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First Name: Billie

Last Name: Kanell

Birthplace: Poplar Bluff, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Poplar Bluff, MO
Middle Name: Gene

Date of Birth: 26 June 1931

Date of Death: 07 September 1951

Rank: Private

Years Served:
Billie Gene Kanell

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Billie Gene Kanell
Private, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

Billie Gene Kanell was born on 26 June 1931, in Poplar Bluff, MO. He later joined the U.S. Army from that city.

On 7 September 1951, Kanell was serving in Korea as a Private in Company I of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On that day, near Pyongyang, his unit was attacked by a numerically superior force. When a grenade was thrown into his emplacement, he smothered the blast with his body to protect two nearby soldiers. Although severely wounded in the explosion, he used his body to shield his comrades from another grenade that was thrown seconds later. Mortally wounded in this heroic self-sacrificing act, Kanell was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on 13 June 1952.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company I, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Pyongyang, Korea, 7 September 1951

Kanell's official citation reads:

Pvt. Kanell, a member of Company I, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. A numerically superior hostile force had launched a fanatical assault against friendly positions, supported by mortar and artillery fire, when Pvt. Kanell stood in his emplacement exposed to enemy observation and action and delivered accurate fire into the ranks of the assailants. An enemy grenade was hurled into his emplacement and Pvt. Kanell threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the blast with his body to protect 2 of his comrades from serious injury and possible death. A few seconds later another grenade was thrown into the emplacement and, although seriously wounded by the first missile, he summoned his waning strength to roll toward the second grenade and used his body as a shield to again protect his comrades. He was mortally wounded as a result of his heroic actions. His indomitable courage, sustained fortitude against overwhelming odds, and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself, the infantry, and the U.S. Army.

Medals, Awards & Badges

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Infantryman Badge

Death and Burial

Billie Gene Kanell was 20 years old when he was killed in action on 7 September 1951. He is buried at Fairdealing Cemetery in Fairdealing, MO.

Honoree ID: 1180   Created by: MHOH




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