NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Next week, Capt. Larry Taylor, a Cobra helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, will join the over 30 Tennesseans who have received the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions on the battlefield in various conflicts.

Tennessee has a rich history of war heroes, according to the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, where the images and citations of all 32 Medal of Honor recipients are displayed in the Hall of Valor in downtown Chattanooga.

With the exception of the War on Terror, a Tennessean has received the Medal of Honor in every conflict since the military decoration was first created in 1861. According to the Heritage Center, the Department of Defense credits their actions to the state where they enlisted.

An Army Medal of Honor on display at the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga. (Photo: WKRN)

The Medal of Honor is considered the highest military decoration someone can receive, with recipients’ stories demonstrating moments of bravery and sometimes sacrifice in defense of the United States.

Some have gone it alone amid onslaughts of gunfire, and many have faced what would appear to be insurmountable odds, but come out inspiring their fellow servicemembers, with multiple Medal of Honor recipients throwing themselves on grenades to absorb the blast.

As of March 3, 2023, there have been 3,535 Medals of Honor awarded in the country, with over 1,000 awarded to Americans who fought in the Civil War, according to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States.

Below is a full list of Tennesseans who have received the Medal of Honor with details from the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.

Civil War

Gaines Lawson

Rank: First Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company D, 4th East Tennessee Infantry

Action Place: At McMinnville, Tennessee (October 3, 1863)

Born: September 4, 1840, Hawkins County, Tennessee

Citation: Lawson went to the aid of a wounded comrade between the lines and carried him to a place of safety.

George L. Gillespie, Jr.

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Corps of Engineers

Action Place: Near Bethesda Church, Virginia (May 31, 1864)

Born: October 7, 1841, Kingston, Tennessee

Citation: Gillespie exposed himself to great danger by voluntarily making his way through the enemy’s lines to communicate with Gen. Sheridan. He was captured but escaped, only to come in contact with the enemy again and be ordered to surrender. However, Gillespie escaped again by dashing away under fire.

Harrison Collins

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 1st Tennessee Cavalry

Action Place: At Richland Creek, Tennessee (December 24, 1864)

Born: March 10, 1836, Hawkins County, Tennessee

Citation: Collins captured the flag of Chalmer’s Division (C.S.A.) during the Battle of Nashville.

Indian Campaigns

John Kyle

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company M, 5th U.S. Calvary

Action Place: Near Republican River, Kansas (July 8, 1869)

Born: 1846, Cincinnati, Ohio, enlisted in Nashville, Tennessee

Citation: Kyle and two others were attacked by eight Native Americans but beat them off and badly wounded two of them.

George Jordan

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company K, 9th U.S. Calvary

Action Place: At Fort Tularosa, New Mexico; at Carrizo Canyon, New Mexico (May 14, 1880; August 12, 1881)

Born: Williamson County, Tennessee

Citation: While commanding a detachment of 25 men at Fort Tularosa, Jordan repulsed a force of more than 100 Native Americans. And while commanding the right of a detachment of 19 men at Carrizo Canyon, he held his ground and forced back a much superior number of the enemy, preventing them from surrounding the command.

George Hobday

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 7th U.S. Calvary

Action Place: Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota (December 29, 1890)

Born: 1839, Kent County, England, enlisted in Memphis, Tennessee

Citation: Hobday was awarded for conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle.

Clay Beauford

Rank: First Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company B, 5th U.S. Calvary

Action Place: Arizona Territory (Winter of 1872-1873)

Born: September 27, 1846, Washington County, Maryland, enlisted in Nashville, Tennessee

Citation: Beauford was awarded for gallant conduct during campaigns and engagements with Apaches.

War with Spain

Charles P. Cantrell

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company F, 10th U.S. Infantry

Action Place: Santiago, Cuba (July 1, 1898)

Born: February 13, 1874, Smithville, Tennessee

Citation: Cantrell assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and under heavy fire from the enemy.

Philippine Insurrection

Bolden Reush Harrison

Rank: Seaman

Organization: U.S. Navy

Action Place: U.S.S. Pampang offshore of Basilan, Philippine Islands (September 24, 1911)

Born: April 26, 1886, Savannah, Tennessee

Citation: While attached to the U.S.S. Pampang, Harrison was one of a shore party moving in to capture Mundang on the island of Basilan. Harrison instantly responded to calls for help when the advance scout party investigating a group of nipa huts was suddenly taken under point-blank fire and rushed by around 20 enemies. By his aggressive charging of the enemy under heavy fire and in the face of great odds, Harrison contributed materially to the success of the engagement.

Allen James Greer

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: 4th Infantry

Action Place: Near Majada, Laguna Province, Philippine Islands (July 2, 1901)

Born: August 11, 1878, Memphis, Tennessee

Citation: Greer charged an insurgent outpost alone with his pistol, killing one; wounding two; and capturing three insurgents with their rifles and equipment.

