b. 21/07/1940 Cheshire, Connecticut.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 18/12/1965 Ky Phu, Vietnam.
Barnum was born July 21, 1940 in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was president of his Freshman and Senior Class at Cheshire High School, where he also played football and baseball. In high school, he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, the “C” Club and the Gym Leaders Club. After graduation from high school, he entered Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire.
Second Lieutenant Barnum was ordered to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, where he attended The Basic School until December 1962, when he began the Artillery Officers Orientation Course, graduating in February 1963. He was then ordered overseas and joined Battery A, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa, Japan. He served first as a forward observer and then as the Battalion’s liaison officer. In July 1964, he accepted appointment in the regular Marine Corps. Prior to completing his Okinawa tour, he also served as the battalion liaison officer. He was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1964.
In April 1964, 1stLt Barnum was transferred to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and assigned as the Wing’s Career Advisory and Personal Affairs Officer. During Exercise Steel Pike, a landing exercise in Spain, he served as the Wing’s Security Officer. Upon returning to the United States from Spain, he was assigned as Officer in Charge, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Classified Files.
Detached in March 1965, he then served as Guard Officer, Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.
From December 1965 until February 1966, 1stLt Barnum served on temporary duty in Vietnam as an artillery forward observer with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. Lieutenant Barnum would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 18, 1965
In October 1968, Capt Barnum returned to Vietnam where he served as Commanding Officer of Battery E, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division With the 3rd Marine Division redeployment from Vietnam to Okinawa in September 1969, he remained with that unit until the following October. For his service in this capacity, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award, the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V”, the Purple Heart for wounds received, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star.
Upon his return from Okinawa, Capt Barnum was assigned as a weapons instructor at The Basic School, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Quantico, where he served until August 1970 at which time he entered the Amphibious Warfare School, graduating in February 1972.
He served as Operations Officer, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, Camp Lejeune beginning in March 1972, and was promoted to major, May 1972, to lieutenant colonel in December 1978, and to colonel in February 1984. In 1987, he was assigned as Military Secretary to the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
In August, 1989, Colonel Barnum retired from the Marine Corps after more than 27 years of service.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Forward Observer for Artillery, while attached to Company H, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against communist forces at Ky Phu in Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 18 December 1965. When the company was suddenly pinned down by a hail of extremely accurate enemy fire and was quickly separated from the remainder of the battalion by over five hundred meters of open and fire-swept ground, and casualties mounted rapidly, Lieutenant Barnum quickly made a hazardous reconnaissance of the area seeking targets for his artillery. Finding the rifle company commander mortally wounded and the radio operator killed, he, with complete disregard for his own safety, gave aid to the dying commander, then removed the radio from the dead operator and strapped it to himself. He immediately assumed command of the rifle company, and moving at once into the midst of the heavy fire, rallying and giving encouragement to all units, reorganized them to replace the loss of key personnel and led their attack on enemy positions from which deadly fire continued to come. His sound and swift decisions and his obvious calm served to stabilize the badly decimated units and his gallant example as he stood exposed repeatedly to point out targets served as an inspiration to all. Provided with two armed helicopters, he moved fearlessly through enemy fire to control the air attack against the firmly entrenched enemy while skillfully directing one platoon in a successful counterattack in the key enemy positions. Having thus cleared a small area, he requested and directed the landing of two transport helicopters for the evacuation of the dead and wounded. He then assisted in the mopping up and final seizure of the battalion's objective.