US Army Medal of Honor awarded to Second Lieutenant Van T. Barfoot
A native of Edinburg, Mississippi, Van T. Barfoot (1919-2012) enlisted in the US Army in 1940 and served in L Company, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division during the World War II. He participated in the Allied invasions of Sicily in July 1943 and mainland Italy in December 1943.
On May 23, 1944, near Carano, Italy, the 25-year-old Barfoot led an assault on entrenched German positions. Advancing alone from his squad, Barfoot neutralized three German machine gun positions, disabled a tank with a grenade, took 17 prisoners, and pulled a comrade to safety while under fire. For his “Herculean efforts,” then-Lieutenant Barfoot received the Medal of Honor. At his own request, he was presented the medal during a field ceremony in Épinal, France on September 28, 1944.
Barfoot is recognized as one of five Native Americans to receive the Medal of Honor for service in the World War II. His maternal grandmother was Choctaw, but he never officially registered as a member of the Choctaw Nation.
Barfoot later served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and retired as a colonel in 1974. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Barfoot was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, three Legions of Merit, 11 Air Medals, and Mississippi Medal of Honor, among other decorations, during his distinguished military career.