United States Marine
Louis Cukela (Croatian: Luj Čukela, pronounced "chukela") (May 1, 1888 – March 19, 1956) was a United States Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy for the same action during the World War I Battle of Soissons. He was also awarded decorations from France, Italy, and his native Yugoslavia.
Louis Cukela, an ethnic Croat, was born in Split, Croatia (then Austria-Hungary). He was educated in the grade schools of Split, then attended the Merchant Academy and later, the Royal Gymnasium, both for two year courses. In 1913, Cukela immigrated to the United States and he and his brother settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
World War I
Seven months later, on January 31, 1917, with war raging in Europe and prior to the United States entry into the war, Cukela enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He became a member of the 66th Company, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.
After WW I
After the war, Cukela served at overseas bases in Haiti, Santo Domingo, the Philippines, and China, and at domestic stations in Quantico, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Mare Island, California; Washington, D.C.; Nashville, Indiana, and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
During World War II the major served at Norfolk and Philadelphia. He finally returned to the inactive retired list on May 17, 1946. Cukela served a few days less than 32 years of active duty in the Army and Marines.
Major Cukela had the following decorations and medals; Medal of Honor (Navy); Medal of Honor (Army); Silver Star; Victory Medal with Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector clasps and three silver stars; Haitian Campaign Medal, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one star; Yangtze Service Medal; American Defense Service Medal; American Area Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Médaille militaire; Légion d'honneur; two Croix de guerre with two palms; Croix de guerre with Silver Star; Croce al Merito di Guerra; Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia; and the French fourragère.
Medal of Honor citations
For extraordinary heroism while serving with the 66th Company, 5th Regiment, during action in Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, 18 July 1918. Sgt. Cukela advanced alone against an enemy strong point that was holding up his line. Disregarding the warnings of his comrades, he crawled out from the flank in the face of heavy fire and worked his way to the rear of the enemy position. Rushing a machine-gun emplacement, he killed or drove off the crew with his bayonet, bombed out the remaining part of the strong point with German hand grenades, and captured two machineguns and four men.
When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German hand grenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.
Family and origin
Louis Cukela was the son of George and Jovana (Bubrich) Cukela. His mother died in 1900. After he had immigrated to the U.S., his father and three sisters remained in Austria-Hungary.