Top 50 Stories: Idahoans in war

From Indian wars to Afghanistan, Idahoans have served with honor and distinction.

rphillips@idahostatesman.comJuly 4, 2014 

Staff Sgt. Brad Attebery, of Weiser, offers a stuffed toy to a woman and her children. “Those little girls just steal your heart,” Attebery said while on foot patrol in Kirkuk in 2005.


Idaho and Idahoans have a long, rich military history from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq back to the Civil War and Indian wars that settled the West.

In 2004, the Idaho National Guard had the largest call- up in its history and served a yearlong deployment to Iraq. Idaho's Air Force units and reserve units along with the Marine Corps, Army, National Guard and Air Guard also deployed and saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In World War II, Idaho was home to the Farragut Naval Train Station, which according to the Idaho Military Museum was the second-largest U. S. Naval training station in the world from 1942 to 1945.

During the 30 months it operated, Farragut trained 293,381 recruits and more than 25,000 service school attendees.

Idaho has also produced, or been home to, numerous soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen and women who served with distinction.

According to the Idaho Military Museum, 48 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest award for valor in action, have "strong Idaho attachments."

Among Idaho's most famous Medal of Honor recipients are Greg "Pappy" Boyington, who was born in Coeur d'Alene and served as a pilot and commanded the famed Black Sheep Squadron in the Pacific during World War II.

Ed W. "Too Tall" Freeman fought in Korea and flew in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He got his nickname because at 6 feet 4 inches, he was too tall to be a pilot until regulations later changed.

He earned his medal by repeatedly landing under intense fire to resupply and evacuate infantry engaged in fierce fighting in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam. Freeman died in 2008 while living in Kuna, and his heroism was well chronicled in the Statesman.

Other notable Medal of Honor recipients included Vernon Baker, of St. Maries. He was credited with destroying four German machine-gun nests in northern Italy during World War II. As a black man, he was denied the prestigious medal because of his race until 1997 when President Bill Clinton presented it to him. Baker lived in St. Maries until his death in 2010 at age 90.

Another is William Kenzo Nakamura, born in Washington of Japanese descent, who was interned with many other Japanese Americans at the Minidoka Relocation Center near Twin Falls.

He volunteered for the Army while there, and in fighting in Italy in World War II, he crawled toward a machine gun bunker that had his unit pinned down. Nakamura lobbed four grenades to wipe out the machine gunners, but was later killed in combat in Italy. Nakamura's family received his Medal of Honor in 2000.

Idahoans continue to serve with distinction. In 2013, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Julia Carroll, of Idaho Falls, was one of three women who were the first ever to graduate from the Marine Corps' grueling infantry training school.

Idahoans also continue to make the ultimate sacrifice for serving their country. At least 69 Idahoans, including three civilians, have died as a result of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequent U.S. military actions.

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