The United States Medal of Honor, the highest military distinction, is awarded to recognize extraordinary acts of valor. Of the more than 41 million people who have ever served in the U.S. military over the nation’s history, about 3,500 were awarded the Medal of Honor, exhibiting heroism, selflessness, devotion, and going above and beyond the call of duty. (Here is every medal and ribbon the U.S. military awards, ranked.)
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the Congressional Medal of Honor Society‘s database of recipients throughout history to identify the most impressive recipient attributed to each state. It should be noted that for a recipient to be attributed to a certain state, they did not need to be born in that state, but rather enlist there. Information about the recipient and the number of total medals attributed to the state, also came from the CMOHS database. The recipient’s rank is the rank at the time of action the medal was awarded for.
Nineteen men received two medals for actions in different wars, and many are listed as the most impressive in their state. Others on the list made major breakthroughs, such as the first Black American or the first and only woman. (Here are the most decorated war heroes in American history.)
Considered the “Greatest Civilian Soldier” during World War I, Alvin York originally sought exemption from service as a conscientious objector but would later go to serve and become a legend. Hailing from Tennessee, York was drafted in the U.S. Army. At the front lines of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, outnumbered, he took 35 German machine gun nests out of action and captured 132 enemy soldiers. York’s story would go on to be told on the silver screen, and the New York Times would herald him as “the war’s biggest hero.”
Another conscientious objector achieved greatness but in World War II. Desmond Doss, hailing from Virginia, refused to bear arms due to his faith and served as a medic in the Battle of Okinawa. Doss’s story is different from many, embodying his philosophy of self-sacrifice. At Hacksaw Ridge and under relentless enemy fire, he rushed into danger to save at least 75 lives in a single day. His story would go on to be told in the Oscar-winning film Hacksaw Ridge.
Alvin York and Desmond Doss are a testament to the Medal of Honor’s legacy of valor and sacrifice, and there are many more recipients with similar stories of heroism and courage.
Here is a look at the most impressive Medal of Honor Recipients from each state.
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