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First Name: Ernest

Last Name: Kouma

Birthplace: Dwight, NE, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Richard

Date of Birth: 23 November 1919

Date of Death: 19 December 1993

Rank: Master Sergeant

Years Served: 1940-1971
Ernest Richard Kouma

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Ernest Richard Kouma
Master Sergeant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

Ernest Richard Kouma was born on 23 November 1919 in Dwight, NE. He was a Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army during the Korean War when his heroic actions of 31 August and 1 September 1950 resulted in his being awarded the Medal of Honor.

Kouma grew up on the family farm in Nebraska before enlisting in the US Army in 1940. He served as a tank commander during World War II, seeing combat in Germany with the 9th Armored Division from 1944 to 1945. After WWII, Kouma served as part of the occupation force in South Korea and Japan.

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Kouma commanded an M26 Pershing tank in the 2nd Infantry Division. While fighting during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter along the Naktong River, Kouma commanded his tank as it single-handedly fended off repeated North Korean attempts to cross the river after units around it had withdrawn. Wounded twice, Kouma killed 250 North Korean troops in this action.

After receiving the Medal, Kouma served as a recruiter and remained in the Army for 31 years, retiring in 1971. He lived in Kentucky until his death.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant (then Sfc.) U.S. Army, Company A, 72nd Tank Battalion

Place and date: Vicinity of Agok, Korea, 31 August and 1 September 1950

G.O. No.: 38, 4 June 1951


M/Sgt. Kouma, a tank commander in Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. His unit was engaged in supporting infantry elements on the Naktong River front. Near midnight on 31 August, a hostile force estimated at 500 crossed the river and launched a fierce attack against the infantry positions, inflicting heavy casualties. A withdrawal was ordered and his armored unit was given the mission of covering the movement until a secondary position could be established. The enemy assault overran 2 tanks, destroyed 1 and forced another to withdraw. Suddenly M/Sgt. Kouma discovered that his tank was the only obstacle in the path of the hostile onslaught. Holding his ground, he gave fire orders to his crew and remained in position throughout the night, fighting off repeated enemy attacks. During 1 fierce assault, the enemy surrounded his tank and he leaped from the armored turret, exposing himself to a hail of hostile fire, manned the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the rear deck, and delivered pointblank fire into the fanatical foe. His machine gun emptied, he fired his pistol and threw grenades to keep the enemy from his tank. After more than 9 hours of constant combat and close-in fighting, he withdrew his vehicle to friendly lines. During the withdrawal through 8 miles of hostile territory, M/Sgt. Kouma continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy and exhausted his ammunition in destroying 3 hostile machine gun positions. During this action, M/Sgt. Kouma killed an estimated 250 enemy soldiers. His magnificent stand allowed the infantry sufficient time to reestablish defensive positions. Rejoining his company, although suffering intensely from his wounds, he attempted to resupply his tank and return to the battle area. While being evacuated for medical treatment, his courage was again displayed when he requested to return to the front. M/Sgt. Kouma's superb leadership, heroism, and intense devotion to duty reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.

On 10 May 1951, in the Oval Office of the White House, President Harry S. Truman presented Master Sergeant Ernest Richard Kouma with the Medal of Honor.

Other Medals

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Kouma was awarded the Purple Heart.

Death and Burial

Ernest Richard Kouma died on 19 December 1993. He is buried at Fort Knox Post Cemetery at Fort Knox, Hardin County, KY.

Honoree ID: 1189   Created by: MHOH




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