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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Shea

Birthplace: Portsmouth, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Thomas

Date of Birth: 03 January 1927

Date of Death: 08 July 1953 (Official)

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1944 - 1953
Richard Thomas Shea, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1952

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Richard Thomas Shea, Jr.
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

Richard Thomas Shea, Jr. was born on 3 January 1927, at Portsmouth, VA. A native of Norfolk County, VA, Shea graduated from Churchland High School. He first studied in uniform at Virginia Polytechnic Institute at the height of World War II, class of 1948. Enlisting in the United States Army, he served as a Sergeant. He then entered the U.S. Military Academy.

Track Star at West Point

Shea was an All-American in track and was said to have been the greatest track star to attend West Point. He ran his first competitive race at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI). One of the West Point Black Knights' most celebrated distance runners, Dick Shea captured Heptagonal and IC4A individual cross country titles in three successive years (1949-51), helping Army to three straight team "Heps" titles during that time. The top performer on Army's dominant cross country team, Shea led the Black Knights to a 19-2 record during his West Point career, a mark that included three straight "shutouts" of arch-rival Navy. He set seven Academy records in indoor and outdoor track and field and established a meet record in the two-mile run at the prestigious Penn Relays in 1951. Shea repeated as the two-mile champ at both the Penn Relays and Heptagonal Championships in 1951 and 1952. His standards in the indoor mile run (4:10) and two-mile run (9:05.8) remained on Army's record books for more than a decade. Since 1952, only eight Army runners have achieved a better time in the mile, either indoors or outdoors. Today, Army's outdoor track and field complex at West Point bears his name.

Turning down the opportunity to attend the Olympic Games, after graduating in 1952, he joined his classmates in the Korean War.

Actions Leading to the Medal of Honor

First Lieutenant Richard Shea's actions on 7 and 8 July 1953 as an acting company commander at Pork Chop Hill, Sokkogae, Korea led to his award of the Medal of Honor. Fighting outnumbered, he voluntarily proceeded to the area most threatened, organizing and leading a counterattack. In the ensuing bitter fighting, he killed two of the enemy with his trench knife. In over 18 hours of heavy fighting, he moved among the defenders of Pork Chop Hill organizing a successful defense. Leading a counterattack, he killed three enemy soldiers single-handedly. Wounded he refused evacuation. He was last seen alive fighting hand-to-hand while leading another desperate counterattack.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company A, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Sokkogae, Korea, 6 to 8 July 1953

G.O. No.: 38, 8 June 1955.


1st Lt. Shea, executive officer, Company A, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. On the night of 6 July, he was supervising the reinforcement of defensive positions when the enemy attacked with great numerical superiority. Voluntarily proceeding to the area most threatened, he organized and led a counterattack and, in the bitter fighting which ensued, closed with and killed 2 hostile soldiers with his trench knife. Calmly moving among the men, checking positions, steadying and urging the troops to hold firm, he fought side by side with them throughout the night. Despite heavy losses, the hostile force pressed the assault with determination, and at dawn made an all-out attempt to overrun friendly elements. Charging forward to meet the challenge, 1st Lt. Shea and his gallant men drove back the hostile troops. Elements of Company G joined the defense on the afternoon of 7 July, having lost key personnel through casualties. Immediately integrating these troops into his unit, 1st Lt. Shea rallied a group of 20 men and again charged the enemy. Although wounded in this action, he refused evacuation and continued to lead the counterattack. When the assaulting element was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire, he personally rushed the emplacement and, firing his carbine and lobbing grenades with deadly accuracy, neutralized the weapon and killed 3 of the enemy. With forceful leadership and by his heroic example, 1st Lt. Shea coordinated and directed a holding action throughout the night and the following morning. On 8 July, the enemy attacked again. Despite additional wounds, he launched a determined counterattack and was last seen in close hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. 1st Lt. Shea's inspirational leadership and unflinching courage set an illustrious example of valor to the men of his regiment, reflecting lasting glory upon himself and upholding the noble traditions of the military service.

First Lieutenant Shea left behind a wife and an unborn son. His Medal of Honor was presented to his widow at the parade grounds of Fort Myer, VA, by Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens on 16 May 1955.

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


In 1987, Richard Thomas Shea, Jr. was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Richard Thomas Shea, Jr. was listed as missing in action on 8 July 1953, and was later declared killed in action. He is buried at Olive Branch Cemetery in Portsmouth, VA.

Honoree ID: 1234   Created by: MHOH




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