-d that our lads serve alongside the best.

    G-d Bless ‘em all.

    Joe D.

  16. LC 0311 crunchie Comment by LC 0311 crunchie

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    I for one am glad to have your country men with us Joe D.

  17. ohio right wing nut Comment by ohio right wing nut

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    Once again crunch I bow down in humble remembrence of a better man than I.

    Keep the stories flowing. (between us you always know how to bring a tear to my eye)

    GOD KEEP THIS BRAVE SOLDIER AND WATCH OVER EVERYONE WHO HE TOUCHED

  18. psychochick Comment by psychochick

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    This is OT, but relevant. This guy in southern Cal was going around saying he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, but he was lying. He’s now being prosecuted for criminal charges under the “Stolen Valor Act.”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-medal20oct20,1,696695.story

  19. LC Hardclimber54 Comment by LC Hardclimber54

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    LC 0311 Crunchie

    Thank you for the fine piece of work. As for awards and medals, I hate it when they are given posthumously, but this soldier earn it along with the respect of soldiers and civilians everywhere. Sad that he could not have received it while alive…

    The torch of freedom glows brighter everywhere still because of SFC Smith’s actions, and those like him.
    I stood and saluted to honour his memory, we are all better people because of soldiers like him, be they Americans or Canadians.

    May their memories never be forgotten…