Military Honors

The Congressional Medal Of Honor Profiles of Americas Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present - 3,460 and counting...

The Medal of Honor, established by joint resolution of Congress, 12 July 1862 (amended by Act of 9 July 1918 and Act of 25 July 1963) is awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Armed Services, distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of The United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which The United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of service is exacted and each recommendation for award of this decoration is considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.  Full-text Listings of Medal of Honor Citations The President, in the name of Congress, has awarded more than 3,400 Medals of Honor to our nation's bravest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen since the decoration's creation in 1861.

The Medal of Honor was first issued during the Civil War, and since it was the only military award for valor during that war, 1,527 medals were awarded. By the time of the Spanish American War, there were more earned medals available for distribution, and the Medal of Honor became the supreme honor. During the military action in Vietnam, a much longer conflict than the Civil War, 238 medals were awarded.

Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed to General-in-Chief of the Army Winfield Scott. But Scott felt medals smacked of European affectation and killed the idea.

The medal found support in the Navy, however, where it was felt recognition of courage in strife was needed. Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy medal of valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was "to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war."

Shortly after this, a resolution similar in wording was introduced on behalf of the Army. Signed into law July 12, 1862, the measure provided for awarding a medal of honor "to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldierlike qualities, during the present insurrection."

Although it was created for the Civil War, Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863. 1,520 Medals were awarded during the Civil War, 1,195 to the Army, 308 to the Navy, 17 to the Marines. 25 Medals were awarded posthumously.

For years, the citations highlighting these acts of bravery and heroism resided in dusty archives and only sporadically were printed. In 1973, the U.S. Senate ordered the citations compiled and printed as Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973). This book was later updated and reprinted in 1979.


Listed below is Lt. Darwin Kyle, The only Congressional Medal of Honor Winner and Francis Gary Powers, the U2 pilot who gained international attention after being shot down over Russia during the cold war. Powers was from Burdine and his father had a shoe shop on main street in Jenkins.


Lt. Darwin K. Kyle
(Marker Number: 1906)

Location: Main Street Jenkins, US 23 & 119

Description: This Congressional Medal of Honor winner fought in Korean War. Born in Jenkins, June 1918, Second Lt. Kyle in U.S. Army with Co. K, 7th Inf. Regt., 3d Inf. Div. Lt. Kyle rallied his men amid intensive fighting to renew attacks on enemy machine-gun positions. He killed 7 men in 2 assaults, then was slain by enemy fire, February 16, 1951. Presented by Letcher County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company K, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Kamil-ni, Korea, February 16, 1951

Entered service at: Racine, W. Va. Born: June 1, 1918, Jenkins, Kentucky

G.O. No.: 17, February 1, 1952


2d Lt. Kyle, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. When his platoon had been pinned down by intense fire, he completely exposed himself to move among and encourage his men to continue the advance against enemy forces strongly entrenched on Hill 185. Inspired by his courageous leadership, the platoon resumed the advance but was again pinned down when an enemy machine gun opened fire, wounding 6 of the men. 2d Lt. Kyle immediately charged the hostile emplacement alone, engaged the crew in hand-to-hand combat, killing all 3. Continuing on toward the objective, his platoon suddenly received an intense automatic-weapons fire from a well-concealed hostile position on its right flank. Again leading his men in a daring bayonet charge against this position, firing his carbine and throwing grenades, 2d Lt. Kyle personally destroyed 4 of the enemy before he was killed by a burst from an enemy submachine gun. The extraordinary heroism and outstanding leadership of 2d Lt. Kyle, and his gallant self-sacrifice, reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the military service.[1]

Although the next one did not receive the medal of honor, he was probably the best known military serviceman from Jenkins/Burdine in the present time.

(Marker Number: 1732)


Location: Whitesburg, Courthouse lawn

Description: Francis Gary Powers and the "U-2 Incident" catapulted activities of the United States into world view. This Burdine native, with other pilots directed by CIA, flew U-2's (high altitude jet gliders) over Russia, photographing missile and industrial sites and nuclear tests. On May 1, 1960, when his plane was diasabled 1300 miles over Russia, Powers parachuted to safety. Over.

(Reverse) Francis Gary Powers, 1929-1977 - Taken prisoner, Powers stated his compass had malfunctioned on a weather flight. Finding film intact in plane's wreckage, the Russians told him he would stand trial for espionage. Sentenced to ten years imprisonment, Powers was released in 1962 in exchange for a Soviet spy. Later decorated by CIA. Died in civilian helicopter crash.

Early Life

Powers was born in Jenkins, Kentucky, with Melungeon ancestry, and raised in Pound, Virginia, on the Virginia-Kentucky border. After graduating from Milligan College in Eastern Tennessee, he was commissioned in the United States Air Force in 1950. Upon completing his training (52-H) he was assigned to the 468th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia as an F-84 Thunderjet pilot. He was assigned to operations in the Korean War, but (according to his son) was recruited by the CIA because of his outstanding record in single engine jet aircraft, soon after recovering from an illness. [2] By 1960, the 31-year old Powers was already a veteran of many covert aerial reconnaissance missions.

