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The Flagpole in Question
Colonel Barfoot {U.S. Army Retired}
Young Enlisted Van Barfoot
Recently Promoted Lt. Barfoot shortly after Medal of Honor Presentation
 
 
 
 

The elderly man was ordered by the Sussex Square Home Owners Association in Henrico County, Virginia to remove the flagpole from his front yard. He was ninety years of age and had a daily routine of raising the American flag in the morning and lowering it at sunset. The old man, Van Barfoot ignored the order.

As the Home Owners Associate stepped up its efforts, Mr. Barfoot's son-in-law notified a local radio talk show, Elliot in the Morning and told Mr. Barfoot's side of the story. Following that, Fox News picked up the story and it was followed by other national news networks. In time, Mr. Barfoot got the support of Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb. White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs supported Mr. Barfoot.

On December 8, 2009, the Home Owners Association dropped its request and the controversy ended.

Van Thurman Barfoot was born on June 15, 1919 in Edinburg, Mississippi. He was a descendant of the Choctaw people on his mother's side.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in Carthage, Mississippi in 1940. He completed his training and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Louisiana. In December of 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and re-assigned to the Headquarters Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet in Quantico, Virginia. He remained there until the unit was deactivated in 1943; he was then assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in Europe.

He was involved in several amphibious landings during the Italian Campaign. Among those landings were the invasion of Sicily, the invasion of mainland Italy near Salerno and Anzio.

By May of 1944, following the Anzio landing the unit to which Barfoot was assigned had reached the town of Carano, Italy. At Carano, his unit set up defensive positions and he led patrols to scout the German lines. Sgt. Barfoot knew a lot about German installations in the area due to those patrols he had led.

On May 23, 1944 his company was ordered to attack. Barfoot requested permission to lead a squad during the attack. Permission was granted.

In front of the enemy position lay a minefield. Acting alone, he worked his way through the minefield and then dropped into a ditch and worked his way closer to the enemy. When he had reached a position just a few yards from an enemy machine gun, he pulled the pin from a grenade and threw it, taking out the machine gun. He then moved in the direction of a second machine gun, killing two and capturing three. When he reached a third machine gun, the entire machine gun crew surrendered to him. Other enemy soldiers surrendered to him also, bringing the total of prisoners to seventeen. He had killed eight enemy soldiers.

Later that day, after he had reorganized his squad and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched an armored attack. Barfoot got a bazooka and placed himself in an exposed position, seventy-five yards in front of three approaching enemy tanks. He fired the bazooka and damaged the track of the lead tank, rendering it useless. The remaining two tanks turned toward the flank. As enemy soldiers got out of the damaged lead tank, Barfoot shot three of them.

Barfoot then proceeded farther into enemy territory, where he found a freshly abandoned artillery piece. He destroyed it with a demolition charge and turned to make his way back to his unit. He was extremely tired after all the activity, but he encountered two seriously wounded men who were trying to get back to the unit also. He assisted the wounded men for a distance of 1700 yards, where they could get medical help.

Barfoot was given a field commission and promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. Later, after his unit had moved into France, Barfoot learned he was going to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on that day.

On September 28, 1944 Lieutenant General Alexander Patch awarded the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Barfoot in a field ceremony at Epinal, France. This was the same General Patch who later awarded Audie Murphy the Medal of Honor on June 2, 1945.

Following World War II, Barfoot remained in the Army. He served in Korea and Viet Nam and ultimately reached the rank of Colonel before retiring in 1974. He had also been awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

SECOND LIEUTENANT BARFOOT'S MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his tommygun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommygun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot's extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.