Gallery of Heroes: True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
So you're tooling along in your big, slow, ungainly flying boat. Your job: reconnaissance. Down below, in the Bismark Sea, around the island of New Ireland, there is enormous destruction, planes shot out of the sky, coastal buildings burning. But you don't see that. You see the men that have bailed out, swimming around in the 10 to 15 foot waves waiting to either drown or be "rescued" by the Japanese forces on the island.
So you land your big, slow, ungainly flying boat on the water. Your crew reaches out and grabs the downed aviators and then you wrench your big, slow, ungainly flying boat back into the air.
And you go back and do it twice more.
In total, you pluck 15 officers and men of the U.S. Army Air Forces out of the water.
Because that's what heroes do.
The Medal of Honor citation for U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Nathan G. Gordon reads:
For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as commander of a Catalina patrol plane in rescuing personnel of the U.S. Army 5th Air Force shot down in combat over Kavieng Harbor in the Bismarck Sea, 15 February 1944. On air alert in the vicinity of Vitu Islands, Lt. (then Lt. j.g.) Gordon unhesitatingly responded to a report of the crash and flew boldly into the harbor, defying close-range fire from enemy shore guns to make 3 separate landings in full view of the Japanese and pick up 9 men, several of them injured. With his cumbersome flying boat dangerously overloaded, he made a brilliant takeoff despite heavy swells and almost total absence of wind and set a course for base, only to receive the report of another group stranded in a rubber life raft 600 yards from the enemy shore. Promptly turning back, he again risked his life to set his plane down under direct fire of the heaviest defenses of Kavieng and take aboard 6 more survivors, coolly making his fourth dexterous takeoff with 15 rescued officers and men. By his exceptional daring, personal valor, and incomparable airmanship under most perilous conditions, Lt. Gordon prevented certain death or capture of our airmen by the Japanese.
And you tell your superiors, "No, I'm no hero. Give the medals to my men." And they do. Each one of your eight man crew is awarded the Silver Star.
But they still pin a medal on you. Because you earned it.