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President Kennedy Meets with Medal of Honor Winners

May 2, 1963 - President Kennedy paid tribute at the White House today to 240 holders of the Medal of Honor, men whom he called “our most distinguished American citizens.” One by one, veterans of all ranks and services from six wars filed past Mr. Kennedy, shaking his hand. They also got a handshake from Gen. David M. Shoup, the Marine Corps Commandant, who is the highest-ranking active holder of the Medal of Honor. First through the line was Rear Adm. Bruce McCandless, in a wheelchair. He won his Medal of Honor aboard the cruiser San Francisco on Nov. 13, 1942, the first day of the climactic naval battle of Guadalcanal. The oldest man present was Gen. Charles E. Kilbourne (pictured in wheelchair), aged 90, who won his medal in the Philippines insurrection in 1899. As a Signal Corps lieutenant, he climbed a telegraph pole under heavy enemy fire and repaired a vital line. Mr. Kennedy, who holds the Navy and Marine Corps medals for his own heroism in World War II, seemed to have the undeclared war in South Vietnam on his mind. “In honoring you,” he told the medal winners, “we honor all those who bear arms in the service of their country.” He had written to the sister of a man killed in South Vietnam, he said, “as my predecessors have written to other sisters and wives, that in the service that he rendered for the defense of that far-off country, he was defending the United States and its freedom.”


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