John Henry Balch

John Henry Balch (January 6, 1896–October 15, 1980) was a United States Navy officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War I.


Balch enlisted in the Navy in Kansas City, Missouri under an officers training program. Prior to his enlistment on May 26, 1917, he had been a student at Kansas State University. After the training program, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and served in France during World War I.

Military service

Prior to the actions in which he was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor, Balch was involved in the Battle of Belleau Wood where he was wounded. On October 5, 1918, he showed exceptional bravery by establishing an aid station under intense fire. Acting as a Pharmacists Mate, he was credited with carrying wounded Marines to safety and thereby saving their lives.

On August 19, 1919, Balch received an honorable discharge as a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class. One-month later he was presented the Medal of Honor by Rear Admiral F. B. Bassett at the YMCA in Chicago, Illinois. In the midst of World War II, Balch rejoined the Navy as a lieutenant and served stateside as well as Australia and the Philippines before eventually retiring on June 1, 1950 from the Naval Reserve with the rank of commander and one of the most decorated sailors in US Navy history.

He is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

Medal of Honor citation

Rank and organization: Pharmacist's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Vierzy, France, and Somme-Py, France, July 19, and October 5, 1918. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: January 2, 1896, Edgerton, Kans


For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, with the 6th Regiment, U.S. Marines, in action at Vierzy, on 19 July 1918. Balch unhesitatingly and fearlessly exposed himself to terrific machinegun and high-explosive fire to succor the wounded as they fell in the attack, leaving his dressing station voluntarily and keeping up the work all day and late into the night unceasingly for 16 hours. Also in the action at Somme-Py on 5 October 1918, he exhibited exceptional bravery in establishing an advanced dressing station under heavy shellfire.

Other notable decorations

Distinguished Service Cross (Interservice Award from US Army)
Silver Star (Interservice Award from US Army)
French Croix de Guerre with diploma
Italian Crux de Guerre
Portuguese Croix de Guerre

See also


  • US Army Medal of Honor website
  • Retrieved on 2007-11-16

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