Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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Korean War - U.S. Army

Billie Gene Kanell

  • Rank: Private
  • Conflict/Era: Korean War
  • Unit/Command:
    Company I, 35th Infantry Regiment,
    25th Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: September 7, 1951
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Pyongyang, Korea
Pvt. Kanell, a member of Company I, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. A numerically superior hostile force had launched a fanatical assault against friendly positions, supported by mortar and artillery fire, when Pvt. Kanell stood in his emplacement exposed to enemy observation and action and delivered accurate fire into the ranks of the assailants. An enemy grenade was hurled into his emplacement and Pvt. Kanell threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the blast with his body to protect two of his comrades from serious injury and possible death. A few seconds later another grenade was thrown into the emplacement and, although seriously wounded by the first missile, he summoned his waning strength to roll toward the second grenade and used his body as a shield to again protect his comrades. He was mortally wounded as a result of his heroic actions. His indomitable courage, sustained fortitude against overwhelming odds, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Poplar Bluff, Butler County, Missouri
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: March 26, 1952
    The Pentagon, presented by Sec. of the Army Frank C. Pace to his Father
  • Born: June 26, 1931, Poplar Bluff, Butler County, MO, United States
  • Died: September 7, 1951, Korea
  • Buried: Fairdealing Cemetery, Fairdealing, MO, United States
  • Location of Medal: Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, MO

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