5 Korea and Vietnam Veterans Are Now Eligible for Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor passed around
Army civilian employees pass around a Medal of Honor while attending a Mental Health Awareness Observance May 17, 2018 at Heritage Hall, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. (U.S. Army photo by Kevin Fleming)

Five soldiers from the Korean and Vietnam wars could be awarded the Medal of Honor under the annual defense policy bill signed into law Monday.

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, would also allow four soldiers who served in the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia to have their awards upgraded.

By law, a Medal of Honor or other distinguished service award has to be given within five years of the act that is deemed deserving of the honor.

But that time limit can be waived through separate legislation, which is what this year's NDAA did for those nine soldiers.

While the NDAA makes the nine soldiers eligible, the Medals of Honor must still be approved by the president and the upgrades by the Army before they can be awarded.

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Those who are now eligible for the Medal of Honor include Korean War veterans Charles R. Johnson, who died in combat in 1953 and was awarded the Silver Star 57 years later for putting "himself between his comrades and the enemy, thereby creating the conditions for their successful rescue;" Wataru Nakamura, who received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross in 1952 for carrying out a "one-man assault" on bunkers recently captured by the enemy; and Bruno R. Orig, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1951 for treating wounded comrades under enemy fire and then manning a machine gun with "such effective fire on the enemy that a withdrawing friendly platoon was able to move back without a single casualty."

Also now eligible for the Medal of Honor are Vietnam War veterans Dennis M. Fujii, who earned the Distinguished Service Cross in 1971 after he was wounded and left behind during an attack in Laos and "repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire as he left the security of his entrenchment to better observe enemy troop positions and to direct air strikes against them;" and Edward N. Kaneshiro, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1967 for a battle a year earlier where he saved his platoon by single handedly fighting off and clearing the enemy from trenches and bunkers.

    Four soldiers who received the Silver Star for their service during what's known as the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993 are also now eligible for their award to be upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross: Earl R. Fillmore Jr., Robert. L. Mabry, John G. Macejunas and William F. Thetford.

    If their awards are upgraded, it would be the second time in recent months that service members connected with the Black Hawk Down incident were given higher honors.

    In July, the Army announced it was upgrading medals for 60 special operators who participated in the battle. Two were upgraded to the Distinguished Flying Cross and 58 were upgraded to Silver Stars.

    -- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

    Related: 'Black Hawk Down' Rangers Receive Silver Stars 28 Years After Mogadishu Heroics

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