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John Hawk's Medal of Honor Action

The more you lose the more it hurts

The more you lose the more it hurts (part 2)

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Hawk begins talking about how he refused to go to Washington D.C. to accept the Medal of Honor because he was tired of travelling across the country. President Harry S. Truman came to Bremerton, Washington to pin the medal on Hawk as a result of his refusal. He discusses how he spent several days on a train coming home from the East Coast and spent several days at home, as he puts it, "raising hell."Hawk was born in San Francisco, his father was a World War I veteran and he has two sisters. His family moved to Tacoma, Washington and then Seattle and finally to Bainbridge Island, Washington for the remainder of his childhood. He had trouble in school when he moved to Bainbridge because he was inserted into 3rd grade when he should have actually been in the 2nd grade. Hawk's father was a commercial artist and moved the family to Washington State for work. He graduated high school in 1943 and went directly into the Army at age 18. He spent 2 years and 4 days in the Army. After discharge he went back to high school for a year and then went to college. He eventually dropped out of the University of Washington and enrolled in Olympic Junior College and graduated from there with a 4.0 GPA. He received a degree in Biology. Hawk also took elementary teaching classes and later took a job as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. He also served as a principal of a small school for 31 years.

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Hawk's father had served in the Army Coast Artillery in the Philippines during World War I and woke Hawk up at 3 in the morning and told him that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, telling him that his draft notice would be coming soon. Hawk didn't enlist immediately, most of his friends joined the Army Air Corps or the Navy and he felt just at home in the Army. He describes the basics of ASTP [Annotator’s Note: Army Specialized Training Program] and how the program worked. His group was shipped to Fort Benning in Georgia in the middle of August. He and his fellow Washington residents had tremendous difficulty adjusting to the Southern heat. He says that the first thing they taught you was how to march around in the heat.Hawk had never been far from home and felt fairly comfortable in the woods as a young man. He scored expert in rifle training and qualified as an expert marksman while in basic training. He resented the recruits marching in formation, as he put it, "just to march in a parade for some general." He went overseas with people who were still scared to death of a rifle because there was not enough weapons training in basic training. Hawk was made a light machine gunner in an infantry company after his basic training. He trained in Fort Benning and Camp Rucker.Hawk tells an amusing story of how he and his mates put a rattlesnake in his Lieutenant's sleeping bag because he was an "asshole". Hawk also describes his adventure with a snapping turtle in a Lieutenant's jeep.

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Hawk says that the thing he wondered about the most prior to combat was what kind of officers he would have. He says that that there were plenty of officers who shouldn't have been officers and shouldn't have been leading men. He talks about being put on enemy detail, which is when they were sent off into the woods to act as an opposition force during training. He describes how he was conflicted when receiving orders from an officer who had just arrived and assumed he knew everything. Hawk, having been in the service for a while (he is relating to experiences while overseas with replacement officers) disagreed with the officer's decisions and vocalized his displeasure with the officer's orders for taking a hill in France.Hawk deployed from Boston and headed overseas on the troop ship Manhattan [Annotator's Note: formerly the Normandie]. The ship was so fast that they outran their escorts and made it across the Atlantic in 8 days. Heading across the Atlantic they ran into heavy seas and Hawk describes watching the escorts pitch and roll. At first the convoy was zigzagging and then they took off at flank speed by themselves to England. On the trip overseas the men were fed one meal per day and if you wanted to eat you had to cook it. There were so many men that were sea sick that they didn't have cooks to feed the men aboard ship.

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Hawk arrived in England and took a C-47 across the English Channel to France. His aircraft landed on an airstrip on the beach. Soon after landing he helped load wounded aboard the aircraft and within one day of arriving in France was in the front lines.Hawk was with Easy Company, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, Heavy Weapons platoon. There were seven men in his platoon instead of the normal 14 or 15.Hawk's first combat experience was in the hedgerow country of Normandy. He describes the layout of a hedgerow in excellent detail and talks about how to attack a hedgerow after learning by trial and error. He describes the layout of a machine gun team from gunner to assistant gunner, loader and ammo carrier.The 90th was assigned to be part of General George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army. The Third Army made rapid advances across France and Hawk describes a general, average day under Patton driving across France. The Germans would put up spot resistance. Artillery fire would proceed any movement, engage the enemy and then force them to retreat. Hawk states that the French countryside was perfect for defense and the Germans knew where every defendable position was located at. Generally they would bypass the towns because they were easily defended and made tough objectives for the attackers.Hawk says that the Germans he encountered were very good soldiers who were well trained. Hawk made sergeant about the second or third day in combat after the first NCO's [Annotator’s Note: Non-commissioned officers] were killed or wounded.Hawk describes his Medal of Honor actions near Chambois, France on August 20, 1944. He was wounded in the leg but continued to fight during a tank battle. He was sent back to the aid station after he liberated some whiskey from one of the German tanks. He was looked at by a doctor in the aid station who dug the spent bullet out of his leg without anesthesia.

