About Alexander Ramsey "Sandy" Nininger, Jr.
Alexander Ramsey Nininger Jr. (October 20, 1918 - January 12, 1942) was a Second Lieutenant of the Philippine Scouts who received the Medal of Honor during World War II.
Nininger, nicknamed "Sandy", was born in Gainesville, Georgia in 1918. He attended the United States Military Academy and graduated in May 1941. After being commissioned a Lieutenant he was sent to the Philippines and was attached to the 57th Infantry Regiment (United States) of the Philippine Scouts. After entering active service, according to Malcolm Gladwell, Nininger "wrote a friend to say that he had no feelings of hate, and did not think he could ever kill anyone out of hatred. He had none of the swagger of the natural warrior. He worked hard and had a strong sense of duty." A little known fact about Alexander Nininger is that he loved to draw pictures.
During the first month of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, Nininger's unit helped prepare American defenses in Bataan. After the Japanese launched their assault on Bataan, Nininger voluntarily joined another company because his unit was not yet engaged in combat.
Nininger was killed in action near Abucay, Bataan on January 12, 1942, just shy of his 24th birthday. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for leading an assault on Japanese positions. He was the first American army soldier to be so honored in the Second World War.
He is buried in Saint Dominic Parish Church Cemetery at Abucay, Bataan. He is also commemorated with cenopath memorials at ABMC Cemetery at Manila and in Arlington National Cemetery.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, U.S. Army.
Place and date: Near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, January 12, 1942.
Entered service at: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Born: Gainesville, Georgia.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Abucay, Bataan, Philippine Islands, on 12 January 1942. This officer, though assigned to another company not then engaged in combat, voluntarily attached himself to Company K, same regiment, while that unit was being attacked by enemy force superior in firepower. Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped a counterattack to regain part of position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, 2d Lt. Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers. Although wounded 3 times, he continued his attacks until he was killed after pushing alone far within the enemy position. When his body was found after recapture of the position, 1 enemy officer and 2 enemy soldiers lay dead around him.
Further honors and legacy
The First Division of Cadet Barracks at West Point is named in his honor. Nininger was the first United States soldier to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II. In 2006 an award was created in his honor by the Association of Graduates of the US Military Academy: The Alexander R. Nininger Award for Valor at Arms. It is given to West Point graduates who have displayed courage in combat and upheld the values of West Point. The first awardee was Major Ryan L. Worthan.
Two transport ships were named in honor of Nininger: T-APC-117 was launched as Alexander R. Nininger, Jr., (but ultimately renamed for another Medal of Honor recipient). The second was a Victory ship that was named USAT Lt. Alexander R. Nininger. His home town of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida also erected a statue in his honor. Alexander “Sandy” Nininger State Veterans’ Nursing Home is in Pembroke Pines, Florida, near Ft. Lauderdale. A rifle range at the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia "Nininger Range" is named in remembrance of Alexander Nininger.
As a high school student, Nininger was a member of Key Club International and annually that organization awards the "Sandy Nininger Award" to high school seniors throughout America who exemplify his character.
When a Key Club was organized at Fort Lauderdale High School in January 1936, Sandy Nininger became a charter member. He showed the same dedication to his work at that time as he would later show in battle. The school’s athletic program had deteriorated and only fifteen candidates went out for the school football team. Home games seldom attracted more than a hundred spectators.
Sandy decided to change the situation and as chairman of his Key Club’s entertainment committee, he arranged a dinner at the school cafeteria to which the town’s businessmen were invited. The Key Clubbers asked for help to improve athletics in their community, and within a few weeks had the backing of the people of Fort Lauderdale. The city sold the school board a tract of land two blocks long and one block wide. An electric power company donated poles. Electricians gave their services. The rest of the community loaned money for equipment and a grandstand. Finally, a special football game was played before 1500 spectators. Football receipts eventually paid for the field, the fence around it, another grandstand, and all athletic expenses. In the spring of 1942, at a convention of Florida Key Clubs, Kiwanian G. Harold Martin of Fort Lauderdale proposed the Sandy Nininger Medal as an award in his memory. As conceived by G.Harold, the medal was to be awarded to high school students who distinguished themselves by making the most of their opportunities, disregarding any school average or group standard. Thus, the award would recognize individuals in terms of their own abilities and weaknesses, opportunities and lack of opportunity.
In 1946, Key Club International formally named Lieutenant Alexander Nininger Jr. as the ideal Key Clubber. At the same time, the Sandy Nininger Medal was also adopted. This gold medal, with Sandy’s likeness superimposed upon it, is now given by Key Clubs throughout America to the high school graduate who most exemplifies the tradition begun by Sandy Nininger.
Since 1946, more than 520 Sandy Nininger awards have been presented by Key Clubs to outstanding students.