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Orlando Henderson Petty
Orlando Petty, Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1874-02-20)February 20, 1874
Died June 2, 1932(1932-06-02) (aged 58)
Place of birth Cadiz, Ohio
Place of death Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Place of burial Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Naval Reserve
Years of service 1916 - 1918
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Navy Medical Corps
5th Marine Regiment
Battles/wars World War I
 • Battle of Belleau Wood
Awards Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Croix de Guerre with palm (France)
Croce di Guerra (Italy)

Orlando Henderson Petty (February 20, 1874 – June 2, 1932) was an American physician and naval officer. As a surgeon in the United States Naval Reserve, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War I.

Early life and family[edit | edit source]

Petty was born in Cadiz, Ohio on February 20, 1874. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1904 and two years later joined the school's teaching staff. In 1908, he married Marcia P. Mellersh of Philadelphia; the couple had two children, Clara M. and Orville A. Petty.[1][2]

Military service[edit | edit source]

Petty joined the U.S. Naval Reserve Force as a lieutenant, junior grade, in December 1916 and served in the Medical Corps. After the United States' entry into World War I, he was sent to France where he worked as an assistant surgeon. In March 1918, he was promoted to lieutenant.[3]

By June 11, 1918, Petty was attached to the 5th Marine Regiment as the unit took part in the Battle of Belleau Wood. On that day, his dressing station in Lucy-le-Bocage came under heavy fire from German artillery, some of which were firing poison gas shells. He continued to evacuate and treat the wounded, even after he was knocked to the ground and his gas mask rendered useless by an exploding shell. When the dressing station was destroyed, he personally carried wounded Captain Lloyd W. Williams to safety. Captain Williams was the Marine famously quoted as saying "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" For these actions, Petty was awarded the Medal of Honor.[3]

Other decorations which Petty received during the war include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre with palm from France, and the Croce di Guerra from Italy.[2]

Later years and death[edit | edit source]

After his military service, Petty returned to Philadelphia and resumed teaching medicine. From 1923 until shortly before his death, he was a professor of metabolic diseases at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also the personal physician of Philadelphia mayor Harry A. Mackey. In 1931, Mackey appointed him as the head of the city's public health department.[2]

On June 2, 1932, Petty's family found him dead in the bedroom of his Philadelphia home. He had been shot through the heart, apparently with his military service pistol, which was found nearby. His family noted that he had been in poor health for some time; his death was ruled a suicide.[2] He is buried at Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Philadelphia's Roxborough neighborhood.[3]

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

Petty's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 5th Regiment, U.S. Marines, in France during the attack in the Bois de Belleau, 11 June 1918. While under heavy fire of high explosive and gas shells in the town of Lucy, where his dressing station was located, Lt. Petty attended to and evacuated the wounded under most trying conditions. Having been knocked to the ground by an exploding gas shell which tore his mask, Lt. Petty discarded the mask and courageously continued his work. His dressing station being hit and demolished, he personally helped carry Capt. Williams, wounded, through the shellfire to a place of safety.[1]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.

External links[edit | edit source]

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