Marine with the most "Purple Hearts"...
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  1. #1

    Marine with the most "Purple Hearts"...

    The Purple Heart is the oldest American military decoration for military merit. It is the most revered and, to be honest, the most unwanted award for military merit among all of the awards given to those who serve in combat.
    No one hopes to get a Purple Heart.
    One Purple Heart is more than enough to have been awarded, but this story will introduce one man who was awarded 9 of them over a period of 12 years in service in the United States Marine Corps in both WWII and the Korean War. His name is Staff Sgt. Albert Ireland.
    The Military Order of the Purple Heart describes this award as: “Awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war at the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those killed in action or who died of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”

    Staff Sgt. Albert Ireland.
    This award goes back to the Revolutionary War. It was established by then General George Washington in 1792 and was called the “Badge of Military Merit.” The modern Purple Heart was authorized after in 1932. It replaced the WWI “Army Wound Ribbon” and the “Wound Chevrons” that were worn on the sleeve denoting the number of times one had been wounded in combat. There have been over 2 million Purple Hearts awarded since 1932.
    Those who have been in combat understand the honor and the respect that is associated with the Purple Heart. It represents those who have shed their blood on the battlefield in defense of the Constitution and the nation that it represents and upholds.
    The Purple Hearts worn by living service members and veterans represent courage and the cost of having met the enemy on the field of battle and survived. For those killed in action, the Purple Heart awarded to the next of kin reminds them of the courage and the ultimate sacrifice their son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother willingly paid to protect and defend the freedoms, rights and privileges given to all Americans by the Constitution of the United States of America. This, then, might give you a sense of paradox represented by this military award. It is both a badge of courage and of high honor, but no one would consciously seek this award. It represents survival in the face of the enemy on the battlefield as much as anything else.
    One man has the unusual distinction of having been awarded the Purple Heart more than any other, Staff Sgt. Albert Ireland. He was born in Cold Springs, New York on Feb. 25, 1918. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1941, just before the beginning of WWII. During WWII, he would fight alongside his Marine brothers through some of the most difficult landings and battles in the Pacific Theater. His MOS was 0335, an infantry machine gun team leader with the 3rd Bn., 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. He would be awarded 5 Purple Hearts during his service in WWII.
    After WWII, Ireland remained in the Marine Reserves and began studies in Health and Education at Ithaca College, then the University of Arizona and at the University of Notre Dame. In 1950 he was called back to active duty after the outbreak of the Korean War.
    When he was called up, he went to Camp Lejeune for refresher combat training then he applied for combat duty in Korea. An officer at Camp Lejeune attempted to deny him that request as he had already been awarded 5 Purple Hearts. This was in accordance with Marine Corps regulations. That officer was overruled when Ireland appealed to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Clifton B. Cates. He was then flown from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco on the way to Korea. In Korea he was attached to the 3rd Bn. 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
    Ireland, as a result of the seriousness of his last wound was medically and honorably discharged in 1953. He had received four more Purple Hearts from wounds to his leg, hand, neck and head. This brought the total number of Purple Hearts he had been awarded to nine. Ireland would come home to Cold Springs, NY where he would take up a career as a firefighter with the Cold Springs Fire Department. He died on Nov. 16, 1997 in Kansas at the age of 79. He is buried in the Cold Springs, NY cemetery. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Dept. has named a Marine Patrol Boat that currently patrols the Hudson River in his honor.
    Over his 12 years in the Marine Corps, through two wars, Ireland was awarded the Bronze Star with one gold service star along with his Purple Heart with one silver oak leaf and three bronze oak leaf clusters, representing his nine Purple Heart awards.
    The Veterans Site wishes to honor the memory of Staff Sgt. Albert Ireland. We thank him for his courageous and determined service to the nation and to the United States Marine Corps over his 12 years of active and reserve enlistments. We thank him for his service to his hometown as a firefighter as well. Semper Fi, Marine!


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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Platinum Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    God Bless........I knew a Marine in Nam that had 5 PHs.


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    Squad Leader Platinum Member Zulu 36's Avatar
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    My father, who had two Purple Hearts from WWII, said he never knew a Marine infantryman who had never been wounded at least once (even if he didn't get a Heart for it). Dad said if he got a Heart for every instance he was wounded, he would have had over a dozen. Grenade fragmentation mostly. The Japanese loved to use grenades and knee mortars. Dad's first wound was "friendly fire," a fragment from a WP grenade that he had to dig out with his K-Bar.

    I know Advanced says he was never wounded, and I'm sure some Marines my Dad served with may not have been either, he just didn't know of them.


