Korean War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Duane Dewey has died at the age of 89. The retired US Marine Corps Corporal was described by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as being “made of steel” after risking his life to save his fellow squad members.
Dewey’s death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and it was reported he’d been suffering from numerous ailments over the past few years. The organization wrote in its press release:
“The Congressional Medial Society today announced that Duane E. Dewey, Medal of Honor recipient, passed away on Oct. 11, 2021, in Saint Augustine, Florida, at the age of 89.”
Duane Dewey was born on November 16, 1931 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In March 1951, he and his cousin drove to Kalamazoo and enlisted in the Marine Corps. During his first day of special training at Camp Pendleton in California, he volunteered for machine gun training. A few months later, he entered the Korean War and was stationed north of the 38th Parallel on the Korean Peninsula.
On April 16, 1952, he was serving near Panmunjom, Korea with the 3rd Squad, Weapons Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He and his squad were surrounded by approximately 600 Chinese soldiers, and were beginning to run low on ammunition.
During the assault, the troops started having enemy grenades thrown at them. One landed beside Dewey, and in a split second the Marine Corps Corporal covered the blast with his body, despite having already been injured in his legs by an earlier grenade and shot in the stomach.
“I grabbed that, and my first impulse was to throw it. But I’m lying flat on my back, and I don’t know if I can get it out of reach of my own men,” he once recalled. “So I scooped it under me and grabbed [the corpsman] and pulled him down on top of me. It went off and took us both a couple feet off the ground. Then I told him, ‘Better get me out of here. I don’t think I can take any more of this.'”
Dewey was medevaced to Japan after receiving treatment in Korea and later shipped back to the United States. He spent a total of 50 days recuperating from his injuries, which were largely isolated to his hip region. For his efforts, the Marine Corps Cpl. was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Eisenhower. During the ceremony in the Oval Office, the President told Dewey he “must have a body made of steel.”
The official citation for the honor read: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a gunner in a machine-gun platoon of Company E, in action against aggressor forces.
“His indomitable courage, outstanding initiative, and valiant efforts in behalf of others in the fact of almost certain death reflect the highest credit upon Cpl. Dewey and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service,” it concluded.
The visitation and memorial service for Duane Dewey will be held at Filbrandt Family Funeral Home in South Haven, Michigan on October 22, 2021.