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Medal of Honor Recipient Henry "Red" Erwin

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

  1. 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

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