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Barfoot was born on June 15, 1919, in Edinburg, Mississippi. His grandmother was Choctaw, but Barfoot himself is not an official member of the Choctaw Nation. Although he was eligible, his parents had never enrolled him.
After enlisting in the Army from Carthage, Mississippi, in 1940 and completing his training, Barfoot served with the 1st Infantry Division in Louisiana and Puerto Rico. In December 1941, he was promoted to sergeant and re-assigned to the Headquarters Amphibious Force Atlantic Fleet in Quantico, Virginia, where he served until the unit was deactivated in 1943. He next joined the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, and was shipped to Europe.
During the Italian Campaign, Barfoot participated in a series of amphibious landings: the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno in September, and finally the landings at Anzioin late January 1944. His unit pushed inland from Anzio, and by May 1944 had reached the town of Carano. They set up defensive positions and Barfoot conducted patrols to scout the German lines. When his company was ordered to attack on the morning of May 23, Barfoot, now a technical sergeant, asked for permission to lead a squad. Because of the patrols he had made, he knew the terrain and the minefield which lay in front of the German position. He advanced alone through the minefield, following ditches and depressions, until he came within a few yards of a machine gun on the German flank. After taking out the gun with a hand grenade, he entered the German trench and advanced on a second machine gun, killing two soldiers and capturing three others. When he reached a third gun, the entire crew surrendered to him. Others also surrendered and Barfoot captured a total of seventeen German soldiers. He had killed 8.
When the Germans launched an armored counterattack later in the day, Barfoot disabled one tank with a bazooka, then advanced into enemy-held territory and destroyed an abandoned German artillery piece. He returned to his own lines and helped two wounded soldiers from his squad to the rear.
Barfoot was subsequently commissioned as a second lieutenant. His division moved into France and by September was serving in the Rhone valley. Barfoot learned he would be awarded the Medal of Honor and chose to have the presentation ceremony in the field, so that his soldiers could attend. He was formally presented with the medal on September 28, 1944, in Épinal, France, by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch.
Barfoot is one of the country's last living World War II veterans who received the Medal of Honor. He also served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War and earned a Purple Heart. He reached the rank of colonel before retiring from the Army. He currently lives in Henrico County, Virginia, near his daughter. On October 9, 2009, the portion of Mississippi Highway 16 which runs from Carthage through his hometown of Edinburg to the border between Leake and Neshoba counties was named the "Van T. Barfoot Medal Of Honor Highway." (Source: Wikipedia)