Youngest Medal of Honor Recipient

8 Youngest Medal of Honor Recipients in History

The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration awarded by the US Military. This medal is awarded only to those who show extreme courage and bravery on the battlefield and display their true dedication to the American cause.

To date, countless brave men have made sacrifices on the battlefield. However, only 3,473 have received the Medal of Honor, indicating just how prestigious this award is and how much it means to a service member in the field.

Receiving the Medal of Honor holds significant meaning to anyone who has dedicated their life to their country. However, it is that much more inspiring when this honor is awarded to someone at a young age.

Here are the top eight youngest Medal of Honor recipients who displayed extraordinary bravery and received the highest honors by their country.

8. William Kyle Carpenter

Born: October 17, 1989
Years of Service: 2009-2013
Rank: Corporal
Received Medal of Honor: 24 years of age

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William Kyle Carpenter is the eighth youngest Medal of Honor recipient. He served his country in the war on terror in Afghanistan.

William Carpenter enlisted in the U.S. army in 2009. After completing his training, William was assigned to the Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, and 1st Marine Division as a Private First Class in 2010.

In the November of 2010, Carpenter served as a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. His squad was there to defend against a Taliban offense when suddenly, a grenade was tossed close to their position.

With a complete disregard for his safety, the young Lance Corporal jumped towards the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marines from the blast. He managed to protect his fellow troopers but lost his right arm, part of his jaw, and his right eye in the process. He is now medically retired from his service.

Did You Know?

William Carpenter is the youngest living recipient of the prestigious Medal of Honor award.

7. Robert Edward Femoyer

Born: October 31, 1921
Years of Service: 1942-1944
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Received Medal of Honor: 23 years of age

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Robert Edward Femoyer, the seventh youngest Medal of Honor recipient, was honored with this prestigious military honor at just 23 years of age.

Robert Femoyer enlisted in the U.S. Military Enlisted Reserved Corps in 1942 while he was attending Virginia Tech. Femoyer was called to active duty in February of 1943. After completing his basic training, Femoyer became a navigator of a B-17 Flying Fortress on a bombing mission in Germany.

However, during this mission, Femoyer’s bomber took heavy hits from anti-aircraft guns. He was severely wounded and lost a lot of blood. In spite of this, he refused to take a painkiller injection because he wanted to remain in full control to navigate his plane safely.

Femoyer changed course multiple times and ultimately brought his plane and the crew to safety. Soon after landing, he was given a Morphine injection, but it was too late. Femoyer died of his wounds and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Did You Know?

Robert Femoyer is one of only 10 Eagle Scouts awarded a Medal of Honor for their service. He is also the only navigator to receive this military honor.

6. Marvin R. Young

Born: May 11, 1947
Years of Service: 1966-1968
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Received Medal of Honor: 21 years of age

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Marvin Rex Young received the highest decoration in the U.S. Military at just 21 years of age, and became the sixth youngest Medal of Honor recipient.

He joined the US Military in 1966 and served his country during the Vietnam War. In 1968, during a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam, Staff Sergeant Young and his unit met heavy enemy oppressive fire. The platoon leader was killed, and Staff Sergeant Young had to assume the responsibility of a leader.

He defended his position gallantly and rescued most of his fellow troopers who were pinned down in their positions due to heavy fire. While he did manage to protect most of his men, he was fatally injured in the process.

Did You Know?

For his bravery and courageous service, Staff Sergeant Martin R. Young was awarded ten different U.S. Military awards, the most notable being the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart

5. Benjamin Franklin Young

Born: 1841
Years of Service: During the Civil War
Rank: Corporal
Received Medal of Honor: 19 years of age

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Benjamin Franklin Young is the fifth youngest Medal of Honor recipient.

Benjamin Young served as a Corporal in the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters during the American Civil War. There aren’t many records of his life before he joined the military. However, it is well preserved in history that Corporal Young received his Medal of Honor due to his extraordinary brilliance and bravery during the Civil War.

Corporal Young played a key role in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia. He was awarded the highest military honor after he displayed immense bravery and courage during the capture of the flag of the North Carolina Infantry, which was a part of the Confederate army.

