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was a United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
sailor and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...
Born in 1853 in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...
, Thayer immigrated to the United States and joined the Navy from Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...
. By November 16, 1879, he was serving as a ship's corporal on the . On that day, while Constitution
was at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard
The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, often called the Norfolk Navy Yard and abbreviated as NNSY, is a U.S. Navy facility in Portsmouth, Virginia, for building, remodeling, and repairing the Navy's ships. It's the oldest and largest industrial facility that belongs to the U.S. Navy as well as the most...
in Virginia, he rescued a young shipmate from drowning. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor five years later, on October 18, 1884.
Thayer's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For rescuing from drowning a boy serving with him on the U.S.S. Constitution, at the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., 16 November 1879.
- List of Medal of Honor recipients during peacetime