Wednesday, June 2, 2010

World War II Medal of Honor Recipient Buried at Keokuk National Cemetery

Ten service personnel who have Iowa connections were recipients of the country's highest military decoration - the Medal of Honor during World War II. The award celebrates valor in action against an enemy force which is bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.

At the Keokuk National Cemetery, among the 4,000 war dead, the grave of one soldier carries the special distinction. U.S. Army Private First Class John F. Thorson was awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously) following his sacrifice during World War II. 

Thorson's offical citation reads, "He was an automatic rifleman on 28 October 1944, in the attack on Dagami Leyte, Philippine Islands. A heavily fortified enemy position consisting of pillboxes and supporting trenches held up the advance of his company. His platoon was ordered to out-flank and neutralize the strongpoint. Voluntarily moving well out in front of his group, Pvt. Thorson came upon an enemy fire trench defended by several hostile riflemen and, disregarding the intense fire directed at him, attacked single-handed He was seriously wounded and fell about 6 yards from the trench. Just as the remaining 20 members of the platoon reached him, one of the enemy threw a grenade into their midst. Shouting a warning and making a final effort, Pvt. Thorson rolled onto the grenade and smothered the explosion with his body. He was instantly killed, but his magnificent courage and supreme self-sacrifice prevented the injury and possible death of his comrades, and remain with them as a lasting inspiration."

According to the Iowa Medal of Honors Heros section of the Iowa History web site John Thorson, Sr., accepted his son’s Medal of Honor in a ceremony at Fort Crook, Nebraska, presented by Brig. Gen. Paul X. English of the 7th Division. The Women’s Army Corps band from Fort Des Moines played a concert before the ceremony. A newspaper report about the ceremony reported that, “The father clutched the medal tightly in hands gnarled by a life-time of work on the farm as he walked back across the parade ground after the ceremony.”

A year after the war ended, a Red Cross club in Korea was named in John Thorton's honor, and a U.S. Navy vessel (cargo ship) was also named for him. To locate Pvt. Thorson's grave, visit the cemetery in Keokuk and proceed to section D, grave 71. He is buried in a World War II section. Know that.

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