ARLINGTON, TX – (May 3, 2021) – Ernest E. West earned the Medal of Honor on October 12, 1952, while serving in the Korean War. With his passing early in the morning on May 1 at the age of 89, there are now only 67 living recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.
“America lost a true hero with the passing of Ernest West. When called to serve by his country, he not only answered, but laid everything on the line for his brothers in arms. Despite suffering an injury that would end up costing him an eye, he persevered in saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Ernest West’s passing is a reminder of the urgency of our mission to build the National Medal of Honor Museum, to tell his courageous story and the stories of his fellow recipients, and ensure their legacies live on to inspire the next generation of American heroes. We offer our sincere condolences to the West family,” said National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation Chief Executive Officer James T. Connors.
Drafted into service in 1950, West returned home to Kentucky after the war, where he was a football coach and beloved member of his community.
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.