Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Colonel Harvey C. Barnum: Taking Command in Vietnam
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With his company commander killed in an ambush, and Marines isolated from the rest of the battalion, Colonel Barnum took over the company and defeated the enemy. Barnum used attack helicopters on enemy positions and evacuated his dead and wounded.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Colonel Harvey C. “Barney” Barnum, Jr. was born on July 21st in Cheshire, Connecticut. He graduated from Cheshire High School, where he was class president and played football and baseball. In 1962, he graduated from St. Anselm’s College with a B.A. in Economics.
During his time in college, Barnum joined the U.S. Marine Corps, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve through the Platoon Leaders Class. After commissioning, he attended The Basic School and Artillery Officers Orientation Course.
A year after his college graduation, Barnum received orders to serve in Okinawa, Japan. His first assignment was as a forward observer, then as a liaison officer. In Japan, Barnum switched from reserve to active duty.
Barunum had various other assignments before deploying to Vietnam with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, as the forward observer for Company H.
On December 18th, 1965, the battalion was moving through the Que Son valley when heavy enemy fire separated Barnum and his company from the rest of the unit. Barnum looked for targets to call in artillery on, and found the company commander dying with his radio operator already dead. He gave aid to his mortally wounded commander, then took the radio and assumed command of Company H. While taking heavy fire, Barnum rallied the platoons and directed two attack helicopters on the dug-in enemy. Once they had cleared the enemy, Barnum supervised the medevac for the dead and wounded, before assisting in seizing the battalion objective.
On February 27th, 1967, Captain Barnum was awarded the Medal of Honor at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. by the Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze.
Barnum continued to serve, deploying again to Vietnam, where he was wounded in action. Afterwards, Barnum held various positions, including as Commanding Officer Recruit Training Regiment, Parris Island, and as Military Secretary to the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred Gray, Jr.
In 1989, Barnum retired from the Marine Corps as a Colonel. His other awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
In 1992, Barnum married Martha Hill. He stayed in public service, serving in the Department of Defense as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs from 2001 to 2008, and as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in 2009. In 2016, the Navy named an Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer in his honor.
The Medal of Honor Podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our script writer, Declan Rohrs is our script editor and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, got to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.