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Medal of Honor Recipient Henry "Red" Erwin

Waring Hills Feb 26, 2011

Master Sgt. Henry "Red" Erwin (1921-2002), Medal of Honor recipient. This is a repost from February of 2009 on Master Sgt. Henry “Red” Erwin (1921-2002), Medal of Honor recipient.

Today I met the granddaughter of Henry E. “Red” Erwin.

Jennifer Michaels and her two sons, David (6) and Will (3), were here to visit the Medal of Honor museum, while her Air Force husband was at Charleston Air Force Base on temporary duty.

Jennifer Michaels and her two sons, Will and David.

Jennifer Michaels and her two sons, Will and David.

A picture of her grandfather graces one of the museum’s displays.  As a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, 20th Air Force,  Henry “Red” Erwin  was distinguished in an amazing story and saved his B-29 crew from destruction over Japan in 1945. Read his citation here.

Henry Red Erwin in recovery.

Henry “Red” Erwin in recovery.

After Red’s return to Guam, General Curtis LeMay upon hearing the story of Red’s actions…made a decision to put him in for the Medal of Honor. When told that Red was probably going to die, General LeMay ordered his staff to bring him a Medal of Honor. Of course, they aren’t exactly on display in the Base PX uniform shop. One of LeMay’s staff remembered that there was one on display at Army Staff headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii so he  dispatched an airplane and crew to go get it. Their mission was to steal the only Medal of Honor available in the Pacific at Army Headquarters and return it to him at Guam for the award to Red before he died. They were successful and Red was probably the only recipient to wear a stolen medal legitimately! He did survive his injuries, but lived his life in pain.

The movie “Wild Blue Yonder” (1951) depicts his action over Japan, but did not cover his also heroic recovery which lasted many years and took forty-three operations to rebuild his face, after losing an eye, an ear and his nose, plus several fingers.

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5 thoughts on “Medal of Honor Recipient Henry "Red" Erwin

  1. R. Gordon McKinnehy says:

    I knew Red Erwin and his brothers and sister (Faye). When he moved from Sylacuga, Ala to Birmingham he was single and boarded with a Copeland family three houses from where we lived. We visited often at the Eastwood Mall in Birmingham where we both walked. I spent the night in the Erwin home several times. Red was a great person. If you knew Red you would not have been surprised that he saved his crew. Wasn’t the last thing President F. D. Roosevelt did before his death in Warm Springs, Ga was to sign papers for him to receive The Congresional Medal of Honor?

  2. When I was about 7 years old, My Dad took me to the small barbershop in Fairfield, Alabama.
    For a minute or so, the chair was facing away from all the customers. When he turned me around, I was looking directly at someone who had just come in. It was Red Erwin. Being 7 years old, I probably stared at his face ‘way too long.
    Thinking back over the years, I believe he was probably just out of the hospital, and I had never seen someone who had been so severely burned.
    When we left, my Dad told me who the man was. And he told me how these days Mr.Erwin was already helping disabled Veterans. I will always remember that day. And I never stare at someone like I did that day. I just smile and say ” Good morning, sir “.

    Archie Williamson
    XO, Special Forces ODA-108
    Jun 1968 – June 1969

    1. Vicki Williamson Harlan says:

      Hi Archie

      I just saw your comment and recognized your name. My father is Jim Williamson and had an uncle named Archie Williamson. I believe Archie lived in Fairfield where most Williamsons lived at that time (1900-1950s at least). My father’s family moved to Florida for work in the 1940s. I am wondering if you are related. My father is elderly (85) and looking to reunited with the Williamsons. I also noticed your title. My dad served in the Navy for 30 years and retired as a full Commander and deep sea diver. So proud of our family.


      1. Archie Williamson says:

        Yep. That’s me. I ran into your Dad and Mom at the funeral for my cousin Margaret Owen. Can’t remember the year.
        It would be wonderful to be able to see everyone again.
        I know we don’t want to put it off a lot longer, but give me time to lose a few pounds, ok ?

        Archie the third. 😎
        Or “Wee Archie”

  3. L.M. Jennings says:

    Mr Irwin and his wife were friends with my parents when they attended the Methodist Church in Hueytown. I remember them coming to our house to visit.

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