Colonel William A. "Ironman" Lee — most often remembered for his exploits as a gunnery sergeant — earned three Navy Crosses between 1930 and 1932 during a single deployment to Nicaragua as a Marine tasked with leading that country's national guard against violent rebels.


U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino's Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

The Marines and Nicaraguans then conducting a fighting withdrawal back to their base, engaging the enemy multiple times and defeating more ambushes.

Lee was awarded his third and final Navy Cross for his actions while Chesty Puller was awarded his second.

Lee would go on to fight in China during the lead up to World War II. Soon after the war broke out, he and his men were captured by Japanese forces and taken as prisoners of war and tortured. Lee survived the ordeal and continued serving in the Marine Corps until his retirement in 1950. He died of cancer in 1998.