Henry E. Erwin's Medal of Honor


Henry E. Erwin


U.S. Military Medal of Honor


Wearer is able to survive extreme physical trauma and withstand immense pain


None identified



Collected by

Warehouse 13


Sun Tzu-28D





Date of Collection

September 2, 2005



On April 12, 1945, Erwin was signaled to drop the phosphorous bombs from the plane he was working on onto their target.

After pulling the pin and releasing a bomb into the chute, the fuse malfunctioned and ignited the phosphorus prematurely, burning at 1,100 degrees. The canister flew back up the chute and into Erwin's face, blinding him, searing off one ear and obliterating his Erwin was afraid the bomb would burn through the metal floor into the bomb bay. Completely blind, he picked it up and feeling his way, crawled around the gun turret and headed for the copilot's window. He couldn't release the table's latches with one hand, so he grabbed the white-hot bomb between his bare right arm and his ribcage. In the few seconds it took to raise the table, the phosphorus burned through his flesh to the bone. His body on fire, he stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window and collapsed between the pilot's seats.

The smoke cleared enough for the B-29 to be pulled out of a dive at 300 feet (91 m) above the water and turn toward Iwo Jima, where Erwin could be given emergency treatment. His crew members extinguished his burning clothes and administered first aid, but whenever Erwin's burns were uncovered, phosphorus embedded in his skin would begin to smolder. Although in excruciating pain, he remained conscious throughout the flight and spoke only to inquire about the safety of the crew. Once at Iwo Jima, medical personnel didn't believe he would survive.

Army Air Force officials, led by Major General Curtis LeMay and Brigadier General Lauris Norstad, approved Erwin's award of the Medal of Honor in a matter of hours, so a presentation could be made while he still lived. A medal was flown from Hawaii to Guam and presented to him in the hospital there. However, Erwin survived his burns. He was flown back to the United States, and after 30 months and 41 surgeries, his eyesight was restored and he regained use of one arm.


When worn, the medal allows the user to survive extreme and usually fatal physical trauma and withstand immense pain.

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