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Matej Kocak
Army and Navy Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1882-12-03)December 3, 1882
Died October 4, 1918(1918-10-04) (aged 35)
Place of birth Gbely, Slovakia
Place of death KIA at Champagne, France
Place of burial Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial Romagne, France
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1907 - 1918
Rank Sergeant
Unit 5th Marine Regiment
Battles/wars Battle of Belleau Wood
Battle of Soissons
Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge
Awards Medal of Honor (1 Army, 1 Navy)
Silver Star (2)
Purple Heart

Matej Kocak (December 3, 1882 - October 4, 1918), a United States Marine Corps sergeant, was posthumously awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor,[1] for "heroism above and beyond the call of duty" in action against the enemy on July 18, 1918. Less than three months after his act of heroism he was killed in action by enemy gunfire in the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge in France while serving as a member of the 66th Company, 5th Regiment.


Matej Kocak was born in Egbell, Kingdom of Hungary (today Gbely, Slovakia), in 1882. He emigrated to the United States in 1906, and on October 16, 1907, enlisted in the Marine Corps in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began his 11-year Marine Corps career at Marine Barracks, League Island, Pennsylvania. He was discharged on October 16, 1911, at the expiration of his first enlistment but reenlisted in New York City on December 26, 1911, and was assigned to the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, New York, for duty. For some time he lived in Binghamton, New York, where large Slovak community used to live. He was member of Slovak Catholic Sokol in this town.

During his second enlistment, he served with the U.S. Army at Verz Cruz, Mexico, from April 30, to November 23, 1914. His enlistment ended on December 25, 1915, at Marine Barracks, New York, New York, but he again reenlisted and transferred to Marine Barracks, Naval Station, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The following year, he was ashore in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he participated in skirmishes with native bandits in Las Canitas, Azua Province, Dominican Republic. Appointed to the rank of corporal March 23, 1917, he then returned to the United States where he joined the 12th Company at Quantico, Virginia.

By December 31, 1917, he was again overseas, this time at St. Nazaire, France. The following January 23, 1918, he joined the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, and on June 1, 1918, was promoted to sergeant and then took part in the attack against the enemy in Bois De Belleau Bouresches sector northwest of Chateau Thierry, France. On July 18, 1918, he participated in the attack at Villers Cotteret Wood south of Soissons, France, and it was on this day he performed the act of heroism for which he was posthumously awarded both the Army and Navy Medal of Honor.

October 4, 1918, found him taking part in the Allied drive against the enemy in the Argonne Forest between the Moselle and Forest of Argonne in the vicinity of Blanchmont in Champagne, France, and in the attack against the enemy in the St. Mihiel sector in the vicinity of Thiaucourt, France. He was killed in action on October 4, 1918, and is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France.

Medal of Honor citations

Navy citation

For extraordinary heroism while serving with the Sixty-sixth Company, Fifth Regiment, Second Division, in action in the Viller-Cottertes section, south of Soissons, France, 18 July 1918. When a hidden machine gun nest halted the advance of his battalion, Sergeant Kocak went forward alone unprotected by covering fire and worked his way in between the German positions in the face of heavy enemy fire. Rushing the enemy position with his bayonet, he drove off the crew. Later the same day, Sergeant Kocak organized French colonial soldiers who had become separated from their company and led them in attacking another machine gun nest, which was also put out of action.

Army citation

When the advance of his battalion was checked by a hidden machine-gun nest, he went forward alone, unprotected by covering fire from his own men, and worked in between the German positions in the face of fire from enemy covering detachments. Locating the machine-gun nest, he rushed it and with his bayonet drove off the crew. Shortly after this he organized 25 French colonial soldiers who had become separated from their company and led them in attacking another machine-gun nest, which was also put out of action.

See also


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