Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Louis

Last Name: Cukela

Birthplace: Split, HRV

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Date of Birth: 01 May 1888

Date of Death: 19 March 1956

Rank: Major

Years Served: 1914-1916 (US Army), 1917-1946 (USMC)
Louis Cukela

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Louis Cukela

Corporal, U.S. Army

Major, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War I

Major Louis Cukela (born Vjekoslav Lujo Čukela) was a U.S. Marine Corps officer numbered among the nineteen two-time recipients of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor. Cukela was awarded the Medal by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy for the same action during the Battle of Soissons in World War I.

Louis Cukela, an ethnic Croat, was born on 1 May 1888 in the Dalmatian city of Split, Croatia (at the time, Kingdom of Dalmatia, Austro-Hungarian Empire), the son of Ivan and Jovana Bubrić Čukela. His mother died in 1900. He was educated in the grade schools of Split and then attended the Merchant Academy and later, the Royal Gymnasium; both for two year courses. In 1913, Cukela emigrated to the United States and he and his brother settled in Minneapolis, MN. After he had immigrated to the U.S., his father and three sisters remained in Austria-Hungary.

[There has been some controversy regarding Cukela's ethnicity. He rarely spoke about his heritage. During his lifetime he was called "an Austrian, Slav, Yugoslav, Serb and Croat," whereas Cukela preferred to be called an American Marine.]

On 21 September 1914, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was serving as a Corporal in Company H, 13th Infantry Regiment when he was honorably discharged on 12 June 1916. Seven months later, on 31 January 1917, with war raging in Europe and prior to the U.S. entry into the war, Cukela enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He became a member of the 66th Company, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.

He was deployed to France in 1918 and fought in all the engagements in which the 5th Marines participated, from Belleau Wood to the Meuse River Crossing. Along the way he collected a commission as a Second Lieutenant, as well as the Medal of Honor and a Silver Star Medal. From the French, there was the Legion d'Honneur, the Médaille militaire (the first award of this prestigious decoration to a Marine officer) and the Croix de guerre 1914-18 with two Palms and one Silver Star. Italy decorated him with the Croce al Merito di Guerra, while Yugoslavia weighed in with the Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor by both the Army and the Navy for the same action on the morning of 18 July 1918, near Villers-Cotterets, France, during the Soissons engagement. The 66th Company, 5th Marines, in which Cukela was then a Gunnery Sergeant, was advancing through the Forest de Retz when it was held up by an enemy strong point. Despite the warnings of his men, Cukela crawled out from the flank and advanced alone towards the German lines. Getting beyond the strong point despite heavy fire, "Gunny" Cukela captured one gun by bayoneting its crew. Picking up their hand grenades, he then demolished the remaining portion of the strong point from the shelter of a nearby gun pit. He took four prisoners and captured two undamaged machine guns.

Medal of Honor (Navy)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, 66th Company, 5th Regiment.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in the Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, 18 July 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machinegun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German hand grenades and captured 2 machineguns and 4 men.

Medal of Honor (Army)

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, 66th Company, 5th Regiment.

Place and date: Near Villers-Cotterets, France, 18 July 1918.

Citation: When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German handgrenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.

Cukela was twice wounded in action but since there is no record of either wound at the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, he was never awarded the Purple Heart. The first wound was suffered at Jaulny, France, on 16 September 1918 during the St. Mihiel engagement. Cukela was wounded again during the fighting in the Champagne sector. Neither wound was serious.

Cukela received a field appointment to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 26 September 1918 and was selected for a commission in the regular Marine Corps on 31 March 1919. Promoted to First Lieutenant on 17 July 1919, he was advanced to the rank of Captain on 15 September 1921. His promotion to Major was effective on the day of his retirement, 30 June 1940.

Between the Wars

After WWI, Cukela served at these overseas bases: Haiti; Santo Domingo; the Philippines; and China. He served at these stations in the United States: Quantico, VA; Philadelphia, PA; Norfolk, VA; Hampton Roads, VA; Mare Island, CA; Washington, DC; Nashville, IN, and Fort Knox, KY.

From June 1933 to January 1934, Cukela served as a Company Commander with the Civilian Conservation Corps. His last years in the Marine Corps were spent at Norfolk, where he served as the Post Quartermaster. Retired as a Major on 30 June 1940, he was recalled to active duty a month later on 30 July.

World War II Service

During World War II the Major served at Norfolk and Philadelphia. He finally returned to the inactive retired list on 17 May 1946. Cukela served a few days less than 32 years of active duty in the Army and Marines.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor (Navy)
Medal of Honor (Army)
Silver Star Medal (Army)
Victory Medal with Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector Clasps and 3 Silver Stars
Haitian Campaign Medal
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with 1 Star
Yangtze Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Area Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Médaille militaire (France)
Légion d'honneur (France)
Croix de guerre with 2 Palms (France - 2 Awards)
Croix de guerre with Silver Star (France)
Croce al Merito di Guerra (Italy)
Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia

He also received three Second Division citations.

Death and Burial

Major Louis Cukela died on 19 March 1956 at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD. He was 67 years old. On 22 March 1956, following services at St. Jane Frances de Chantel Church in Bethesda, he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 1, Lot 427, Grid J-35.

Cukela was married to Minnie Myrtle Strayer of Miflintown, PA, on 22 December 1923 in Washington, DC. Minnie Cukela died on 10 August 1956, just months after Major Cukela. At the time of his death, Major Cukela was also survived by a sister, Mrs. Zorka Cukela Dvoracek, of Šibenik Croatia.

Honoree ID: 68   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image