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Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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Vietnam War - U.S. Navy

William Loren McGonagle

  • Rank: Captain (rank at time of action: Commander)
  • Conflict/Era: Vietnam War
  • Unit/Command:
    U.S.S. Liberty (AGTR-5)
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Navy
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: June 8 - 9, 1967
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: International waters
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sailing in international waters, the Liberty was attacked without warning by a jet fighter aircraft and motor torpedo boats which inflicted many casualties among the crew and caused extreme damage to the ship. Although severely wounded during the first air attack, Capt. McGonagle remained at his battle station on the badly damaged bridge and, with full knowledge of the seriousness of his wounds, subordinated his own welfare to the safety and survival of his command. Steadfastly refusing any treatment which would take him away from his post, he calmly continued to exercise firm command of his ship. Despite continuous exposure to fire, he maneuvered his ship, directed its defense, supervised the control of flooding and fire, and saw to the care of the casualties. Capt. McGonagle's extraordinary valor under these conditions inspired the surviving members of the Liberty's crew, many of them seriously wounded, to heroic efforts to overcome the battle damage and keep the ship afloat. Subsequent to the attack, although in great pain and weak from loss of blood, Capt. McGonagle remained at his battle station and continued to command his ship for more than 17 hours. It was only after rendezvous with a U.S. destroyer that he relinquished personal control of the Liberty and permitted himself to be removed from the bridge. Even then, he refused much needed medical attention until convinced that the seriously wounded among his crew had been treated. Capt. McGonagle's superb professionalism, courageous fighting spirit, and valiant leadership saved his ship and many lives. His actions sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Medal of Honor Recipient William L. McGonagle
Medal of Honor Recipient William L. McGonagle
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Thermal, Riverside County, California
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: June 11, 1968
    Admiral Leutze Park, Washington Navy Yard, presented by Sec. of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius
  • Born: November 19, 1925, Wichita, Sedgwick County, KS, United States
  • Died: March 3, 1999, Palm Springs, CA, United States
  • Buried: Arlington National Cemetery (MH) (34-208), Arlington, VA, United States

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