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Pharmacists Mate First Class John Balch

Date of Award: September 19, 1919
Conflict: World War I
Branch: U.S. Navy

Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John Balch portraitOn July 19, 1918, the exhausted and battered 6th Marines received orders to push the attack forward through a wheat field towards the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry highway. The battle was extremely fierce, with heavy artillery and machine-gun fire causing 1,300 casualties of the 2,400 men engaged. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John Balch voluntarily left the aid station to help the wounded, fearlessly exposing himself to heavy barrages of enemy fire, and managed to work all day and late into the night for 16 hours straight. His sustained courage under fire saved the lives of many men.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Balch also received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, the Italian Crux de Guerre and the Portuguese Cruz de Guerra for his actions during World War I.

Citation: “Petty Officer Balch unhesitatingly and fearlessly exposed himself to terrific machine-gun and high-explosive fire to succor the wounded as they fell in the attack, leaving his dressing station voluntarily and keeping up the work all day and late into the night unceasingly for 16 hours.

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