Medal of Honor Memorial - Leeds, Alabama
N 33° 32.363 W 086° 33.730
16S E 540650 N 3711171
Quick Description: This monument honors three Leeds native sons who are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Location: Alabama, United States
Date Posted: 9/19/2007 6:59:35 PM
Waymark Code: WM2820
The city of Leeds, Alabama (Population 10, 455) is considered to have the most Congressional Medal of Honor recipients per capita of any city in the U.S. In 2002, Leeds dedicated a memorial, located in the city's historical park, to the three heroes: Staff Sergeant Henry E. "Red" Erwin (U.S. Army, WW2), PFC Alford L. McLaughlin (USMC, Korea), and First Lt. William R. Lawley (U.S. Army, WW2).
Erwin was the radio operator of a B-29 airplane leading a group formation to attack Koriyama, Japan. He was charged with the additional duty of dropping phosphoresce smoke bombs to aid in assembling the group when the launching point was reached. Upon entering the assembly area, aircraft fire and enemy fighter opposition was encountered. Among the phosphoresce bombs launched by S/Sgt. Erwin, 1 proved faulty, exploding in the launching chute, and shot back into the interior of the aircraft, striking him in the face. The burning phosphoresce obliterated his nose and completely blinded him. Smoke filled the plane, obscuring the vision of the pilot. S/Sgt. Erwin realized that the aircraft and crew would be lost if the burning bomb remained in the plane. Without regard for his own safety, he picked it up and feeling his way, instinctively, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot's window. He found the navigator's table obstructing his passage. Grasping the burning bomb between his forearm and body, he unleashed the spring lock and raised the table. Struggling through the narrow passage he stumbled forward into the smoke-filled pilot's compartment. Groping with his burning hands, he located the window and threw the bomb out. Completely aflame, he fell back upon the floor. The smoke cleared, the pilot, at 300 feet, pulled the plane out of its dive. S/Sgt. Erwin's gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty saved the lives of his comrades.
McLaughin earned the Nation’s highest decoration for his intrepid two-machine-gun defense of a lonely outpost on “Bunker Hill.” He was decorated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 27 October 1953 at a ceremony in the White House.
A private first class at the time, he kept firing his two machine guns alternately, notwithstanding his painful wounds and blistered hands, until the guns became too hot to hold. Then he carried on with a carbine and grenades until some 200 Chinese lay dead or wounded in front of him. In addition to the Medal of Honor, PFC McLaughlin received a Gold Star in lieu of his second Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered in that action. He was awarded his first Purple Heart for wounds received 16 August 1952 in the same sector.
Lawley earned the nation's highest award for gallantry at the risk of his life during a bombing mission over occupied Europe. Coming off the target, he was attacked by approximately 20 enemy fighters, shot out of formation and his plane severely crippled. Eight crew members were wounded, the co-pilot was killed. one engine was on fire, the controls shot away, and then Lieutenant Lawley seriously and painfully wounded about the face.
The Medal of Honor citation read, in part: "...Forcing the copilot's body off the controls, he brought the airplane out of a steep dive, flying with his left hand only. After the order to bail out had been given, one of the waist gunners informed Lieutenant Lawley that two crew members were so severely wounded that it would be impossible for them to bail out. With the fire in the engine spreading, the danger of an explosion was imminent. Because of the helpless condition of his wounded crew members, Lieutenant Lawley elected to remain with the ship and bring them to safety if it was humanly possible, giving the other crew members the option of bailing out. Enemy fighters again attacked but by using masterful evasive action, he managed to lose them. One engine again caught on fire and was extinguished. Lieutenant Lawley remained at his post, refusing first aid until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion caused by loss of blood, shock and the energy he had expended in keeping control of his plane. He was revived by the bombardier and again took over the controls. Coming over the English coast, one engine ran out of gasoline and had to be feathered. Another engine started to burn and continued to do so until a successful crash landing was made on a small fighter base."
Website pertaining to the memorial: [Web Link]
List if there are any visiting hours:
Park closes at 9pm
Entrance fees (if it applies): No admission
Type of memorial: Monument
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