East Tennessee full of longtime Medal of Honor tributes

(WBIR) You may not immediately recognize the faces of East Tennessee's 14 recipients of the Medal of Honor. But chances are you have seen their names.

You can encounter their names at parks, museums, and during your daily commute.

East Tennessee's tradition of paying tribute to our Medal of Honor recipients was a big selling point when attracting the Medal of Honor Convention to Knoxville. There are plenty of opportunities to recognize and pay respect to our military heroes long after the Medal of Honor Convention has concluded.

MORE: Medal of Honor stories

We've compiled a list of the Medal of Honor recipients with ties to East Tennessee and some noteworthy locations of graves and landmarks named in their honor. All 14 names are etched in stone at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial at World's Fair Park in Knoxville.


Edward R. Talley: A native of Russellville, TN, he single-handedly attacked a machine gun nest that slaughtered several of his fellow troops. His medals are on display in the museum in Morristown. He is buried in Ben Creek Cemetery in the small Hamblen County community of Whitesburg.

James Ernest "Buck" Karnes: Both Karnes and his fellow East Tennessee soldier, Calvin John Ward of Morristown, earned the Medal of Honor after deciding they "had all they could take" of a deadly enemy machine gun nest. The duo raided the enemy position and shifted momentum on a battlefield in France.

The bridge where the Alcoa Highway crosses the Tennessee River is named the "Medal of Honor Recipient J.E. 'Buck' Karnes Bridge." Karnes is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery on Tazewell Pike in Knoxville.

Calvin J. Ward: Ward returned from World War I as the nation's most decorated soldier. However, he was not celebrated in the same manner as his fellow Medal of Honor recipient Buck Karnes. There are no large bridges in Ward's honor. He is buried in a simple grave in Bristol. His Medal of Honor sits in a corner display of a museum in Morristown.

Milo Lemert: Lemert was born in Iowa, but his hometown was Crossville, TN. He single-handedly attacked and destroyed three machine gun nests and was killed attacking a fourth machine gun entrenchment. The bypass around Crossville is named the "Sergeant Milo Lemert Memorial Parkway." The local Post Office is in the Milo Lemert Memorial Building. The American Legion Post in Savannah, TN, is also named for Lemert.

Alvin C. York: The most famous military veteran in Tennessee history, his heroics were featured in a Hollywood movie that won actor Gary Cooper an Academy Award. York's bravery and sharp shooting helped his small group of men capture 35 machine guns and 132 German prisoners.

You can easily lose count of all the things named for York. There are seven public buildings, a hospital in Murfreesboro, the Alvin York Institute he founded in Jamestown, and the Pall Mall historic park in Fentress County. York has been featured on a United States postage stamp.

The Museum of Appalachia has a large Alvin York exhibit that features the actual German machine gun he captured during the war.


Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman: He lived in Knoxville and attended school here as a boy. His sacrifice during the battle of Tarawa is why you will the Pellissippi Parkway's bridge across the Tennessee River is known as the Sandy Bonnyman bridge.

Bonnyman led a flamethrower assault on a deeply entrenched Japanese force that broke the enemy lines after days of murderous stalemate. He was killed in the process.

The local Marine unit is named for Bonnyman. A large memorial sits at the top of the hill at Highland Cemetery off Sunderland Avenue in Knoxville. The U.S. Navy also named a ship in Bonnyman's honor.

Elbert Kinser: This farm boy from Greene County died in Okinawa, Japan, when he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade to save his fellow Marines. Today, a tall bridge across the river on Highway 107 is named in his honor. The Greene County Courthouse features a marker to note Kinser's sacrifice. When TVA donated land along the Nolichucky River in 1976, the county turned the property into Kinser Park. The U.S. Marine Base at Okinawa is named Camp Kinser.

Kinser's Medal of Honor is on display at the Nathaniel Greene Museum in Greeneville.

Troy McGill: McGill was born in Knoxville and is now buried at the Knoxville National Cemetery. He was killed in 1944 on Los Negros Island while holding his position and fiercely fighting off the enemy to allow a fellow member of his group to escape.

You can find McGill's grave at the Knoxville National Cemetery in Section B, Grave 6294. You will also see his name on Interstate 40 from the Watt Road Exit all the way to Cocke County. That stretch of interstate is named the "Troy A. McGill Memorial Highway."

Charles McGaha: This native of Cosby, TN, exhibited uncommon bravery during the Battle of Luzon in the Philippines. McGaha and his fellow troops came under intense machine gun fire that seriously wounded his leader. McGaha took control, helped several wounded troops, and intentionally attracted enemy fire as a diversion to allow other members of his platoon to escape to safety. He survived the battle and lived to the age of 70.

McGaha is buried in Union Cemetery in Newport, TN.

Charles Coolidge: He is one of only seven living Medal of Honor recipients who served during WWII. Coolidge lives in Chattanooga. His Medal award winning heroics came in October 1944 on a hill called "hill 623" in France when his commander was wounded. Coolidge took command, helped lead a firm resistance to an overwhelming German force that included tanks, and was the last to leave his position as his fellow troops made their way to safety.

Downtown Chattanooga opened a 13-acre public park along the Tennessee River in 1999. It is named Coolidge Park in tribute to the Medal of Honor recipient.

Raymond Cooley: This native of Dunlap, TN, near Chattanooga was able to lead a grenade attack in Luzon against the deeply entrenched enemy. He began the dangerous attack alone, but his bravery inspired others to join the assault. Cooley ultimately sacrificed his life to save his fellow troops by jumping on top of an enemy grenade to absorb the blast.

Paul Huff: The Paul Huff Parkway in Cleveland, TN, is named in tribute to this Medal of Honor recipient. He was fighting in Italy when his patrol came under intense fire from a machine gun entrenchment. Huff ran through a minefield and crawled 150 yards under direct fire to kill the enemy crew and destroy the gun. He then led his men back to safety and used the information he gained during the encounter to route the enemy force of 125 men.


Ray Duke: This soldier made his home in Whitwell, TN, northeast of Chattanooga. He died as a prisoner of war when he was captured during a bloody battle. Duke was wounded multiple times, but continued to keep his men in position to repel the enemy attack. When the group was overrun, Duke was too wounded to walk and knew the men attempting to carry him would likely be killed. He ordered them to leave and seek safety while he stayed behind to continue firing on the enemy. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor in 1951.


Mitchell W. Stout: The accolades for Stout are found across East Tennessee, specifically in Knox and Loudon Counties. Stout jumped on an enemy grenade during the Vietnam War to save his fellow troops. Now the Interstate 75 bridge across the Tennessee River honors Mitchell W. Stout.

His grave can be found at the Virtue Cemetery near Farragut. The cemetery is located at 12420 Evans Rd., Knoxville, TN, and features a beautiful Vietnam Memorial carved in black marble.

The National Guard Armory in Lenoir City features a display case with the Medal of Honor that Stout received posthumously.

A photo of Stout and his medals on display at City Hall in Lenoir City and Highland Park Elementary School.

Fort Bliss in Texas also features a 60,000 square foot gym and outdoor track named the Mitchell W. Stout Physical Fitness Center.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment