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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 joined the U.S. Army from that city.

On 7 September 1951, Private Billie Gene Kanell was serving in Company I, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On that day, near Pyongyang, North Korea, PVT Kanell's unit was attacked by a numerically superior force supported by mortar and artillery fire. Fully exposed to enemy observation and action, PVT Kanell courageously stood in his emplacement and delivered accurate fire into the ranks of the enemy. When a grenade was thrown into his emplacement, PVT Kanell smothered the blast with his body to protect two nearby soldiers. Although severely wounded in the explosion, seconds later PVT Kanell used his body to shield his comrades from another grenade thrown by the enemy and was mortally wounded. PVT Kanell's selfless, courageous actions and extraordinary heroism that day earned him, at the cost of his life, his country's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

PVT Kanell was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on 13 June 1952.

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
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Combat Infantryman Badge

Medal of Honor Citation

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private Billie Gene Kanell (ASN: RA-17317531), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company I, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Pyongyang, Korea, on 7 September 1951. A numerically superior hostile force had launched a fanatical assault against friendly positions, supported by mortar and artillery fire, when Private 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 Private Kanell threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the blast with his body to protect two 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 United States Army.

Department of the Army, General Orders No. 57 (June 13, 1952)


Private 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, Ripley County, MO.


Honoree ID: 1180   Created by: MHOH




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