Ernest E. West

Ernest E. West

American soldier

Ernest Edison West (September 2, 1931 – May 1, 2021) was an United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Korean War.

Early life

West stands with two other Medal of Honor recipients shortly after receiving their medals from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. From left: Edward R. Schowalter Jr., West, Eisenhower, and William R. Charette

West was born in Russell, Kentucky, on September 2, 1931.[1] He grew up in an orphanage at the Methodist Children's Home in Versailles, Kentucky. He went on to reside in Wurtland and was employed by Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (now CSX Transportation).[2][3]

Korean War

West was drafted into the United States Army in 1950.[2][4] By October 12, 1952, he was serving in Korea as a private first class with Company L, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. After his unit was ambushed near Sataeri on that day, he ran through heavy fire to rescue his wounded commander, Captain George Gividen. As he was pulling the man to safety, three hostile soldiers attacked. West shielded the commander with his body and killed the attackers with his rifle, suffering a wound which resulted in the loss of his eye in the process. Despite this injury, he remained on the field and assisted in the evacuation of other wounded men, at one point killing three more hostile soldiers.[5]

For these actions, West was awarded the Medal of Honor just over a year later, on January 29, 1954.[5] He was hesitant to receive the honor, believing that "if one was going to get a medal, everybody ought to have one. We all went, we all served."[3] He was the second person from Greenup County to be conferred the Medal of Honor (after John W. Collier) and the first living recipient from that county.[3]

Post-war life

Upon his return from military service, West went back to Wurtland and to his job at C&O Railway.[2][6] The company was initially reluctant to re-hire him due to his disability, but relented after a phone call with the Veterans Administration.[3]

West died on May 1, 2021, at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia, at the age of 89.[2][7][8] West was buried at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Northeast in his home county.[9]

Medal of Honor citation

Photograph of an older white man wearing glasses and a medal hanging from a blue ribbon around his neck
West in 2009

West's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Pfc. West distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. He voluntarily accompanied a contingent to locate and destroy a reported enemy outpost. Nearing the objective, the patrol was ambushed and suffered numerous casualties. Observing his wounded leader lying in an exposed position, Pfc. West ordered the troops to withdraw, then braved intense fire to reach and assist him. While attempting evacuation, he was attacked by 3 hostile soldiers employing grenades and small-arms fire. Quickly shifting his body to shelter the officer, he killed the assailants with his rifle, then carried the helpless man to safety. He was critically wounded and lost an eye in this action but courageously returned through withering fire and bursting shells to assist the wounded. While evacuating 2 comrades, he closed with and killed 3 more of the foe. Pfc. West's indomitable spirit, consummate valor, and intrepid actions inspired all who observed him, reflect the highest credit on himself, and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Ernest West - Recipient -". valor.militarytimes.com. Retrieved May 7, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Romans, Charles (May 2, 2021). "A Hero's Legacy: West dies at 89". The Daily Independent. Ashland, Kentucky. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Maynard, Mark (May 1, 2021). "War hero and Medal of Honor recipient Ernie West dies at 89". Kentucky Today. Kentucky Baptist Convention. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  4. ^ MSNBC
  5. ^ a b c "Medal of Honor Recipients – Korean War". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 5, 2010. Retrieved November 16, 2010.
  6. ^ Elson, Martha (November 10, 2010). "Sullivan will dedicate plaza to vets". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. Archived from the original on November 10, 2010.
  7. ^ Ramsey, Mary (May 3, 2021). "Medal of Honor recipient and Kentucky native Ernie West dies". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  8. ^ Ernest E. West Obituary
  9. ^ Lowe, John (May 2, 2021). "Medal of Honor recipient returns to Kentucky for last time". WSAZ-TV. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.

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