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: lawmakers in Texas have once again passed a resolution requesting approval for a Congressional Medal of Honor for Doris Miller.
This brings to mind, as we approach Memorial Day Weekend, the other heroes of our area who distinguished themselves with honor and bravery in combat. Included among the many thousands of soldiers from McLennan County who risked or gave their lives for freedom are three Congressional Medal of Honor winners: Naval Commander William Kelly Harrison of Waco in 1914, Army Air Corps Colonel John Riley Kane of McGregor in 1943, and Marine Pfc. Whitt Lloyd Moreland of Waco in 1951.
Each day, on my way from my Capitol office to the House floor, I walk by a display of all Medal of Honor winners 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.
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 and received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the armed forces of the United States. Typically presented to the recipient by the Commander in Chief, this award is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. It has been bestowed upon 3,460 individuals since its creation in 1861.
So, as we enjoy this great holiday with family and friends, let’s pause to remember the many soldiers in all branches of the service, living and deceased, who helped make it possible. Their innumerable sacrifices in fighting wars declared and undeclared have protected our land, our freedoms, and our way of life.
Rep. Doc Anderson's Capitol Office
900 Austin Ave., Suite 804