BARSTOW, Calif. - The Medal of Honor is awarded to Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their life above and beyond the call of duty.
As the highest military honor awarded for personal acts of valor, it is no surprise that since World War II, more than half of all recipients have been awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
It takes a person with great integrity and constitution to earn a Medal of Honor. Dale M. Hansen is one such individual.
Born in Wisner, Neb., December 13, 1922, Hansen spent most of his childhood and young adult life attending school and working his family’s farm.
In May 1944, Hansen enlisted in the Marine Corps and attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Upon completion of recruit training, Hansen received additional infantry and automatic weapons training at the Infantry Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
By November 1944, Hansen relocated to the Pacific Theater and joined E Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division. At Pavuvu, Russell Islands. Hansen received additional weapons and operational maneuvers training with his unit at Banika Islands and
On April 1, 1945, Hansen and his unit landed on Okinawa Shima, in the Ryukyu Island Chain. The Battle of Okinawa, code-named Operation Iceberg, was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater, and the last major battle of World War II.
On May 7, 1945, after more than a month of fighting, Hansen performed the action that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
During an assault on Hill 60, on the southern part of the island, Hansen and his unit were facing fierce enemy opposition. Hansen took it upon himself to attack a strategically placed enemy bunker. He crawled to an exposed position, and destroyed the enemy position with a rocket launcher.
Hansen’s weapon was subsequently destroyed by enemy fire so he seized a rifle and continued his assault on the Japanese position. Once he reached the crest of the ridge, Hansen fired upon six Japanese soldiers, killing four before his weapon jammed.
Hansen then used his rifle as a club to fight off the remaining two, and then returned to cover. Hansen rearmed him- self with another weapon and grenades, and then pressed forward against the enemy once again. He single handedly destroyed a strong mortar position and killed eight more of the enemy.
His courageous actions and determination, with complete disregard for his own personal safety, were essential to the success of his unit’s mission, and directly led to the capture of the heavily defended Japanese outpost.
Despite Hansen’s extraordinary actions, there was still a battle to fight and a war to win. Three days later, during fighting at Dakeshi Ridge, Hansen was mortally wounded by enemy sniper fire.
However, his heroic actions on May 7, were not forgot- ten. On May 30, 1946, the Medal of Honor was presented to Hansen’s parents as a part of his hometown’s Memorial Day observance.
Initially buried in the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa, Hansen’s remains were returned to the United States and were re-interred in Wisner Cemetery.
Hansen’s name still lives on in the Marine Corps today, with Camp Hansen on Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan, named in his honor.