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News >  Idaho Voices

Envisioning a heroes’ route

Veterans group working to dedicate Highway 3

Carl Gidlund smokejumper@roadrunner.com.

If the Kootenai County Veterans Council gets its way, the state of Idaho will dedicate 121 miles of U.S. Highway 3 to 12 Medal of Honor recipients with North Idaho roots.

The route passes through Kootenai, Benewah, Shoshone, Latah and Nez Perce counties and would honor North Idaho soldiers and sailors who were awarded the nation’s highest award for valor in conflicts from the Civil War to Vietnam.

Noelan “Mac” McCormack, a Marine Corps League member who’s leading the effort to dedicate the highway, said the organization will attempt to garner support from the public and state legislators.

“If it’s dedicated as we envision, there’ll be at least six information signs and bulletin boards along Highway 3 from its intersection with Interstate 90 near Cataldo to its terminus at Lewiston,” he said.

State Sen. John Goedde will lead the effort to obtain the designation by the state, “but funding for the signage and any memorials will have to come from private sources, at least in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Potential honorees include two living recipients and a Spokane native who was killed in action and buried in North Idaho. The citations, from a Medal of Honor website, provide only sketchy information on early recipients.

Following is a list of those to whom the highway would be dedicated.

Vernon Baker: World War II. On April 5 and 6, 1945, near Viareggio, Italy, then 2nd Lt. Baker attacked and destroyed three German machine gun nests and an observation post, killing or wounding their defenders. He then covered evacuation of wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing enemy fire. On the following night Baker led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire. Baker lives in St. Maries.

Gurdon H. Barter: Civil War. A Navy landsman stationed on the USS Minnesota, Barter was part of an assault party on Fort Fisher in North Carolina on Jan. 15, 1865. The party advanced to the top of a sand hill and into a breach in the palisade despite enemy fire which killed and wounded many. More than two-thirds of the men panicked and ran, but Barter remained with the party until dark when it retreated, bringing its wounded, arms and its colors. He is buried in Moscow and there is also a headstone to his memory in the Viola, Idaho, cemetery.

Gregory Boyington: World War II. A native of Coeur d’Alene, then Maj. Boyington was cited for extraordinary heroism as commander of a Marine fighter squadron in action against Japanese forces in the central Solomons from September 1943 to January 1944. Outnumbered by the enemy, he led his men into combat against shipping, shore installations and aerial forces. On Oct. 17, 1943, his squadron shot down 20 aircraft without the loss of a single plane. He personally destroyed 26 of the Japanese planes claimed by his squadron. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

John W. Conaway: Civil War. As a private in the 83rd Indiana Infantry, Conaway was a member of a party of volunteers that stormed Confederate breastworks at Vicksburg, Miss., on May 22, 1863. He is buried in Post Falls.

Paul F. Foster: Vera Cruz Mexican campaign. A Navy ensign, he distinguished himself as company commander in the battle of Vera Cruz on April 21 and 22, 1914. In both days’ fighting he was conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage. He is buried in Moscow.

John H. Hays: Civil War. A private in the 4th Iowa Cavalry, he captured the Confederate Austin Battery’s flag and flag bearer at Columbus, Ga., in April 1865. He is buried in Moscow.

Charles F. Humphrey: Indian Wars. A first lieutenant with the 4th U.S. Artillery, in the face of withering fire Humphrey led a party which recaptured an abandoned howitzer and two Gatling guns lying between battle lines a few yards from Indians near Clearwater, Idaho. He is buried in Clearwater.

Richard M. Longfellow: Philippine insurrection. Pvt. Longfellow, a member of the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, with 21 other scouts charged across a burning bridge near San Isidro, the Philippines, on May 16, 1899. Under heavy fire, the soldiers routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position. He is buried in Lewiston.

Lloyd G. McCarter: World War II. A St. Maries native, he was a private in the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment when he was cited for several actions between Feb. 16 and 19, 1945, at the fortress of Corregidor in the Philippines. Soon after a parachute assault on Feb. 16, he crossed 30 yards of ground under intense fire and at pointblank range silenced a machine gun with hand grenades. Two days later he killed six snipers. That evening when a large force attempted to bypass his unit, he moved to an exposed area and opened fire. Attacked repeatedly, he repulsed each, but all the men around him were wounded. He exposed himself to locate the enemy then poured heavy fire on them, repeatedly crawling back to the American lines for more ammunition. McCarter used up a submachine gun and automatic rifle, finally arming himself with a rifle. The enemy attacked at dawn, and while he stood to locate the most dangerous enemy positions he was seriously wounded. Although he’d killed more than 30 of the enemy, he refused evacuation until he’d pointed out objectives for attack. He is buried in St. Maries.

Thomas R. Norris: Vietnam War. A Navy SEAL, Lt. Norris led a ground rescue of two downed pilots deep within enemy controlled territory in Quang Tri Province April 10-13, 1972. On the night of April 10, he led a five-man patrol through 2,000 meters of enemy territory, and returned with one downed pilot. The following day, after a mortar and rocket attack on his small forward operating base, Norris led a three-man team on two unsuccessful rescue attempts for the second pilot. A day later he and a Vietnamese companion dressed in fishermen’s garb and using a sampan, they found the injured pilot. Covering him with vegetation, they evaded an enemy patrol as they returned. Approaching the friendly base, they came under heavy machine gun fire. Norris called in an air strike and smoke screen, allowing his party to return. He lives in Hayden.

Francis Oliver: Indian campaigns. As a first sergeant in the 1st U.S. Cavalry, on Oct. 20, 1869, he led a group of troopers which engaged a band of Apache Indians in what was known as the Campaign of the Rocky Mesa in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona Territory. He was cited for bravery in action. He is buried in Lewiston.

Frank S. Reasoner: Vietnam War. 1st Lt. Reasoner was assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. While leading a patrol deep in enemy territory near Da Nang on July 12, 1965, it came under heavy fire from 50 to 100 Viet Cong. He accompanied the point men, and immediately deployed the five with him for an assault. Isolated from the main body of his troops, he organized a base of fire for an assault, but the enemy fire made it impossible for the main body to advance. Repeatedly exposing himself, he provided covering fire, killing at least two VC and silencing an automatic weapons position in an attempt to evacuate a wounded Marine. As casualties mounted, Reasoner’s radio operator was wounded, and he moved to his side to give him aid. When the radio operator was hit a second time while attempting to reach cover, Lt. Reasoner ran to his aid but was mortally wounded by machine gun fire. He is buried in Kellogg.

Research for the project was conducted by retired Marine Jerry Wombolt of Coeur d’Alene Research for the project was conducted by retired Marine Jerry Wombolt of Coeur d’Alene
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