Richard Durkee was born on September 14, 1918, in Hornell, New York. Before enlisting in the Army in September 1940 in Elmira, New York, Durkee was a middleweight boxing champion and a semi-professional baseball player. As the commanding officer of Company A of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, he led 30 soldiers in a rare bayonet charge against German forces on January 5, 1945, that caught them by surprise and allowed the GI's to secure their objective. Durkee went on to fight in the Korean War and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage in the face of a hostile enemy. He singlehandedly attacked an enemy position and continued his charge even after he had used all of his ammunition, using his bayonet to neutralize enemy forces. This attack inspired the rest of the soldiers to follow suit and the unit secured their objective.