Salute to Service - Col. Van Thomas Barfoot

Salute to Service - Col. Van Thomas Barfoot

Regiment is an organization that celebrates its heritage proudly. 

Our history of service is built upon the shoulders of great men and women who have served this country with professionalism, duty and selfless service.

It is our honor to celebrate the sacrifices of those that have served, serve and will serve to defend what this country stands for.

Each week, we will highlight great Americans and their actions to continue to solidify the foundation of everything that this country is built upon.

This week, we salute Army Col. (Retired) Van T. Barfoot, who received the Medal of Honor during World War II. Col. Barfoot also drew national attention when he fought and won a case against his homeowners association to keep a flagpole with the American flag in his yard.

Colonel Barfoot, born in 1919, grew up in Edinburg, Mississippi on a cotton plantation. He enlisted in the Army, joining the Infantry in 1940. 

During World War II, Barfoot’s company landed at Anzio, Italy in late January of 1944. His unit continued to push inland, and by May, they had reached a small town called Carano. The Southern Italian town, located in the province of Latina, near the German lines. Barfoot’s company was ordered to attack on the morning of 23 May, 1944. Barfoot asked to lead a squad, because of his squad patrols, he was knowledgeable of the terrain and the minefield, which lay in front of the German’s position.

Barfoot advanced alone through the minefield, coming up on a machine-gun nest. After taking out the gun and its crew with a grenade, he entered the German’s trenches, took out another machine gun, killing two German Soldiers and capturing three. 

By the time Barfoot found a third machine-gun nest, the gun’s crew surrendered to him. More German’s ended up surrendering, raising Barfoot’s captured total to 17, and killing eight.

The German’s inevitably counterattacked with three Tiger tanks. As they approached his position, Barfoot disabled the lead tank with a bazooka, killing part of its crew with his own machine gun, and successfully defended against the German attack. 

He continued into German territory, destroying an enemy artillery piece, returning to his own side and helping two wounded Soldiers from his squad back to the rear.

Following his actions, Barfoot was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, as well as was awarded the Medal of Honor. 

The citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machine gun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machine gun emplacement, and with his own Thompson machine gun, killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machine gun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommy gun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot's extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.

Not only did Barfoot fight in World War II, but he also participated in the Korean War and the Vietnam war. He earned the Purple Heart and reached the rank of Col. before retiring from the Army. 

In 2009, Barfoot’s HOA in Henrico County, Virginia ordered him to remove a 21-foot flagpole that he had installed without their approval. Barfoot regularly flew the stars and stripes on Veteran’s day from his flag pole. Barfoot contested the HOA’s order to remove the flag pole, and received the support of more than 48,000 people publicly, including the military, the American Legion, many politicians and more. Because of the public outcry supporting Barfoot, the HOA dropped their request in less than a week and Barfoot was able to keep flying his own flag.

Sadly, Col. Van T. Barfoot died in March of 2012, after suffering a fall in front of his home. He was 92. 

Heroes like Col. Barfoot led the way in heroism and dedication to selfless service and dedication to serving the United States of America. 

Thank you, Sir, and we salute you and your service.

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