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Medal of Honor recipients, both real and fictional have appeared in dozens of American novels, in Spiderman comics and in recent graphic novels. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Frost used Tennessee’s Sgt. Alvin York as the model for characters in two novels, Heaven’s Gate and The Cave, both explorations of the price of peacetime fame for war heroes.
Medal of Honor recipient John Kelly, aka John Clark, appears in 11 Tom Clancy novels, including Clear and Present Danger and Sum of All Fears, and in the films based on those books.
The main character of Walter Murphy’s 1979 best-selling novel The Vicar of Christ, the fictional Declan Walsh receives the medal for actions in the Korean War and eventually becomes Pope.
Several Medal of Honor recipients, some based on real people, appear in Harry Turtledove’s alternative history novels making up the Southern Victory Series.
Pilot Mitchell Gant is a fictional Medal of Honor recipient in several of Craig Thomas’ techno-thrillers, including Firefox and A Different War.
In Frank Miller’s Sin City series of graphic novels, Wallace, a demobilized Navy SEAL and medal recipient, is the hero of the Hell and Back novel.
Recent books tell the stories of contemporary recipients, including SEAL of Honor (Michael Murphy) and Living With Honor: A Memoir (Salvatore Giunta).
General J. “Lonesome” Jones, USMC, is a medal recipient in the time-travel, alternative history novels in John Birmingham’s Axis of Time series.
Since 1941, when Gary Cooper won Best Actor for Sergeant York, Oscar has loved Medal of Honor stories. Other Oscar-winning films about Medal of Honor recipients include Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), with Spencer Tracy, The Longest Day (1962), with Henry Fonda, The Right Stuff (1983), with Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, and Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001). Mark Wahlberg’s Lone Survivor received 2 nominations.
Audie Murphy played himself in the 1955 film To Hell and Back, which ends with Murphy receiving the Medal at age 19. It was Universal Studios’ highest-grossing film until Jaws.
Pop culture icons Forrest Gump, Rambo and John “Hannibal” Smith (The A-Team) are all fictional Medal recipients.
The Medal of Honor video game series hired consultants from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group to help write the 2010 installment, set in modern time.
Gary Cooper (Sgt. York) also starred in the Oscar-nominated The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell. Mitchell is considered the father of the modern Air Force.
We Were Soldiers (2002) starred Greg Kinear as Medal recipient Bruce Crandall.
The first Medal recipients, members of Andrews Raiders, were featured in two films, Buster Keaton’s silent comedy The General and The Great Locomotive Chase (1956).
Some Medal recipients achieved unprecedented fame, including Alvin York, who first put a public face on the Medal, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Army Scout turned showman. Two sets of father/son recipients are forever embedded in popular culture: President Theodore Roosevelt and son, and the MacArthurs, Arthur and Douglas.
Gregory Peck, Tommy Lee Jones and 19 others have portrayed Gen. Douglas MacArthur. His father, Arthur MacArthur Jr. was a Civil War Medal recipient.
Theodore Roosevelt, the only president to have received the Medal of Honor, has a tremendous popular culture legacy in the “teddy bear,” and was the subject of several films.
The star-studded 1962 film about the Normandy invasions, The Longest Day, starring Henry Fonda as Theodore Roosevelt Jr., garnered 2 Academy Awards and 5 additional nominations.