Albert Schwab: Tulsa’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient

Born in 1920, Albert Schwab moved to Tulsa as a young child. After attending TU for just one semester, he went to work for an oil company, and in 1939, married a Tulsa girl, Kathryn Ellen Schlosser. Three years later, the couple welcomed a baby boy, Steven Albert.

Albert Schwab as a young man in Tulsa athletic gearBut World War II demanded fresh troops and in 1944, Albert, who was both athletic and plucky, joined the Marines. Unfortunately, less than a year later, the young Tulsan became a fallen hero—earning both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart in the Pacific Theater.

Private First Class Schwab was a flamethrower with Headquarters Company, First Batallion, 5th Marines. His unit had landed in Okinawa as part of the violent 82-day invasion of the Ryuku Islands. Because it was so ferocious, the Battle of Okinawa was also called “the Typhoon of Steel.” Combined casualties surpassed 150,000, including 50,000 Americans.

When his company was pinned down in a valley under heavy machine gun fire, athletic Schwab scaled a cliff with his heavy flame-thrower backpack and gun. He attacked not one, but two assailants with his flame-thrower before falling with a fatal wound. A portion of his Medal of Honor commendation provides the following details:

“Private First Class Schwab elected to continue his one-man assault despite a diminished supply of fuel for his flamethrower. Cool and indomitable, he moved forward in the face of the direct concentration of hostile fire, relentlessly closed the enemy position and attacked. Although severely wounded by a final vicious blast from the enemy weapon, Private First Class Schwab had succeeded in destroying two highly strategic Japanese gun positions during a critical stage of the operation and, by his dauntless, single-handed efforts, materially furthered the advance of his company. His aggressive initiative, outstanding valor and professional skill throughout the bitter conflict sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

Albert Schwab's grave siteAn unpretentious grave in Tulsa’s Memorial Park is the final resting place for Albert Schwab, Tulsa’s only Congressional Medal of Honor honoree. More than 60 years later, his name is not necessarily a household word here in Oklahoma. However, far across the ocean in Okinawa, as many as 28,000 American servicemen and their families indeed know his name because they live and train at Camp Schwab, a large Marine base named in his honor. And, thus, his courageous example still lights the path of those who come after him.