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First Name: Orlando

Last Name: Petty

Birthplace: Cadiz, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Henderson

Date of Birth: 20 February 1874

Date of Death: 02 June 1932

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant

Years Served: 1916 - 1918
Orlando Henderson Petty

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Orlando Henderson Petty

Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War I

Lieutenant Orlando Henderson Petty (20 February 1874 - 2 June 1932) was an U.S. Navy officer and physician who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War I. He was also awarded the U.S. military's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for the same actions.

Orlando Henderson Petty was born in Cadiz, OH, on 20 February 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.

Petty joined the U.S. Naval Reserve Force as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade), in December 1916 and served in the Medical Corps. After the U.S. 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.

On 11 June 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 his actions, Petty was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant (Medical Corps), USNRF.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 5th Regiment, U.S. Marines, in France during the attack in the Boise 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.

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.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Croix de Guerre with Palm (France)
Croce di Guerra (Italy)

Death and Burial

On 2 June 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.

Lieutenant Orlando Henderson Petty is buried at Saint Timothy's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA.

Honoree ID: 1808   Created by: MHOH




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