Joseph S. Cecil

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: 19th U.S. Infantry

Action Place: Bud-Dajo, Jolo, Philippine Islands (March 7, 1906)

Born: January 11, 1878, New River, Tennessee

Citation: Cecil carried a wounded man and the body of a person who was killed beside him to a sheltered position while at the head of the column about to assault the first cotta under a superior force at a short range.

Seth Lathrop Weld

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company L, 8th U.S. Infantry

Action Place: La Paz, Leyte, Philippine Islands (December 5, 1906)

Born: February 19, 1879, Sandy Hook, Maryland, entered service in Altamont, Tennessee

Citation: Weld assisted a wounded constabulary officer and a fellow soldier who were surrounded by about 40 Pulajanes, all while his right arm was cut open. Greer beat back the assailants by using his disabled rifle as a club and rescued his party.


Robert Earl Bonney

Rank: Chief Wartender

Organization: U.S. Navy

Action Place: Aboard U.S.S. Hopkins off the West Coast of the United States (February 14, 1910)

Born: November 23, 1882, Maryville, Tennessee

Citation: While serving on board the U.S.S. Hopkins, Bonney displayed extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession after an accident happened involving one of the vessel’s boilers.

World War I

Alvin C. York

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 328th Infantry, 82d Division

Action Place: Near Chatel-Chehery, France (October 8, 1918)

Born: December 13, 1887, Fentress County, Tennessee

Citation: York assumed command after his platoon suffered heavy casualties and three other noncommissioned officers were killed. Leading seven men, he charged a machine gun nest that was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In his heroic feat, the machine gun nest was taken, together with four officers, 128 men and several guns.

Calvin John Ward

Rank: Private

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company D, 117th Infantry, 30th Division

Action Place: Near Estrees, France (October 8, 1918)

Born: October 1898, Greene County, Tennessee

Citation: During an advance, Ward’s company was held up by a machine gun, which was enfilading the line. Accompanied by a noncommissioned officer, he advanced against this post and succeeded in reducing the nest by killing three and capturing seven enemies.

Edward R. Talley

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company L, 117th Infantry, 30th Division

Action Place: Near Ponchaux, France (October 7, 1918)

Born: September 8, 1890, Russellville, Tennessee

Citation: Undeterred by seeing several comrades killed while trying to put a hostile machine gun nest out of action, Talley singlehandedly attacked the position. He rushed the nest while armed with only a rifle and killed or wounded at least six of the crew. When the enemy tried to bring forward another gun, he drove them back with effective fire from his rifle.

Milo Lemert

Rank: First Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 119th Infantry, 30th Division

Action Place: Near Bellicourt, France (September 29, 1918)

Born: March 25, 1890, Marshalltown, Iowa, enlisted in Crossville, Tennessee

Citation: Seeing that the left flank of his company was held up, Lemert located the enemy machine-gun emplacement, which had been causing heavy casualties. Lemert rushed it single-handedly in the face of heavy fire and killed the entire crew with grenades. He then destroyed three more machine gun nests before being killed and prevented many casualties among his company.

James E. Karnes

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company D, 117th Infantry, 30th Division

Action Place: Near Estrees, France (October 8, 1918)

Born: July 20, 1889, Arlington, Tennessee

Citation: During an advance, his company was held up by a machine gun which was enfilading the line. Accompanied by another soldier, he advanced against this position and succeeded in reducing the nest by killing three and capturing seven of the enemy and their guns.

Joseph B. Adkinson

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company C, 119th Infantry, 30th Division

Action Place: Near Bellicourt, France (September 29, 1918)

Born: January 4, 1892, Egypt, Tennessee

Citation: When machine gun fire made it impossible for his platoon to advance, Adkinson alone rushed across 50 yards of open ground, kicked the gun from the parapet into the enemy trench, and at the point of the bayonet, captured three men manning the gun. His actions enabled the platoon to resume its advance.

World War II

John Harlan Willis

Rank: Pharmacist’s Mate First Class

Organization: U.S. Navy

Company: 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division

Action Place: Iowa Jima, Volcano Islands (February 28, 1945)

Born: June 10, 1921, Columbia, Tennessee

Citation: During operations against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Willis saved others at the sacrifice of his own life. He also inspired his companions, although terrifically outnumbered, to launch a fiercely determined attack and repulse the enemy force. 

Vernon McGarity

Rank: Technical Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company L, 393d Infantry, 99th Infantry Division.

Action Place: Near Krinkelt, Belgium (December 16, 1944)

Born: December 1, 1921, Right, Tennessee

Citation: McGarity was wounded in an artillery barrage that preceded the powerful counteroffensive launched by the Germans near Krinkelt. He made his way to an aid station, received treatment, and then refused to be evacuated, choosing to return to his hard-pressed men instead. His devotion supported a remarkable delaying action which provided the time necessary for forming a line against which the German striking power was shattered.

