Off Lae, New Guinea, last September, U.S. invading forces ran into heavy fire, pressed on. Near the beach, the helmsman of LST 473 spotted a torpedo coming head on. Before he could make a move, a bomb struck the pilothouse and blasted him out of action.
Up from the wreckage rose Seaman Johnnie Hutchins, mortally wounded and failing fast. He grasped the helm and turned the ship clear of the torpedo. Then he died with his hands clutched tight around the wheel.
This week, to 21-year-old Johnnie David Hutchins, son of a Texas sharecropper, went a posthumous awardthe Congressional Medal of Honor.