Did You Know?

Benjamin F. Young was a Canadian-born soldier in the Union Army. He received his Medal of Honor in 1864.

4. Private First Class Burke

Born: November 7, 1949
Years of Service: 1967-1968
Rank: Private First Class
Received Medal of Honor: 18 years of age

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Private First Class Robert Charles Burke served the Unites States Military in the Vietnam War. He was killed in action and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. At the age of 18, Robert Charles Burke is the fourth-youngest Medal of Honor recipient ever.

Upon completion of his training with Company Q, 2nd Battalion, Burke was promoted to Private First Class, after which he performed his duties as a motor vehicle mechanic in Camp Pendleton.

Private Burke was deployed to Vietnam in 1968 as a Machine Gunner with the 1st Marine Division. He was killed in action during an offence and was given the highest military honor posthumously.

Did You Know?

A total of 248 Medal of Honors were given after the Vietnam War. Private First Class Burke, at the age of 18, was the youngest to receive this honor for his service in Vietnam.

3. Jacklyn Harold “Jack” Lucas

Born: February 14, 1928
Years of Service: 1942-1945 (US Marine Corps), 1961-1965 (US Army)
Rank: Private First Class (US Marine Corps), Captain (US Army)
Received Medal of Honor: 17 years of age

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Jacklyn Harold Lucas is the third youngest Medal of Honor recipient. He received this honor at the age of 17 during the Battle of Iwo Jima. At the time, Jacklyn H. Lucas served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Marine Corps.

During the battle of Iwo Jima, Private Lucas and three other Marines were engaged in close combat with the Japanese soldiers. Private Lucas and his fellow marines were outnumbered and pinned down to their position. Things got worse when they saw two hand grenades tossed up in the air and heading straight for their trench.

Private Lucas jumped on one of the grenades and protected his fellow servicemen without hesitation. The grenade under his body exploded, and severely injured Private Lucas. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and dedication to the American cause.

Did You Know?

Private First Class Jacklyn H. Lucas was the youngest Marine and the youngest serviceman in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor.

2. James Aloysius Walsh

Born: July 24, 1897
Years of Service: N/A
Rank: Lieutenant
Received Medal of Honor: 16 years of age

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James Aloysius Walsh was only 16 when he received his Medal of Honor, making him the second-youngest Medal of Honor recipient ever.

James Aloysius Walsh joined the Navy from New York City. He was serving as a seaman on the USS Florida. His extraordinary bravery and courage earned him the highest US military decoration in the United States occupation of Veracruz.

Not much is known about Walsh’s life other than his service in the Navy and his display of courage and valor during the capture of the Mexican port city, Veracruz. He became a commissioned officer and reached the rank of Lieutenant before retiring from the Navy.

Did You Know?

James Walsh was only 16 when he received his Medal of Honor. He was most likely the youngest in the 20th century to receive this honor.

1. William “Willie” Johnston

Born: July 12, 1850
Years of Service: 1861-1865
Rank: Drummer Boy
Received Medal of Honor: Announced at age 11, Received at age 13

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William “Willie” Johnston is the youngest ever Medal of Honor recipient. He received his medal at the age of 13; the youngest ever age recorded for this honor.

William Johnston was a drummer boy in Company D during the American Civil War. Company D of the 3rd Vermont Infantry was routed during the Seven Days Battles of the Peninsula Campaign. The campaign lasted from June to July of 1862.

After suffering a loss to the Confederate army, his division was ordered to retreat. Many soldiers dropped their weapons and gear to lighten their load during their retreat. However, William Johnston refused to let go of his instrument and returned to Harrison’s Landing with his drum.

His superiors considered this act brave, courageous, and a pinnacle of dedication. His Medal of Honor award was announced when he was just 11 years of age. He received this award when he turned 13.

Did You Know?

William did not want to leave his father’s side when his father enlisted in the army. Therefore, he remained persistent when he was denied permission at first. However, the commanding officer agreed eventually, and William Johnston was allowed to join the U.S. army as a musician in the D company.



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