Decorated Soldiers Remembered for Selflessness and Leadership

Leading American ground troops to victory and displaying remarkable bravery and selflessness set the four men featured on the Distinguished Soldiers stamps (2000) apart. Their commitment to the U.S. Army led to major contributions during World War I and World War II, and has made them forever a part of our nation’s history.

John Leonard Hines was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on May 21, 1868. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1891.

After the United States entered World War I, Gen. John J. Pershing assigned Hines to the American Expeditionary Forces in France. An effective battle leader, Hines commanded the 4th Division in September 1918 during the American operations at Saint Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne. During World War I, Hines experienced a meteoric rise in rank as he was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in May 1917, then to colonel, brigadier general, and, in August 1918, to major general. He assumed successively larger commands, from regiment to brigade, division, and finally, corps.

Hines served the U.S. Army with distinction for more than forty years in a full range of line, staff, and combat positions, advancing to the highest position in the Army when he succeeded General Pershing as Chief of Staff in 1924. Hines died on October 13, 1968, at the age of 100.

Alvin Cullum York was born on December 13, 1887, in the rural Tennessee community of Pall Mall. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, York was drafted into the Army.

York was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted from corporal to sergeant for his single-handed capture of German soldiers and their battery of machine guns in the Argonne forest on October 8, 1918. At that time, he was serving in the 82nd Division.

Sergeant York, a movie based on York’s life, was released in 1941. Gary Cooper won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the famous doughboy. Sergeant York died in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 2, 1964.

Omar Nelson Bradley was born in Clark, Missouri, on February 12, 1893. Bradley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1915. He was the first in his class to receive a general’s star in 1941. After serving stateside during World War II, Bradley, then a major general, was assigned to the European forces under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In September 1943, Bradley was given command of the First Army after successfully leading troops in North Africa and during the invasion of Sicily, and led the First Army during the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944. A few months later, Bradley became commanding general of the Twelfth Army Group—at 1.3 million strong, it was the largest American field command in history.

In 1948, Bradley was named Army Chief of Staff. He became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1949. Bradley received his fifth star in September 1950. Bradley died in New York City on April 8, 1981.

Audie Leon Murphy was born on a sharecropper’s farm in northeast Texas on June 20, 1924. Murphy enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the 3rd Infantry Division. On January 26, 1945, Murphy saved his company by single-handedly stopping a German attack during the Reduction of the Colmar Pocket in Alsace-Lorraine. For his bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for gallantry in action.

Murphy was the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. His decorations include the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the French Legion of Honor, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm. He also received a battlefield commission promoting him to 2nd lieutenant.

After World War II, Murphy appeared in numerous films, most notably The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and To Hell and Back (1955). Based on Murphy’s autobiography, To Hell and Back featured his experiences in the war. Audie Murphy died in a plane crash near Roanoke, Virginia, on May 28, 1971.

These men, along with millions of other soldiers who have come after them, helped make America the country it is today. Without their tireless dedication, our world might be very different. How would you choose to honor our servicemen and servicewomen?