Two new installments in an illustrated series spotlighting soldiers whose actions earned them the nation’s highest award for military valor is now available online.
The new editions of “Medal of Honor,” produced by the Association of the U.S. Army, bring real life heroics to the fore through story-telling and visuals constructed by some of the comic industry’s top writers and artists.
“It has been personally rewarding to learn more about these remarkable soldiers, and we have been fortunate to work with such a talented creative team to bring this history to life," said Joseph Craig, director of AUSA’s Book Program.
Audie Murphy, the subject of the third issue, was just a 5-foot-5 teenager in January 1945 when he single-handedly held off six German tanks and repeated infantry assaults for over an hour.
Seeing the approaching swarm of gray uniforms, Murphy ordered his men to retreat into a nearby patch of trees rather than face what seemed like certain death.
But Murphy remained behind, determined to hold off the assault until his unit could regroup.
He used deadly fire from his M1 before climbing onto an American M10 tank destroyer that was on fire, the result of a German tank’s direct hit.
Ignoring the blazing inferno, Murphy manned the tank destroyer’s .50 caliber machine gun, mowing down entire squads of German soldiers, while periodically using a radio to coordinate artillery missions that made “danger close” sound pedestrian.
By the time Murphy ran out of ammunition, the 19-year-old Texan had killed or wounded 50 German soldiers.
Murphy then rejoined his men and, despite having suffered wounds to his legs, led them on a decisive counter assault.
His actions during World War II made him one of the most decorated military personnel in American history, and an easy choice for AUSA’s “Medal of Honor” publishing team.
“One of the things I was really impressed with is the level of work that the creative team has put into it,” Craig said.
“The scripts and the artists — these are all people from the world of professional comic book publishing. These guys know comics, they know military comics in particular, and the job is just really top notch.”
AUSA’s fourth installment details the actions of then-Spc. Sal Giunta, who was on a patrol under a full moon in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in October 2007 when he and members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team were ambushed by about 15 Taliban fighters.
Withering small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades battered the small detachment. Much of the fire, which Giunta described as being so intense that “there were more bullets in the air than stars in the sky,” came from insurgents occupying concealed positions as close as 30 feet away.
“A wall of bullets at every one at the same time with one crack and then a million other cracks afterwards," Giunta recalled. "They’re above you, in front of you, behind you, below you. They’re hitting in the dirt early. They’re going over your head. Just all over the place.
"They were close — as close as I’ve ever seen.”
Giunta watched as another soldier fall to the ground. An enemy round had gone through his kevlar, but miraculously just grazed his skull.
Running to retrieve the fallen paratrooper, Giunta was hit squarely in his ceramic chest plate, knocking him to the ground.
Giunta regathered himself amidst the onslaught, then recognized the familiar L-shape of the ambush. Another soldier was missing, and he knew he had to act fast to avoid being flanked.
With a small team, the one-time Subway employee pushed forward in the face of the ambush, intentionally exposing himself to enemy fire at one point to gain a better vantage point.
Scanning the immediate area, Giunta spotted two Taliban fighters dragging away the wounded soldier and immediately gave chase, killing one and wounding the other with his M4 before recovering his grievously wounded teammate.
He would later downplay his own role in turning the tide of the battle, saying, "I did what I did because in the scheme of painting the picture of that ambush, that was just my brush stroke.
“That’s not above and beyond. I didn’t take the biggest brush stroke, and it wasn’t the most important brush stroke.”
The Army, however, felt differently about his heroism, and made Giunta the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.
Attendees at the Oct 14-16 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington can obtain a free copy of a compendium featuring all four stories — Murphy, Giunta, and previously published issues featuring Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez and Sgt. Alvin York.
The “Medal of Honor" collaborative team includes script-writing by Chuck Dixon (Marvel’s “Punisher”), drawings by Rick Magyar (“Iron Man”), color work by Peter Pantazis (“Justice League,” “Superman,” “Wolverine”), and lettering by Troy Peteri (“Spiderman,” “Iron Man,” “X-Men”).
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.