Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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Korean War - U.S. Army

Ernest Richard Kouma

  • Rank: Master Sergeant (rank at time of action: Sergeant First Class)
  • Conflict/Era: Korean War
  • Unit/Command:
    4th Platoon, Company A, 72d Tank Battalion,
    2d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: August 31, 1950
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: vicinity of Agok, Korea

M/Sgt. Kouma, a tank commander in Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His unit was engaged in supporting infantry elements on the Naktong River front. Near midnight on 31 August, a hostile force estimated at 500 crossed the river and launched a fierce attack against the infantry positions, inflicting heavy casualties. A withdrawal was ordered and his armored unit was given the mission of covering the movement until a secondary position could be established. The enemy assault overran two tanks, destroyed one, and forced another to withdraw. Suddenly M/Sgt. Kouma discovered that his tank was the only obstacle in the path of the hostile onslaught. Holding his ground, he gave fire orders to his crew and remained in position throughout the night, fighting off repeated enemy attacks. During one fierce assault, the enemy surrounded his tank and he leaped from the armored turret, exposing himself to a hail of hostile fire, manned the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the rear deck, and delivered point-blank fire into the fanatical foe. His machine gun emptied, he fired his pistol and threw grenades to keep the enemy from his tank. After more than nine hours of constant combat and close-in fighting, he withdrew his vehicle to friendly lines. During the withdrawal through eight miles of hostile territory, M/Sgt. Kouma continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy and exhausted his ammunition in destroying three hostile machine-gun positions. During this action, M/Sgt. Kouma killed an estimated 250 enemy soldiers. His magnificent stand allowed the infantry sufficient time to reestablish defensive positions. Rejoining his company, although suffering intensely from his wounds, he attempted to resupply his tank and return to the battle area. While being evacuated for medical treatment, his courage was again displayed when he requested to return to the front. M/Sgt. Kouma's superb leadership, heroism, and intense devotion to duty reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.

Medal of Honor Recipient Ernest Kouma
Medal of Honor Recipient Ernest Kouma
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Dwight, Butler County, Nebraska
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: May 19, 1951

    Blair House, presented by Pres. Harry S. Truman

  • Born: November 23, 1919, Dwight, Butler County, NE, United States
  • Died: December 19, 1993, McDaniels, KY, United States
  • Buried: Fort Knox Post Cemetery (MH) (L-O), Fort Knox, KY, United States

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