[edit] The U-2 Incident

Main article: 1960 U-2 incident
Russian Wikisource has original text related to this article:

He left the Air Force with the rank of captain in 1956, to join the CIA U-2 program. U-2 pilots carried out espionage missions using a spy plane that could reach altitudes above 70,000 feet, essentially making it invulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft weapons of the time. The U-2 was equipped with a state-of-the-art camera designed to snap high-resolution photos from the edge of the atmosphere over hostile countries that included the Soviet Union. These cameras systematically photographed military installations and other important intelligence targets.

Soviet intelligence, including the KGB, had been well aware of U-2 missions since 1956, but lacked the technology to launch counter-measures until 1960. Powers’ U-2, which departed from a military airbase in Peshawar [2] and may have received support from the US Air Station at Badaber, near Peshawar in Pakistan, was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Surface to Air) missile[3] on May 1, 1960, over Sverdlovsk. Soviets had shadowed his plane from a lower altitude, then took him down as he crossed over Sverdlosk, which was deep in Soviet airspace. Powers was unable to activate the plane's self-destruct mechanism, as instructed, before he parachuted to the ground, right into the hands of the KGB.

When the U.S. government learned of Powers' disappearance over the Soviet Union, it issued a cover statement claiming that a "weather plane" had crashed down after its pilot had "difficulties with his oxygen equipment." What U.S. officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact, and the Soviets recovered its photography equipment, as well as Powers, whom they interrogated extensively for months before he made a "voluntary confession"and public apology for his part in U.S. espionage. Ultimately the whole incident would set back the peace talks between Khrushchev and Eisenhower for years. On August 17, 1960, Powers was convicted of espionage against the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to a total of 10 years in prison, three years of imprisonment followed by seven years of hard labor. Powers was held in the famous "Vladimirsky Central" prison in the city of Vladimir, east of Moscow. This prison had been used to hold other high-profile prisoners, such as the son of Joseph Stalin. The prison, which is still active today, contains a small museum that includes an exhibit on Powers, who, it is said, had a good rapport with Russian prisoners during his time there. On February 10, 1962, twenty-one months after his capture, he was exchanged along with American student Frederic Pryor in a spy swap for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Fisher (aka Rudolf Abel) at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany.

Wooden U-2 model - one of two used by Powers when he testified to the Senate Committee. The wings and tail are detachable to demonstrate the aircraft's breakup upon impact.

[edit] Aftermath

Though Powers had not divulged details of the U-2 program, he received a cold reception upon his return to the United States. Initially, he was criticized for having failed to activate his aircraft’s self-destruct charge designed to destroy the camera, photographic film, and related classified parts of his aircraft before capture. In addition, others criticized him for deciding not to use an optional CIA-issued "suicide pin". After being debriefed extensively by the CIA, Lockheed, and the USAF, on March 6, 1962, he appeared before a Senate Armed Services Select Committee hearing chaired by Senator Richard Russell and including Senators Prescott Bush and Barry Goldwater, Sr. During the proceeding it was determined that Powers followed orders, did not divulge any critical information to the Soviets, and conducted himself “as a fine young man under dangerous circumstances.”

After his return, Powers worked for Lockheed as a test pilot from 1963 to 1970. In 1970, he co-wrote a book titled Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident. He then became an airborne traffic reporter for radio station KGIL in the San Fernando Valley, and was known for his unique sign off “Gary Powers, KGIL skywatch” when he finished his report. He was then hired by Los Angeles television station KNBC to pilot their new "telecopter", a helicopter equipped with externally mounted 360 degree cameras. Powers died on August 1, 1977, when, upon his return from covering brush fires in Santa Barbara county, his helicopter ran out of fuel and crashed just a few miles from Burbank Airport where he was based. KNBC cameraman George Spears was also killed in the incident. Many have wondered or speculated on how an experienced pilot such as Powers could have allowed the aircraft to run out of fuel. According to Powers' son, Powers had reported a fuel gauge error to the mechanics. When Powers fuel gauge indicator displayed "Empty", he actually had enough fuel for thirty more minutes of flight time. Apparently the aviation mechanic fixed the fuel gauge in the KNBC helicopter, but did not tell Powers of the correction. When he was returning to Burbank from the aforementioned brush fire coverage (live helicopter coverage now being common and ubiquitous throughout Southern California for brush fires and other breaking news) Powers ran out of fuel and subsequently crashed in a field in the Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area. Eyewitnesses suggested that Powers attempted to autorotate the helicopter onto recreational fields at this location. However, he intentionally banked to avoid children on the fields and ultimately crashed the helicopter into an adjacent agricultural field, resulting in the aircraft rolling and the occupants' deaths. Powers was survived by his wife Sue, and two children, Dee and Francis Gary Powers Jr.. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1998, information was declassified revealing that Powers’ fateful mission had actually been a joint USAF/CIA operation. In 2000, on the 40th anniversary of the U-2 Incident, his family was finally presented with his posthumously awarded Prisoner of War Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and National Defense Service Medal. In addition, then CIA Director George Tenet authorized Powers to posthumously receive the CIA's coveted Intelligence Star for extreme fidelity and extraordinary courage in the line of duty. [4]

According to his son, when asked how high he was when flying on May 1, 1960, Powers would often reply, "not high enough".