Louis Cukela

Louis Cukela

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Louis was born on the 1st of May, 1888 in the Kingdom of Dalmatia, or what is now known as Croatia. He attended the Merchant Academy and the Royal Gymnasium after grade school and in 1913, at the age of 25, emigrated to the US. Louis and his brother moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, while his father and three sisters stayed in Europe, and by the following year he had enlisted in the US Army. He completed a two year enlistment on the 12th of June, 1916 as a corporal in Company H, 13th Infantry Regiment before enlisting the US Marine Corps on the 31st of January, 1917. This was just before the US's entry to World War 1 and Louis was deployed to France in 1918 and was involved with every engagement that the 5th Marine Regiment was involved in. His actions during the Battle of Soissons as a Gunnery Sergeant earned him both the Navy and Army Medals of Honor. The citations read:

NAVY: For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, July 18, 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machine-gun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German hand grenades, and captured two machineguns and four men.

ARMY: When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German hand grenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.

Louis received a field promotion to Second Lieutenant in September of 1918 and although there was no record from the Navy, he had been wounded twice during the war and therefor received no Purple Heart. After World War 1, Louis was stationed in Haiti during the Second Caco War and there was a resistance by armed guerrillas in response to the Marine Corps occupation. Sadly, the Marines there over responded and abused power. The US Senate would go on to question members and Louis was one that was questions for executing a group of prisoners in the middle of a Marine camp. He was not court martialled but he was transferred to another camp and demoted.

Louis got married to Minnie Strayer of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, on the 22nd of December, 1923, in Washington, DC, and his last few years in the Marine Corps were spent as the post quartermaster in Norfolk, Virginia. He retired on the 30th of June, 1940, before being recalled to active duty one month later. Louis served between Norfolk and Philadelphia during World War 2 before retiring again on the 17th of May, 1946, just shy of 32 years of service. He was one of six service members to receive both the Army and Navy Medal of Honor during World War 1 and the rules had changed after the war to not allow two Medals to be awarded for the same action. Louis Cukela died on the 19th of March, 1956 at the age of 67 in the US Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and was the last living double recipient at the time of his death. He is one of four double recipients to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery: Section 1, Lot 427, Grid J-35.

John Cooper

John Cooper