Very few people know who Col. Ola Mize is and that is so sad since he remains Alabama's most highly decorated soldier and one of America's, having earned the Medal of Honor and a truckload of other medals.
A portrait of Col. Mize hangs in the lobby of the VA Hospital in Birmingham.
Ola Mize was born to sharecroppers in Guntersville, my hometown, in 1931. He dropped out of school to work in support of his family. Ola lost an eye in an accident as a young boy and was underweight. Yet, his ambition was to join the Army.
After several rejections, he conned the examining doctor by masking his blind eye and sneaked into the Army anyway. He volunteered for combat in Korea and ended up in heavy fighting as a sergeant.
In May of 1953, his unit was overrun by hordes of thousands of Chinese. With all the officers killed, Mize took command, storming into enemy lines and ended up personally killing 65 enemy soldier's that night. Despite having several serious wounds, Mize walked away and was sent home where President Eisenhower awarded him the Medal of Honor and he was commissioned to the rank of colonel.
Mize went on to serve three tours in Vietnam as a senior Special Forces commander (Green Beret) earning yet another Silver Star for bravery under fire.
After retirement, he returned to Southside, Alabama, where I got to know him as a faithful member of the Riverview Baptist Church where my in-laws were members.
Mize died in 2014 and was honored with a flyover of military aircraft and a tribute in the New York Times. His medals are on display in the Guntersville museum.
James W. Anderson