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Philip C. Katz; Won Medal of Honor in WWI

November 05, 1987|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

Philip C. Katz, the oldest holder of the nation's highest award for bravery, has died in San Francisco, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The modest corporal who saved the life of a man who was to become his neighbor was 99 when he died last Thursday, a month short of his 100th birthday.

Katz was 30 when he won the Medal of Honor for rescuing a wounded comrade during World War I.

Heroic Act in France

He was a corporal in the 363rd Infantry, dubbed "San Francisco's Own," on Sept. 26, 1918, when he was crediting with saving the life of Phil Page near Eclisfontaine, France.

Page came home to live only a few blocks from his benefactor.

"Voluntarily crossing an area swept by heavy machine gun fire, he advanced to where the wounded soldier lay and carried him to a place of safety," Katz's citation said.

Katz recalled the exploit in an interview last year with the Sacramento Bee. "He begged me to go back," Katz said of Page. "That 200 yards was more like two miles. Page was a little runt. Short, but he was built out of brick. Felt like two tons."

He said Page recovered from his wounds and later died of cancer.

"I used to bump into him occasionally, but we weren't close friends," Katz said.

The Medal of Honor was created by Congress in 1861 and ranks second in longevity only to the Badge of Military Merit (now the Purple Heart and issued to those wounded in action) created by George Washington in 1782.

Medal's Benefits

Holders of the medal receive a monthly pension, invitations to presidential inaugurations every four years and entitlement of salutes from any member--officer or enlisted--of the nation's armed forces.

Beyond that, Katz and California's 35 other Medal of Honor winners were accorded a singular honor four years ago.

All were given special auto license plates that said "Congressional Medal of Honor" on them.

Because he was the eldest of those heroes, Katz received plate No. 1.

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