  5. #5
    You are correct Zulu, I was never wounded but over my tour everyone in my squad was - or worse. I was never wounded as a cop either though in the 3 car wrecks I was in (I was driving in 2 of them, emergency calls) 2 of my partners each had to have discs taken out of their necks, me - not a scratch. Only in one fight did I have my wire aviators smashed deep into my nose. In the Nam my guys used to tell me that I couldn't die. They called me 1 (the one).

    As a TACT officer I was on the entry team, we were the ones that breached into the bad guys. Not a scratch. Not everyone gets wounded, as I've posted before at Hue my Capt's after action report stated our company went into the city with 120 Marines, we left with 39 of us still standing (his words).

    In my counseling I was told that I thought of myself as immortal, I always told them that if they had repeatably come out of the places that I did they'd be immortal as well. In all the years of riding motorcycles I've only had one wreck where I was side swiped by a big ford suv, I landed on my feet until my Indian knocked me down. Not a scratch.

    My dad in WWII only made one landing, Iwo Jima, and he was never wounded either. My Uncle Paul was 1st MarDiv beginning at the Canal, ending at Oki, only wounded once. Uncle Paul and Uncle Bob were both at the Chosen, neither wounded.

    Of course the VA rated me 100% P&T PTSD, though when asked if I had PTSD I'd answer damned if I know. My family has always had the charm. Knowing what I know now I would have been "unbreakable" I would have done a lot more stuff. Just saying.


  6. #6
    Squad Leader Platinum Member Zulu 36's Avatar
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    My Dad was carried into the aid station only once and walked out the next morning. Another friendly fire incident. A Navy destroyer spotted my Dad's patrol and fired 5" guns at them as they were behind Japanese lines doing their job (Scout-Snipers). My Dad got a concussion. All of his Japanese inflicted wounds were mostly minor, self aid or first aid from a buddy except the two he got Hearts for. Those he had to visit the aid station to get bigger pieces of metal removed and a couple of stiches. Walked in, walked out. One of those visits came from wounds received trying to recover his patrol leader's body and got a Bronze Star too. Between Saipan and Tinian he was pretty loaded with fragmentation. After he returned to the States he was in a Naval Hospital to get a bunch of metal removed. For the rest of his life, little pieces of fragmentation worked their way up and he would pop them out like pimples. Watched him do it a bunch of times. He saved them all in a small box, but my mom got rid of it after Dad died.


  7. #7
    Zulu, your Dad sounds like a great man with all that he went through. I have respect for him as well as my Dad and my uncles. My uncle Paul who was with the 1st MarDiv, 5th Marines, told me many stories of his experiences said to me before I enlisted if you're going to be a grunt, whatever you do don't let them put you with the 5th Marines as they'll get you killed.

    When I got to Nam I had to wait 5 days with no money at Freedom Hill with the new guys before they sent me out. I rode in a 6-by while they were unloading Marines to various places, then they called my name in this God forsaken place, nothing but sand. It was Phu Bi, with guess who - the 5th Marines. I thought, Oh ****, but I survived and to this day I'm proud of my time with the 5th Marines. Life takers and Heart breakers, damn if I haven't lived that one. At times I wish I hadn't, it would have been nice to just be normal. Just saying.


  8. #8
    Squad Leader Platinum Member Zulu 36's Avatar
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    Advanced, yeah I'm pretty proud of my father. My Dad landed on Saipan on his 18th birthday. His platoon (6th Marines Scout-Snipers) recently had a book published about them, "40 Thieves on Saipan." They also had an article written about them in Leatherneck Magazine back in late 1944 about a rather daring patrol they got away with (with stolen Japanese bicycles they used to ride back to American lines, waving at unsuspecting Japanese soldiers as they went along). For PC purposes, the LN author called them Tachovsky's Terrors instead of the real name other Marines called them, Tachovsky's 40 Thieves. Didn't want the folks back home to think their boys had a hobby of stealing anything they wanted or needed. They even get mentioned (just as an anonymous group of thieving Marines) in Leon Uris' book, Battle Cry. Many books and articles about the landing on Saipan show photos of Marines coming ashore. Most of those photos are of the 40 Thieves. One shows the platoon commander sitting on the beach with a bored expression on his face. Plus, if you get the official USMC historical monograph about Saipan, the platoon gets mentioned several times. Few platoon sized units got mentioned by name in the monographs more than once, if at all.


  9. #9
    Zulu, you certainly have a reason to be very proud of your Dad. I don't know much about my Dad or my Uncles as I was young and didn't ask, now they're all gone. I wish now that I knew more but from my own experience, knowing where they were, I know it certainly wasn't uneventful. Be proud brother.


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