The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh
United States Marine Corps
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron ONE TWENTY-FOUR in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area. Determined to thwart the enemy's attempt to bomb Allied ground forces and shipping at Vella LaVella on August 15, 1943, First Lieutenant Walsh repeatedly dived his plane into an enemy formation outnumbering his own division six-to-one and, although his plane was hit numerous times, shot down two Japanese dive bombers and one fighter. After developing engine trouble on August 30 during a vital escort mission, First Lieutenant Walsh landed his mechanically disabled plane at Munda, quickly replaced it with another and proceeded to rejoin his flight over Kahili. Separated from his escort group when he encountered approximately fifty Japanese Zeros, he unhesitatingly attacked, striking with relentless fury in his lone battle against a powerful force. He destroyed four hostile fighters before cannon shellfire forced him to make a deadstick landing off Vella LaVella where he was later picked up. His valiant leadership and his daring skill as a flier have been a source of confidence and inspiration to his fellow pilots and reflect the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
President of the United States
Kenneth Ambrose Walsh, who rose from a flying private to the fourth-ranking Marine Corps ace in World War II with a record of 21 enemy planes destroyed, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 24 November 1916. He graduated from Dickinson High School, Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1933 where he had been an outstanding track athlete. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 15 December 1933, and underwent recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Upon graduation, he spent two years as an aviation mechanic and radioman at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia.
In March 1936, he was selected for flight training and was transferred to Pensacola, Florida. He earned his wings there as a private in April 1937, and spent four years in scout and observation flying. During this time he served aboard aircraft carriers Yorktown, Wasp and Ranger. Meanwhile, the aviator was promoted through the enlisted ranks to master technical sergeant and then to Marine gunner, equivalent to the present rank of warrant officer. The latter promotion took place on 11 May 1942, while he was serving with Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, San Francisco, California.
In October 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and, in June 1943, was promoted to first lieutenant. He was promoted to captain (temporary) in February 1944 (this appointment became permanent 13 November 1948); to major in April 1955; and to lieutenant colonel in October 1958.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was serving on the East Coast with Marine Fighting Squadron 121. He transferred to Marine Fighting Squadron 124 in September 1942, to be shipped overseas in January 1943, for duty in the Solomon Islands area. He was particularly active in aerial combat in the Vella LaVella vicinity in August 1943, while a division leader in his squadron. He scored all his 21 victories in the Vought "Corsair" F4U fighter.
First Lieutenant Walsh returned to the United States 15 October 1943, and was assigned special temporary aviation duty with the Division of Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps. On 8 February 1944, he received the Medal of Honor for heroism beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron 124 in aerial combat against enemy forces in the Solomon Islands area. His leadership qualities and skills as a flier were the source of confidence and inspiration to his fellow pilots.
In January 1944, he was assigned to the Naval Air Operational Training Command, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, to serve as flight instructor. In April 1945, he was transferred to the Philippine Islands and served in that area and in the Okinawa campaign as Operations Officer for Marine Fighting Squadron 222 and, later, as Assistant Operations Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 14. He returned to Headquarters Marine Corps in March 1946, to be reassigned with the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department.
After nearly three years with the Bureau, Capt Walsh joined the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, in January 1949, at El Toro, Santa Ana, California, as Assistant Group Engineering Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 12. He transferred from there in July 1949, to Marine Corps Air Station, Quantico, Virginia, as an aircraft engineering and maintenance student. Upon completion, he returned to El Toro and Marine Aircraft Group 25 as Assistant Engineering Officer in Marine Transport Squadron 152.
With this squadron Capt Walsh went overseas on 15 July 1950, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean Conflict. He served in Korea until July 1951, and was awarded a gold star in lieu of his 15th Air Medal, "for outstanding performance of duty in aerial flight against the enemy in Korea."
Captain Walsh returned to El Toro in late July 1951, remaining there until 1 April 1952, when he was transferred to Staff, Commander Air Force, United States Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia, as Marine Liaison Officer for Aircraft Material and Maintenance. He remained there until 28 September 1955, when he was assigned to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, El Toro, as Aircraft Maintenance and Repair Officer in Marine Transport Squadron 152.
In January 1959, LtCol Walsh was assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, as Wing Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He held this assignment until April 1960, and the following month returned to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing at El Toro, serving consecutively as Executive Officer and Operations Officer of Marine Transport Squadron 352 until October 1961. That month he was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Wing Service Group 37, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing.
Lieutenant Colonel Walsh retired from active service in the Marine Corps in January 1962, after over 28 years' continuous active duty as a Marine. He died 30 July 1998.
Besides the Medal of Honor, LtCol Walsh awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross with six Gold Stars, the Air Medal with 14 Gold Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star, the Army Distinguished Unit Citation with emblem, the Good Conduct Medal with one bronze star, the American Defense Service Medal with base clasp, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with one silver star and one bronze star, the United Nations Service Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and two Korean Presidential Unit Citations.
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