Men with Moxie: Peter Lemon

The Vietnam War wasn’t the best war. No, that honor definitely goes to WWII. Now that was a war. Larger-than-life villains, espionage, codes, submarine warfare? Yeah, fighting in a bug-ridden jungle was no WWII. But that doesn’t mean the Vietnam War wasn’t chock full of just as many heroes as every war before it.

One such hero is our Moxie Man of the Week, Medal of Honor recipient Peter Lemon. Before you read on, not that he was not born an American, rather, a Canadian. Born on June the 5th, he is the 3rd youngest medal of honor recipient.

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During a fierce battle near the Cambodian border in 1970, Lemon single-handedly fought off a group of enemy soldiers. He shot at them with  his rifle and machine gun until both broke, then moved on to grenades. When there was only one soldier left, Lemon chased him down and killed him with his bare hands.

During a lull in the action, though he was himself injured, Lemon took the time to carry a wounded comrade to an aid station. It was during this that Lemon picked up his second bullet. But was he done?

Our Men with Moxie never are.

Returning to his post through a hail of gunfire, continued to fight off the enemy with grenades until they began to retreat. Then he found another machine gun, ran up a nearby hill, and stood there like freaking King Kong firing down on the retreating enemy soldiers. Until he passed out right there from blood loss.

I mean really, with a fistful of shrapnel and a couple bullets in him, our moxie man decides he needs a new position to better represent the enormity of his manliness.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part is that Peter Lemon fought off two waves of Viet Cong while stoned off his gourd. Like many other American troops at the time, Lemon was regularly smoking locally-grown marijuana. And while the craziest thing most people have done high was eat an entire carton of ice cream, Lemon killed two platoons of soldiers single-handedly. 

And that takes some serious moxie.

Men with Moxie: John Harlan Willis

Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans and they enjoyed regaling me with tales of their adventures. One grandfather was on a ship sunk in the Mediterranean, swam to shore, ended up in Egypt, and eventually bummed his way back up to England. There are countless of exceptional stories about WWII. I mean, that’s why the History Channel used to be WWII 24/7/365. One such story is the tale of Medal of Honor recipient John Harlan Willis–our Man of Moxie for this Week.

Mr. John Harlan Willis joined the Navy back in 1940 and was promoted multiple times throughout his service. His tour was relatively uneventful until the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. (Did you know Iwo Jima means “Sulfur Island”? That’s gross.)

baby-faced bravery

There he was injured and ordered to return to a battle aid station. But men with Moxie don’t easily retreat. Disobeying orders, he pushed to the front through artillery and sniper fire. At the extreme front of the line, he found an injured marine in a shell-hole. There, he calmly began administering blood plasma to the dying marine. But this is where Willis turned up the Moxie to 11.

Having just started the blood plasma, a Japanese grenade landed in the hole, which Willis looked at, shrugged, and tossed back. Then, seven more grenades came flying into the hole in quick succession. So, positively dripping with Moxie, Willis calmly threw back each one.

One handed. Because, he was busy administering a blood plasma the whole time 

Finally, the Japanese figured out that they were in fact battling Babe Ruth (Japanese Kamikaze pilots would sometimes yell “to hell with Babe Ruth!” before crashing their ships. They thought that was a pretty fine insult) and decided to throw a cooked grenade. This last grenade thrown would also be the final grenade, as it exploded in Willis’ hand killing him instantly.

But it doesn’t stop there. Motivated by his valor Moxie, his companions, though vastly outnumbered, rallied and pushed back the Japanese troops. So I’d say Willis’ actions alone justify a holiday. But there are millions more like him. Maybe we should just go ahead and make it Memorial Week.

Cheers to you John Harlan Willis.

(Have a great suggestion for our next Men with Moxie post? Let us know @mancrates )