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After leaving the aid station [Annotator’s Note: near Chambois, France on August 20, 1944] Hawk was looked at by another aid to try and find the bullet that was in his leg. He found it in the bottom of his pant leg. He states that the men in his infantry company were the closest people he knew, even closer than family. When offered to go to the hospital he refused fearing that he would be placed in another unit and not be able to return to his friends. His bandage was changed every day by his company's medic and he wound up staying with his unit.Hawk further describes the tank action in the orchard [Annotator’s Note: for which he earned a Medal of Honor] and says that after that day his unit was taken to a rest area with liberated cognac and whiskey. He also goes on to describe how he absorbed some shrapnel somewhere in France saying that "if you stayed around long enough you got hit with shrapnel." Hawk was wounded again near the Saar River near Germany and that wound took him out of combat. He was sent on limited duty to post office in Paris.By the war's end Hawk had four Purple Hearts and had been overseas for 12 months with 6 months of combat experience. He was able to return home via the points system with 45 days R&R plus travel time. VE Day was declared when he was on leave; he then shipped to England and was sent home on a convoy on a 14 day journey across the Atlantic. He arrived in Boston, took a train across the country and met his dad at his work. He was in Chicago when the war was declared over. At Fort Lewis [Annotator’s Note: Washington state] he was sent to Tacoma and then home.Halfway through his R&R he received a phone call from Fort Lewis, they were looking for Hawk. The phone call was to tell him he was being awarded the Medal of Honor. Hawk at first didn't believe him when he heard the news on the phone. He told his father, who didn't believe him, so he went to Fort Lewis where he was to be shipped to Washington D.C. for the ceremony. Haw then goes on to describe why he didn't want to go across country for the ceremony.

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President Harry S. Truman was convinced to come to the west coast [Annotator’s Note: to award Hawk with the Medal of Honor] for the first time as a result of Hawk's friend Senator Magnuson [Annotator's note: Senator Warren Magnuson (D)] phoning him. Hawk was awarded the Medal on the steps of the Washington State Capitol building in front of his whole family.Hawk then goes on to describe the events of the rest of the day that he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

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Hawk describes his war wounds from shrapnel and having the pieces picked out of his skin. He describes the results of an artillery fire concussion and being wounded and not knowing it. Hawk says that the concussion would numb the pain and sometimes you wouldn't even know you were wounded. He talks about front line language saying that if you didn't swear without repeating yourself no one would even pay attention.Hawk describes the last time he was wounded which was across the Saar River in Germany. His unit was taking heavy artillery fire from the Germans using very heavy weapons. He was taking fire from the artillery guns as well as the bunkers that housed the forward observers. He gives a good description of attacking German pillboxes along the Siegfried Line. One shell landed near him, threw him around 90 feet, bounced him off the ground, and knocked him unconscious. His men thought that he was dead and were so convinced he was dead that that they didn't even go to check on him. He came to find his machine gun lying near him and his ears were ringing. He walked back to his men who were stunned when they saw him, fearing he was dead.Hawk spent Christmas 1944 in the hospital recovering from the concussion and his shrapnel wounds. He still suffers from his wounds today, suffering from bad knees and rheumatism.Hawk said that he thought about the guys who didn't come back when he was receiving the Medal of Honor. He knew what his job was and did his best to do it. As a machine gunner he was the center of attention most of the time and the worst part of being a machine gunner is the number of people you lose. "The more you lose the more it hurts."

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Hawk estimates that his unit captured around 500 German troops after the engagement for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. 15,000 Germans were captured in his regimental area after the Falaise Gap was closed.Hawk gives an excellent description of how he felt about killing and how it made one feel.He relates that his encounters with the enemy at close range were fairly often, even though most of that them were surrendering.Hawk discusses his combat awards which include the Medal of Honor, four Purple Hearts, Combat Infantry Badge, Victory Medal and a British combat award as well as the French Legion of Honor. He was cited for an action and received the Bronze Star for valorous actions in combat. He explains that the Medal of Honor represents "honorable service in the defense of your country" in his eyes. He goes on to say that people being killed and the destruction and bloodshed were the worst parts of the war for him. He wonders today what all the fighting actually accomplished.Hawk explains that in return trips to Europe he didn't want to return to the places where he fought. He feels that he left too many people back there and he didn't want to revisit the places in which he fought as a young man.

