President Dwight Eisenhower described Duane Dewey as the man “made of steel” when he presented him with the Medal of Honor in 1953. The Korean War Veteran passes away at the age of 89 on October 11th, 2021.
Duane Dewey was a Corporal in the Marine Corps and served as a machine gunner in the Korean War. He earned the Medal of Honor for sheltering his squad members from an enemy grenade with his body. This occurred during a battle near Panmunjom on April 16th, 1952.
As a result, Dewey spent various months in the hospital recovering from his heroic actions. The most affected area from the blast was his lower body, more specifically, his hip. Duane Dewey’s death in St. Augustine, Florida, was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The Hero’s Life Story
During a videotaped interview posted on the Veterans History Project’s website, Dewey explained his life’s story. On November 16th, 1931, he was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, into an impoverished family during the Great Depression.
In March 1951, Dewey and his cousin made their way to Kalamazoo and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He volunteered for machine gun training during the first day of special training at Camp Pendleton, California. By October 1951, he was fighting north of the 38th Parallel on the Korean Peninsula.
Dewey was with 3rd Squad, Weapons Platoon, Company E, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on April 16th, 1952. He said his machine-gun squad was among about 80 Marines who found themselves surrounded by a force of roughly 600 Chinese troops during the interview.
He had used up almost all his ammo when a grenade flew at him.
“A grenade went off behind my left heel, got me three places in my left leg, and put me down,” he said. On his first night on the battle line, a corpsman lay Dewey on his back and began cutting his trousers to patch him up.
A Second Grenade Lands Beside Dewey
“I grabbed that, and my first impulse was to throw it, but I’m lying flat on my back, and I don’t know if I can get it out of reach of my own men,” he recalled. “So, I scooped it under me and grabbed [the corpsman] and pulled him down on top of me. It went off and took us both a couple feet off the ground. Then I told him, better get me out of here. I don’t think I can take any more of this.”
A year later, Dewey was standing in the Oval Office, where Eisenhower presented him with the Medal of Honor. The description read that the Marine had “bravely smothered the deadly missile with his body, personally absorbing the full force of the explosion to save his comrades from possible injury or death.”
“Mr. Eisenhower looked at me after he heard the citation,” Dewey reminisced, “and he says, ‘You must have a body made of steel.'”
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