The Navy Cross

Review by Willard Manus

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be bad, nasty wars, but they still produce heroes. THE NAVY CROSS, a new book by James E. Wise, Jr. and Scott Baron, pays tribute to some of them, the twenty men who were awarded the U.S. Navy's highest honor for their extraordinary exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nineteen are named, with one (a Navy SEAL) unidentified because he still remains on active duty.

The Navy Cross was established in 1919 and is the equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross (Army) and the Air Force Cross (Air Force). One of its first recipients was an officer on a U.S. destroyer patrolling the eastern Atlantic in 1917, a time when German U-boats were sinking Allied merchant ships left and right. Lt. Cdr. Walter O. Henry was cited for having "initiated prompt and efficient offensive action on the occasion of his engagement with, and the capture of, the German U-58."

THE NAVY CROSS dramatizes the action of dozens of other medal winners in WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, on up to the present. Their remarkable stories read like fiction--carrying wounded comrades to safety in the face of heavy enemy fire, ignoring serious injuries while leading others in battle, pulling Marines out of burning tanks and trucks, and so on. As the authors note, "The story of the bravery of the U.S. armed forces must be told so that future generations of Americans are constantly reminded of the high cost of freedom." (Naval Institute Press).