Leonard Martin Kravitz MOH

b. 08/08/1930 Brooklyn, New York. d. 07/03/1951 Yangpyong, Korea.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 06/03/1951 Yangpyong, Korea.

Leonard M Kravitz MOH

Kravitz was born Aug. 8, 1930, and grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His older brother, Seymour, served as a Marine during World War II, which may have been  what inspired the younger Kravitz to enlist as war was breaking out once again during the summer of 1950.

After a few months of service, Kravitz was sent to Korea as part of Company M of the 5th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.

On March 6, 1951, Kravitz’s company was pinned down by Chinese troops on a hillside near Yangpyong, south of Seoul. Friendly forces were initially able to push back two probing attacks, but eventually, the enemy launched into what Kravitz’s citation called a “fanatical banzai charge.” Enemy fighters charged forward with heavy gunfire supporting them from behind. Kravitz, who was an assistant machine gunner, watched as his lead machine gunner went down, so he quickly took charge of their weapon and raked the fighters rushing toward them.

Unfortunately, the Chinese fighters were able to breach a left flank, which left the friendly fighters no longer able to help Kravitz’s men fight them off. The unit soon received orders to withdraw. Kravitz volunteered to stay behind to cover the backs of the retreating men, even though he knew his chances of surviving weren’t good. As more enemy soldiers pushed toward friendly positions, he blasted them all with heavy fire, killing the entire group. That led to the enemies directing all their fire at him, but it gave his comrades a chance to escape. The next day, after friendly troops had retaken the area, Kravitz’s body was found behind his gun, surrounded by enemy dead.

Kravitz’s body was returned to the U.S. and he was buried in Knollwood Park Cemetery in Glendale, New York. Soon after, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor, which his brother accepted on his behalf.

While the Distinguished Service Cross is a big honor, it didn’t sit well with Kravitz’s childhood friend, Mitchel Libman, who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and arrived in Korea just as the ceasefire was signed. Libman thought Kravitz, who was Jewish, should have earned the Medal of Honor. Through research, he discovered that several minorities earned the Distinguished Service Cross when similar actions earned other men the nation’s highest honor.

Concerned that Kravitz was a victim of institutional bias, Libman spent the next half-century campaigning to get his friend’s medal upgraded. Eventually, he got help from a Florida congressman, who convinced Congress to consider a bill called the Leonard Kravitz Jewish War Veterans Act in 2001. It urged the Pentagon to review the Distinguished Service Cross awards previously given to Jewish Americans, as well as those who were Black and Hispanic.

The review was eventually set in motion. After a decade of investigating more than 6,000 cases from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, DOD officials concluded that 24 Jewish, Hispanic and Black men — including Kravitz — had been overlooked for the Medal of Honor. On March 18, 2014 — more than 63 years after Kravitz’s death — President Barack Obama held a White House ceremony honoring him and 23 other service members whose awards were upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Unfortunately, Kravtiz’s older brother, Seymour, didn’t live to see it. He died in 2005. Instead, Seymour’s daughter, Laurie Wenger, received the award on her uncle’s behalf. Kravitz’s famous nephew and namesake, rock musician Lenny Kravitz, also attended the ceremony. Beforehand, he talked about the honor of being named for a Medal of Honor recipient.



Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an assistant machine gunner with Company M, 5th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Yangpyong, Korea on March 6 and 7, 1951. After friendly elements had repulsed two probing attacks, the enemy launched a fanatical banzai charge with heavy supporting fire and, despite staggering losses, pressed the assault with ruthless determination. When the machine gunner was wounded in the initial phase of the action, Private First Class Kravitz immediately seized the weapon and poured devastating fire into the ranks of the onrushing assailants. The enemy effected and exploited a breach on the left flank, rendering the friendly positions untenable. Upon order to withdraw, Private First Class Kravitz voluntarily remained to provide protective fire for the retiring elements. Detecting enemy troops moving toward friendly positions, Private First Class Kravitz swept the hostile soldiers with deadly, accurate fire, killing the entire group. His destructive retaliation caused the enemy to concentrate vicious fire on his position and enabled the friendly elements to withdraw. Later, after friendly troops had returned, Private First Class Kravitz was found dead behind the gun he had so heroically manned, surrounded by numerous enemy dead. Private First Class Kravitz’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.