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.
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.
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.