Albert L. Ireland – The man with nine Purple Hearts

One Purple Heart is more than enough to have been awarded, but this man was awarded 9 of them over a period of 12 years in service in the United States Marine Corps in both WWII and the Korean War.

His name is Staff Sgt. Albert Ireland.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart describes this award as: “Awarded to members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by an instrument of war at the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those killed in action or who died of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”

Albert Luke Ireland (February 25, 1918 – November 16, 1997) was a staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps who was wounded five times during World War II in the Pacific theater and four times during the Korean War. His receiving nine Purple Heart Medals is the second most given to an individual in the United States Armed Forces and the highest to a Marine.

Ireland was born in Cold Spring, New York. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941 after serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the same year. Ireland’s military awards also include two Bronze Star Medals and campaign and service medals with eight battle stars. He spent 27 months overseas during World War II, serving as a machine gunner, and was wounded once in the Guadalcanal Campaignand four times in the Battle of Okinawa. As a result of his wounds, Ireland received five Purple Hearts.

Ireland became a Marine Corps Reservist after the end of World War II, and attended the School of Health and Education at Ithaca College between 1948 and 1949, the University of Arizona, and the University of Notre Dame. He was called back to active duty in the fall of 1950 after the outbreak of the Korean War, completing refresher combat training at Camp Lejeune in early January 1951 and applying for combat duty.

However, the first sergeant there who was creating the list of Marines to be sent to Korea attempted to prevent him from going as he had received more than two Purple Hearts, in accordance with Marine Corps regulations, but was overruled after Ireland appealed to Commandant of the Marine Corps General Clifton B. Cates in Washington, D.C. He was flown from Washington to San Francisco en route to Korea.

In 1953, Ireland was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after being wounded in the leg, hand, neck and face in Korea. 

(For the amazing story of Curry T. Haynes who has ten Bronze Stars click the link. He was awarded one Purple Heart for each of his wounds incurred during his tour in Vietnam, the most awarded to a soldier in American military history. Rather than repeat his amazing feats here, please check out the story through the link.)