If you’ve ever wondered what a Congressional Medal of Honor looks like but have never had a close up look, now’s your chance.
The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland opens an exhibit Sunday that displays its five Medals of Honor.
The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military award and is presented for "personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty." Since the beginning of the Civil War there have been 3,460 Medal of Honor recipients.
John McCabe, president and CEO of Soldiers and Sailors, said even though the museum opened in 1910, they only acquired their first Medal of Honor five years ago.
“And it went from having none to five in a matter of about five years," said McCabe, "which was pretty exciting for us because we haven’t had any, and now all of a sudden we have five from five different conflicts. So obviously once we had them we needed to share them with the public.”
McCabe said all of the medals were donated to Soldiers and Sailors by families and friends of the individuals who were awarded them.
The five medals on display were awarded to:
- Pvt. Charles Higby, a Pittsburgh native, who captured an enemy flag during the Appomattox Campaign of the Civil War.
- Sgt. John Kirkwood, born in Allegheny County, who “dislodge(d) some Sioux Indians secreted in a ravine” in North Dakota during the Indian Wars.
- Staff Sgt. John Minick was born in Wall, Pa. Minick “encountered and engaged single-handedly an entire company killing 20 Germans and capturing 20” during WWII.
- Staff Sgt. William E. Shuck, a Cumberland, Md. native, while wounded took over a rifle squad and headed two assaults on enemy positions during the Korean War. Shuck was wounded three times during the fighting and was killed by an enemy sniper as he assisting in evacuating other wounded soldiers.
- Lance Cpl. William R. Prom, born in Pittsburgh, twice repelled North Vietnamese Army attacks against two platoons of machine gunners. The second time, while injured, he advanced to within yards of enemy positions to lay down cover fire in order to protect wounded comrades.
McCabe said the museum, in conjunction with the exhibit, is also inducting a new class into their Hall of Valor on Sunday.
The Hall of Valor recognizes anyone from or with contacts with Pennsylvania who receives one of the seven “medals of valor.”
He said, while some of the inductees have passed away before they could be recognized, others who received their medals more recently usually attend the annual ceremony.