The series takes its name from the award which is conferred on members of the United States Armed Forces. “To those who distinguish themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty”. Only 3,503 services personnel have received the medal since it was first awarded to Private J. Parrott, in 1862. President Harry Trueman once stated, “I would rather have the blue band of the Medal of Honor around my neck than to be President.” Such is the esteem in which recipients are held.
The eight-episode series from Netflix features MoH recipients from various conflicts. The first episode focuses on Sgt. Antolak. A U.S. Army private who charged 200 yards over flat terrain to destroy an enemy machine gun nest. Despite being hit three separate times, including a bullet which shattered his arm. Sgt. Antolak continued to charge the German position with his Thompson machine gun. The stories are retold via a blend of re-enactments and narration from family members, the recipients and their comrades.
The show does an excellent job contextualising the events in history. In one episode, it's explained how African-American soldiers were only ‘allowed’ to take part in WW2 combat roles if they agreed to a demotion down to Private. This was to ensure that no black soldier could give orders to a white soldier. A reminder, that at the time, the U.S. Army was still segregated. The series also makes use of graphics and visual aids to help the viewer understand the battle tactics involved. This is an area where many docu-dramas fall down. However, MoH addresses this in a succinct manner without losing the audience in needless technicality.
One of the more emotional episodes features Clint Romesha. A United States Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009. Clint was deployed at a forward outpost which came under ferocious attack from a force of over 300 Taliban fighters. The base was about to be overrun by the insurgents. Clint, despite being wounded, rallied a small team and began to retake the compound inch by inch. The battle lasted 12 hours and claimed the lives of 8 U.S. soldiers with another 27 wounded. Clint talks candidly about the battle in Afghanistan and the significance of receiving the medal. The episode also follows Clint's life since leaving the Army.
This collection of stories is truly incredible. If you saw these battle scenes depicted in a fictional war movie you would think them outrageously implausible. However, this Netflix Original has re-created them with realism, emotion and in a respectful way. A must watch series which finds the humanity in acts of heroism.