Charles McGaha

Rank: Master Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company G, 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division

Action Place: Near Lupao, Luzon, Philippine Islands (February 7, 1945)

Born: February 26, 1914, Cosby, Tennessee

Citation: McGaha displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity when his platoon and one other from Company G were pinned down in a roadside ditch by heavy fire from five Japanese tanks supported by 10 machine guns and a platoon of riflemen. 

Elbert Luther Kinser

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Marine Corps

Company: Company I, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division

Action Place: Okinawa Shima, Japan (May 4, 1945)

Born: October 21, 1922, Greeneville, Tennessee

Citation: When a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile and absorbed the full charge of the shattering explosion, protecting his men from serious injury and possible death.

Paul Huff

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division

Action Place: Near Carano, Italy (February 8, 1944)

Born: June 23, 1918, Cleveland, Tennessee

Citation: Huff volunteered to lead a six-man patrol with the mission of determining the location and strength of an enemy unit which was delivering fire on the exposed right flank of his company. As a result of the information he gained, a patrol sent out that afternoon succeeded in routing an enemy company of 125 men, killing 27 Germans and capturing 21 others.

Charles H. Coolidge

Rank: Technical Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company M, 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division

Action Place: East of Belmont-sur-Buttant, France (October 24-27, 1944)

Born: August 4, 1921, Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Citation: Leading a section of heavy machine guns supported by one platoon of Company K, Coolidge took a position east of Belmont-sur-Buttant with the mission of covering the right flank of the 3rd Battalion and supporting its action. The mission was accomplished throughout four days of continuous fighting against numerically superior enemy troops in rain and cold and amid dense woods.

Raymond H. Cooley

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company B, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division

Action Place: Near Lumboy, Luzon, Philippine Islands (February 24, 1945)

Born: May 7, 1916, Dunlap, Tennessee

Citation: Cooley was a platoon guide in an assault on a camouflaged entrenchment defended by machine guns, rifles and mortars. Cooley not only silenced a machine gun and inspired his fellow soldiers to destroy the remaining enemy emplacements but also, in complete disregard of his own safety, covered a grenade with his body to avoid wounding his comrades.

Korean War

William Franklin Lyell

Rank: Corporal

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company F, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division

Action Place: Near Chup’a-ri, Korea (August 31, 1951)

Born: February 14, 1929, Hickman County, Tennessee

Citation: Lyell distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. When his platoon leader was killed, Lyell assumed command and led his unit in an assault on strongly fortified enemy positions located on commanding terrain.

Ray Eugene Duke

Rank: Sergeant First Class

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company C, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division

Born: May 9, 1923, Whitwell, Tennessee

Citation: Duke distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Upon learning that several of his men were isolated and heavily engaged in an area yielded by his platoon, when ordered to withdraw, he led a small force in a daring assault to recover the position and the beleaguered men.

Vietnam War

Mitchell Stout

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Battery C, 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery

Action Place: Khe Gio Bridge, Republic of Vietnam (March 12, 1970)

Born: February 24, 1950, Knoxville, Tennessee

Citation: Stout distinguished himself during an attack by a North Vietnamese Army Sapper company on his unit’s firing position at Khe Gio Bridge. During the attack, Stout, who was in a bunker with members of a searchlight crew, picked up a grenade and shielded his fellow soldiers from the blast.

Don Jenkins

Rank: Private First Class

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Company A, 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division

Action Place: Kieng Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam

Born: April 18, 1948, Quality, Kentucky, enlisted in Nashville, Tennessee

Citation: Jenkins distinguished himself while serving as a machine gunner on a reconnaissance mission. Jenkins’ extraordinary valor, dedication, and indomitable spirit inspired his fellow soldiers to repulse the determined enemy attack and ultimately defeat the larger force.

James A. Gardner

Rank: First Lieutenant

Organization: U.S. Army

Company: Headquarters Company, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division

Action Place: My Canh, Vietnam (February 7, 1966)

Born: February 7, 1943, Dyersburg, Tennessee

Citation: Gardner was gravely wounded during an attack, but with a last valiant effort, he staggered forward and destroyed a bunker and its defenders with a grenade. Although he fell dead on the rim of the bunker, his extraordinary actions so inspired the men of his platoon that they resumed the attack and completely routed the enemy.

David Robert Ray

Rank: Hospital Corpsmen Second Class

Organization: U.S. Navy

Company: 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division

Action Place: Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam (March 19, 1969)

Born: February 14, 1945, McMinnville, Tennessee

Citation: Despite being faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, Ray succeeded in treating several wounded marines and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which point he sustained fatal wounds.

Walter K. Singleton

Rank: Sergeant

Organization: U.S. Marine Corps

Company: Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division

Action Place: Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam (March 24, 1967)

Born: December 7, 1944, Memphis, Tennessee

Citation: Singleton’s company was conducting combat operations when the lead platoon received intense small arms, automatic weapons, rocket, and mortar fire from a well-entrenched enemy force. Although he was fatally wounded, his fearless attack killed eight of the enemy and drove the remainder from the hedgerow, saving the lives of his comrades.