Congressional medals bills seek honors for World War II heroes, baseball legend

New bills call for medals for two service groups, while earlier bill moves closer to passage
By , Coin World
Published : 07/22/16
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Several bills recently introduced in Congress call for congressional gold medals, while an earlier bill is a step closer to becoming law.

July 14, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced Senate Bill 3235, which seeks a congressional gold medal to honor troops who defended Bataan during World War II. 

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee. 

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Udall introduced similar legislation Dec. 15, 2011, and that bill, along with a companion piece of legislation in the House, was unsuccessful. 

When introducing his bill in the Senate in 2011, Sen. Udall said: “The 200th Coast Artillery Regiment were the first to fire to defend the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the next several months the troops of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East made a courageous defense of Bataan that delayed the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. After their supplies and ammunition had been exhausted, the American and Philippine troops in Bataan were ordered to surrender, taken prisoner and forced on the infamous Bataan Death March.” 

He added, “New Mexico sent 1,800 soldiers to the Philippines and only about 900 made it home,” concluding, “Their courage and tenacity during the first four months of World War II, and their perseverance during three years of imprisonment truly deserves the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal. We are indebted to them for their service and sacrifice.”

Also on July 14, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, introduced H.R. 5887, which seeks to award a congressional gold medal, jointly, to all U.S. nationals who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Royal Air Force during World War II, both before and after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, in recognition of their contributions to the nation. His bill has been referred to the House Financial Services and House Administration committees. 

Honoring Larry Doby

Earlier in the month, separate pieces of legislation in the House and Senate looked to posthumously award a congressional gold medal to Lawrence “Larry” Doby in recognition of his achievements and contributions to American major league athletics, civil rights, and the Armed Forces during World War II. 

In the Senate, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced S. 3149 on July 7, and in the House Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., introduced H.R. 5621 on July 5. The gold medal would be given to Doby’s son, Larry Doby Jr. 

The older Doby was born in Camden, S.C., on Dec. 12, 1923. He moved to Paterson, N.J., in 1938, where he became a standout sport athlete at Paterson Eastside High School. On July 5, 1947, he became the first African American to play baseball in the American League, first joining the Cleveland Indians. He played for various teams in Major League Baseball for 13 years, appearing in 1,533 games and batting .283, with 253 home runs and 969 runs batted in.

In 1978, Doby became the manager of the Chicago White Sox, only the second African-American manager of a Major League team, and he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. 

In a July 11 press release, Sen. Brown said, “Larry Doby is not just a sports hero, but an American hero who overcame discrimination and hostility as a young man to lead Cleveland to victory and lead our country in the right direction.” He added, “Doby and the 1947 Indians broke barriers, finally integrating all of professional baseball. Doby has seldom received the credit he deserves, and this bill offers a small way to honor all he did for civil rights and America’s game.”

Another military medal is moving along

One bill introduced last year has recently moved through Congress. On July 13, S. 1555, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 passed the Senate and is on its way to the House. The vote was by unanimous consent so no record of individual votes was made. The bill was introduced June 11, 2015, and a related bill was also introduced in the House. 

The legislation seeks to award a congressional gold medal, collectively, to the Filipino veterans of World War II in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II. The medal would be presented to the Smithsonian Institution where it would be made available for display as appropriate and made available for research. 

What is a congressional gold medal?

Let's let the U.S. House of Representatives website answer that itself: 

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Each medal honors a particular individual, institution, or event. Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.

In addition to the requirement that all Congressional Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the Members of the House, specific standards are set forth by Rule X, 2 (h) of the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Policy and Technology when considering such legislation. Additionally, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires that at least 67 Senators must cosponsor any Congressional Gold Medal legislation before the committee will consider it.

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