Cpl. Duane Edgar Dewey
"A Body of Steel"
U.S. Marine Corps - Korean War
Duane Edgar Dewey was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on November 16, 1931. He attended school in Muskegon until 1947, where he'd work on a farm in South Haven for six months, and later spent a year as a foundry worker at National Motor Casting (formerly Marshall Casting), also in South Haven.
On March 7, 1951, Dewey signed with the United States Marine Corps Reserve for an "indefinite" enlistment - the duration of the war plus six months. He completed recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and underwent intensive combat training at Camp Pendleton, California.
Dewey embarked for Korea in September of 1951. He participated in the United Nations summer-fall offensive of '51 and the second winter of Korean fighting. On April 16, 1952, Corporal Dewey was serving as leader of a machine gun squad with Company E, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division near Panmunjom, Korea.
Dewey would soon realize that he and his 80-man unit were far outnumbered, facing perhaps 700 enemy soldiers. Taking charge of his machine gun squad, he unleashed a continuous barrage of fire, prompting a comrade to warn that he might burn out the barrel. When his unit was ordered to pull back and tighten its perimeter, he located a large rock that offered some cover and continued directing fire before running off to search for ammunition.
He had just returned when a grenade detonated behind his left heel, launching shrapnel into his left leg and buttocks, and sending him to the ground. A hospital corpsman arrived to examine the wounds and was taking off Mr. Dewey's bloody pants when another grenade rolled next to them. Yanking the corpsman to the ground and warning members of the squad, Dewey flung himself on the grenade shouting, "Doc, I got it in my hip pocket!" The grenade exploded, lifting Dewey off the ground and inflicting "gaping shrapnel wounds throughout the lower part of his body".
Dewey was evacuated to a bunker full of wounded men, where he received a shot of morphine and spent the rest of the night wondering if he would bleed out or be shot by enemy troops. American forces held out, and he was sent to a field hospital at daybreak, where doctors discovered that he had also taken a bullet in the stomach.
After treatment of his wounds in Korea, Dewey was evacuated to the United States Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, and then to the naval hospitals at Mare Island, California, and Great Lakes, Illinois. Following his recuperation at Great Lakes, he was released from active duty on August 19, 1952.
On March 12, 1953, Dewey was the first person to receive the Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After presenting the medal to Dewey at the White House ceremony, Eisenhower commented, "You must have a body of steel."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Cpl. Dewey's awards include the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal with two battle stars, and the United Nations Service Medal.
On October 11, 2021, Duane Edgar Dewey died at the age of 89 in St. Augustine, Florida. He was buried with full military honors at the Florida National Cemetery at Bushnell, Florida.
Hometown: Muskegon, Michigan