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Hawk says that the toughest 10 years of his life were after the war. He was trying to be the breadwinner, a Romeo, and a student all at the same time. He then goes on to talk about his college experience again, also discussed earlier in the interview.Hawk says that after the war he did talk about the war, but he mostly spoke about the funny moments, not the blood and guts and gore. Because of the medal [Annotator’s Note: Medal of Honor] he did speaking engagements and rallies for veterans groups. When speaking he would leave out the bad memories as best he could. His speeches were different for every group of people that he spoke to.Hawk says that it is hard to tell how the war changed him as he had nothing to compare it to. He learned to tolerate things better, "they are what they are". He says that he came and saw and did the best that he could. He states that his family has been in the service for as far back as the Revolutionary War, all volunteers. Hawk says that he had nightmares after the war; his wife would say that he would wake up thrashing and yelling at night. His nightmares recur and come up every now and then. He would wake up with the sweats and the shakes and attempt to go to sleep. Hawk describes that his nightmares occur even now and play like he is right there and he is actually performing the actions in his dreams.Hawk feels that it is important that people know about the war and what it cost so that it would not occur again.

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Hawk feels that it important that there are museums like The National World War II Museum, so that people remember what happened as "People will forget."

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Hawk arrived in England and took a C-47 across the English Channel to France. His aircraft landed on an airstrip on the beach. Soon after landing he helped load wounded aboard the aircraft and within one day of arriving in France was in the front lines.Hawk was with Easy Company, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, Heavy Weapons platoon. There were seven men in his platoon instead of the normal 14 or 15.Hawk's first combat experience was in the hedgerow country of Normandy. He describes the layout of a hedgerow in excellent detail and talks about how to attack a hedgerow after learning by trial and error. He describes the layout of a machine gun team from gunner to assistant gunner, loader and ammo carrier.The 90th was assigned to be part of General George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army. The Third Army made rapid advances across France and Hawk describes a general, average day under Patton driving across France. The Germans would put up spot resistance. Artillery fire would proceed any movement, engage the enemy and then force them to retreat. Hawk states that the French countryside was perfect for defense and the Germans knew where every defendable position was located at. Generally they would bypass the towns because they were easily defended and made tough objectives for the attackers.Hawk says that the Germans he encountered were very good soldiers who were well trained. Hawk made sergeant about the second or third day in combat after the first NCO's [Annotator’s Note: Non-commissioned officers] were killed or wounded.Hawk describes his Medal of Honor actions near Chambois, France on August 20, 1944. He was wounded in the leg but continued to fight during a tank battle. He was sent back to the aid station after he liberated some whiskey from one of the German tanks. He was looked at by a doctor in the aid station who dug the spent bullet out of his leg without anesthesia.

Annotation

Hawk describes his war wounds from shrapnel and having the pieces picked out of his skin. He describes the results of an artillery fire concussion and being wounded and not knowing it. Hawk says that the concussion would numb the pain and sometimes you wouldn't even know you were wounded. He talks about front line language saying that if you didn't swear without repeating yourself no one would even pay attention.Hawk describes the last time he was wounded which was across the Saar River in Germany. His unit was taking heavy artillery fire from the Germans using very heavy weapons. He was taking fire from the artillery guns as well as the bunkers that housed the forward observers. He gives a good description of attacking German pillboxes along the Siegfried Line. One shell landed near him, threw him around 90 feet, bounced him off the ground, and knocked him unconscious. His men thought that he was dead and were so convinced he was dead that that they didn't even go to check on him. He came to find his machine gun lying near him and his ears were ringing. He walked back to his men who were stunned when they saw him, fearing he was dead.Hawk spent Christmas 1944 in the hospital recovering from the concussion and his shrapnel wounds. He still suffers from his wounds today, suffering from bad knees and rheumatism.Hawk said that he thought about the guys who didn't come back when he was receiving the Medal of Honor. He knew what his job was and did his best to do it. As a machine gunner he was the center of attention most of the time and the worst part of being a machine gunner is the number of people you lose. "The more you lose the more it hurts."

Annotation

Hawk estimates that his unit captured around 500 German troops after the engagement for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. 15,000 Germans were captured in his regimental area after the Falaise Gap was closed.Hawk gives an excellent description of how he felt about killing and how it made one feel.He relates that his encounters with the enemy at close range were fairly often, even though most of that them were surrendering.Hawk discusses his combat awards which include the Medal of Honor, four Purple Hearts, Combat Infantry Badge, Victory Medal and a British combat award as well as the French Legion of Honor. He was cited for an action and received the Bronze Star for valorous actions in combat. He explains that the Medal of Honor represents "honorable service in the defense of your country" in his eyes. He goes on to say that people being killed and the destruction and bloodshed were the worst parts of the war for him. He wonders today what all the fighting actually accomplished.Hawk explains that in return trips to Europe he didn't want to return to the places where he fought. He feels that he left too many people back there and he didn't want to revisit the places in which he fought as a young man.

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