Louis Cukela was born on 1 May 1888 in Split (Spalato), Croatia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later of Yugoslavia). He emmigrated to the United States in 1913 and enlisted a year later in the U.S. Army from the state of Minnesota, reaching the rank of Corporal before being honorably discharged in 1916. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 1917 and, after the United States entered World War I later in the year, was sent to France with the Sixty-Sixth Company, Fifth Marine Regiment. While in France, he participated in combat with his unit and was promoted to Sergeant. On 18 July 1918, during action in the Forest de Retz, near Viller-Cottertes, France, he single-handedly captured a German machine gun position and several of its crew. For his "extraordinary heroism" on this occasion, Sergeant Cukela was awarded the Medal of Honor by both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army.
Twice wounded in subsequent fighting, Cukela received a field appointment in September 1918 to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve and, in the Spring of 1919, was given an officer's commission in the regular Marine Corps. That Summer, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and in November reported to the First Provisional Marine Brigade in Haiti. Later serving with the Second Brigade Marines in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he was promoted in September 1921 to Captain. In November 1923, Captain Cukela returned to the United States and was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia. He went to China in 1927 for duty with the Marines' Third Brigade, remaining there into 1929, when he was ordered to return to the United States for service at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C.
Captain Cukela reported in September 1931 to the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia. This was followed by duty as Company Commander with the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He returned in 1935 to the Norfolk Navy Yard, remaining there for the next five years. Cukela retired in June 1940, receiving promotion at that time to the rank of Major on the retired list. He was called back to active duty before United States entry into World War II and served at the Navy Yards at Norfolk, Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In May 1946, he was placed on the inactive retired list. Major Louis Cukela died on 19 March 1956 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
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