Falling on a grenade
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Falling on a grenade refers to the deliberate act of using one's body to cover a live time-fused hand grenade, absorbing the explosion and fragmentation in an effort to save the lives of others nearby. Since this is almost universally fatal, it is considered an especially conspicuous and selfless act of individual sacrifice in wartime; in United States military history, more citations for the Medal of Honor have been awarded for falling on grenades to save comrades than any other single act.
Such an act can be survivable: In World War II US Marine Jack Lucas, in the Battle of Iwo Jima, placed two grenades under his steel M1 Helmet and himself before they exploded. Lucas lived, but spent the rest of his life with over 200 pieces of shrapnel in his body. In 2008 near Sangin in Afghanistan British Royal Marine Matthew Croucher used his rucksack to pin the grenade to the floor, and that and his body armor absorbed the majority of the blast. On November 21, 2010 in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, US Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter threw himself upon a grenade, thrown onto a rooftop, to save a fellow Marine; sustaining injuries to his face, right arm and losing his right eye, he survived these wounds. Despite these rare instances, however, the odds of survival are extremely slim.
"Falling on a grenade" is also used colloquially in non-military contexts to indicate individual acceptance of a personally harmful or sacrificial task in an effort to protect a larger group; during a scandal, corporate leaders or politicians who attempt to draw negative attention away from their company or party by pleading guilt, publicly admitting culpability and drawing condemnation on themselves (at the cost of their freedom or career) are often said to have "fallen on a grenade".
- On July 1, 1916, at the Battle of Thiepval Ridge in World War I, British Army Private William McFadzean of the 14th Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles threw himself on top of a box of Mills bombs after the pin came loose on two of them whilst he was attempting to load the bombs into a bandolier. As a result of his action only one other man in the trench was injured in the resulting explosion. McFadzean was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
- On December 19, 1941, at the Battle of Hong Kong, Canadian Army Company Sergeant Major John Robert Osborn jumped on a grenade, sacrificing himself to save his men. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
- On November 7, 1943, at Bougainville, Marine Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr deliberately fell on a grenade, sacrificing himself to protect nearby Marines. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On September 1, 1950, near Yongsan, South Korea, U.S. Army Private First Class David M. Smith noticed an enemy grenade lobbed into his company's emplacement. Smith shouted a warning to his comrades and flung himself upon it. Although he was mortally wounded, his act saved five men from injury or death. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On November 26, 1950, during the Korean war, U.S. Army Sergeant John A. Pittman threw himself on the grenade, which was thrown in the midst of his squad, and absorbed the burst with his body. Pittman survived and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
- On February 11, 1954, IDF Private Nathan Elbaz was disarming grenades when he noticed one of the grenade's safeties had slipped. He grabbed the grenade and ran from the tent but realized he would not be able to throw the grenade away without harming some of his friends, so he smothered the explosion with his body. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service.
- On November 1, 1956, during Suez Crisis, IDF Officer Ovad Ladijinski threw a grenade towards the opening of a high Egyptian station. The grenade fell back towards him and his group. He pressed the closest soldier to a rock and protected him using his body, facing the grenade. He was posthumously awarded a Chief of General Staff Citation (later changed to Medal of Courage), which was his second one.
- On February 25, 1966, Peter S. Connor held a grenade against his body after realizing the fuse was burning despite his holding the safety pin, and he did not have time to throw it safely away from his comrades. He died eleven days later and was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On August 16, 1966, during a cave search and destroy mission in the Vietnam War, Republic of Korea Marine Corps Captain Lee In-Ho smothered a grenade to save his men around him. He was posthumously awarded the highest South Korean military honor, the Taegeuk Cordon of Military Merit.
- On February 28, 1967, James Anderson, Jr. sacrificed his life by smothering a grenade with his body in the Vietnam War and was awarded a Medal of Honor.
- On September 6, 1967, Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, USMC, threw himself on an enemy grenade in the Quang Nam Province of Vietnam during Operation Swift while under attack from Vietnamese forces. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
- On February 23, 1971, a M35 2½-ton cargo truck was ambushed by a squad of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers near An Khê. At one point during the firefight, an NVA soldier threw a fragmentation grenade into the truck's compartment. 21-year-old Specialist Four Larry G. Dahl was the only occupant who heard the grenade land in the truck. Realizing that there was not sufficient time to toss it out, he immediately threw himself on top of the grenade, saving his comrades' lives at the cost of his own. Dahl was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On May 25, 1971, Michael Willetts smothered an explosive device planted at Springfield Road Police Station, Belfast, by a member of the Provisional IRA. In doing so, he saved the lives of several civilians, including two children. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions.
- On April 14, 2004, near Husaybah, Iraq, Jason Dunham used his body and helmet to shield others from a grenade explosion - but died shortly afterward from his injuries. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On September 3, 2004, in Beslan, Russia, Lt. Andrey Turkin, a member of a Russian counter-terrorist unit "Vympel", smothered a grenade, which was thrown by a terrorist in the school canteen, with his own body in order to shield hostages from the explosion. Lt. Turkin was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation medal.
- On July 26, 2006, IDF Major Roi Klein, during the Battle of Bint Jbeil, jumped on a grenade thrown into the house where Klein and his unit were present and stopped the explosion with his body. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Courage.
- On September 29, 2006, in Iraq, U.S. Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor, was killed after smothering a grenade with his own body to protect other SEALs. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On December 4, 2006, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, 19-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Ross A. McGinnis was killed instantly when he used his body to smother a grenade, saving the lives of four nearby soldiers. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- In 2008, near Sangin in Afghanistan, Royal Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher used his body and rucksack to pin a grenade to the floor, with "just a nose bleed" as a result. He was awarded the George Cross.
- In July 2010, Corporal Kyle Carpenter deployed to Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. On November 21, 2010, while joining his team to fight off a Taliban attack in a small village, Carpenter suffered severe injuries to his face and right arm from the blast of an enemy hand grenade; after-action reports state that he threw himself in front of the grenade to protect a fellow Marine. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- On January 27, 2012, Russian MVD Spetsnaz Sergeant Evgeny Epov saved the life of several of his fellow soldiers during a raid against radical militants in Kizlyarsky District, Dagestan. Sgt. Epov was posthumously awarded with the Hero of the Russian Federation medal.
- On March 28, 2012, Russian Major Sergei Solnechnikov pushed another soldier away from and fell on a grenade during training exercises at a base near Belogorsk. Solnechnikov was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation medal.
- John Baca
- Donald E. Ballard (grenade malfunctioned)
- Richard E. Bush
- Kyle Carpenter
- Jerry K. Crump
- Matthew Croucher
- Duane E. Dewey
- Frank A. Herda
- Allan J. Kellogg
- Jack Lucas
- Robert D. Maxwell
- John A. Pittman
- Carlton R. Rouh
- Richard K. Sorenson
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- Harding, Thomas (2008-07-22). "Royal Marine who jumped on grenade awarded George Cross". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
- "Soldier killed saving others receives posthumous award". Russia Today. Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-20.