We have been performing Bell Honors for veterans with the Honor Bell nearly every day for the past six weeks and wanted to start sharing some stories of the veterans to which we have been paying tribute.Read More
John F. Toth was born in Allentown Pennsylvania. In 1949, after graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army, doing his basic training in the Heavy Mortar Company at Fort Lewis Washington. Toth was due for discharge in August 1950 but when the Korean War started in June 1950, President Truman ordered all enlistments be extended. He was deployed to Korea, a member of the 2nd Infantry Division, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, D company, Private 1st Class.
On Thanksgiving night 1950, Toth was captured by the Chinese at Kunu-ri. He escaped one night in December, running through the snow without any shoes. After re-joining his company, they were ambushed at Pyongyang — suffering heavy losses — machine gunned and mortared from the hills, where he was wounded.
Returning to civilian life, John married Dorothy Ann Bobal, went back to school on the G.I. bill, while raising four children. Starting in the mail room at Western Electric he worked his way up the corporate ladder. His career spanned 30 years with the Bell System telecommunications company, retiring in 1989 while working as a respected liaison to the Federal Government. He never spoke much of his experiences during the Korean War, but found great friendship, community and purpose in the military organizations he later joined.
Toth's family donated his regimental and division insignia pins for inclusion in the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
Martin L. Tanne signed up for the Merchant Marine Radio Operator's School to train and serve aboard ships shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Halfway through the course, however, he decided to enlist in the Army. He completed infantry training in 1943, and was part of the 34th Infantry Division, known as the North African Invasion Force. Tanne served during four campaigns, earning the rank of Sergeant, and was awarded the Rife Sharpshooter award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Following his military service, he worked as a sales representative in New York for Armour and Company, eventually moving to Arvada, Colorado where he started Martin Meat Company. He went on to also serve as a commissary manager and consultant. He died in 2016.
Tanne's family has donated his Purple Heart medal for inclusion with the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
George Sakato was born in 1921, growing up in California. His family, concerned they would be interned by the government, moved to Arizona. Sakato joined the US Army in March 1944. He volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was assigned to 3rd platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion. The 442nd Regiment was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor.
Private George T. Sakato distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on October 29th 1944, on hill 617 in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France. After his platoon had virtually destroyed two enemy defense lines, during which he personally killed five enemy soldiers and captured four, his unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Disregarding the enemy fire, Sakato made a one-man rush that encouraged his platoon to charge and destroy the enemy strongpoint. While his platoon was reorganizing, he proved to be the inspiration of his squad in halting a counter-attack on the left flank during which his squad leader was killed. Taking charge of the squad, he continued his relentless tactics, using an enemy rifle and P-38 pistol to stop an organized enemy attack. During this entire action, he killed 12 and wounded two, personally captured four and assisted his platoon in taking 34 prisoners. By continuously ignoring enemy fire, and by his gallant courage and fighting spirit, he turned impending defeat into victory and helped his platoon complete its mission.
For the extraordinary heroism displayed by Sakato at Biffontaine, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
In the 1990s, there was a review of US military service records of Americans of Asian descent who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II. Sakato's award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. President Bill Clinton presented Sakato the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000. He died on December 2, 2015 in Denver, Colorado, at the age of 94.
The Sakato family has donated his Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin, which was included in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.
Richard Hawkins was born 25 May, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. He always enjoyed sports and took up boxing at a young age. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, and served as a machine gunner during World War II; towards the end of the war he assisted in the liberation of concentration camps. He met Doris Letourneau, who was a sergeant in the Army, while he was a corporal, in Germany, marrying in Erding, Germany 4 months later.
Hawkins was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 and jumped at the chance to join the Air Force shortly thereafter. Richard was stationed throughout the world during his tenure in the Air Force: from Patrick AFB in Florida, to Itami and Kadina AFB in Japan. He was stationed in Phan Rang for a year during the Vietnam War. He and his family moved to Colorado in 1975 upon his retirement.
He was always very athletic and won 4 USAF Golden Glove boxing Championships under the fighting name "the Irish Kid". He was inducted into the Colorado Umpires Hall of Fame. He completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree at Metropolitan State College in 1981.
Richard's family has donated his American Campaign Medal from World War II, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and a pair of Air Force cufflinks for inclusion in the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
David Bucknam grew up in the Denver area, and had a passion for the outdoors which led him to backpack, climb, and explore every corner of Colorado’s wilderness. He met his future wife, Susan, as a member of the Colorado Mountain Club Juniors, when they were both teenagers.
David served in the US Army Reserve with the 224th Engineering Battalion at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, while completing his studies at the University of Colorado, from 1969 until 1976. He taught junior high history and geography for several years, worked for the Colorado Land Use Commission, and then for over 24 years with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He retired as Director of the Office of Active and Inactive Mines. Under Dave’s leadership, Colorado’s Inactive Mine Reclamation Program and the Colorado Mine Safety and Training program were nationally recognized.
Bucknam's family donated his Sharpshooter badge with Rifle bar for inclusion in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.