A listing of famous Minnesotans who were nationally recognized for their military accomplishments. This list includes both men and women who served for our country.

  • Walden Lee “Pug” Ainsworth (Minneapolis, MN)
    Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. Awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit.
  • Ralph Warner Hammett (Mankato, MN)
    Hammett is a World War II Veteran who later on became a “Monuments Man”, a group charged with finding and preserving the art, history and architecture that was lost or stolen during World War II. During WW II, he established a card catalog to list each monument, art collection, chateau and library. In his late 40s he took leave from the University of Michigan to join the newly founded Monuments Men team. In the film “The Monuments Men”, his role was played by Bill Murray.
  • Milburn H. Henke (Hutchinson, MN)
    WWII Soldier; Was the first U.S. Soldier to step on shore in Europe during WWII (Belfast Harbor, North Ireland). His photograph later appeared in practically every newspaper in the U.S. Served with the 34th Infantry “Red Bull” Division.
  • Elizabeth Strohfus (Fairbault, MN)
    Strohfus was a WWII pilot who received two Congressional Gold Medals, one for her service as a WASP and the second for her service in the Civil Air Patrol. She was also one of only 1,074 women to earn their silver wings.
  • Leo K. Thorsness (Walnut Grove, MN)
    A Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Thorsness was shot down over North Vietnam on April 30, 1967 and held captive at the Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton.” for almost six years. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on Oct. 15, 1973 for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during his air battles over Vietnam.
  • John Vessey (Minneapolis, MN)
    Appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Ronald Reagan in 1982. He served from 1982-1985. When he retired in 1985, he was the longest serving active duty member in the United States Army. He fought in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam War. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.



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