January 4, 1945: Isadore S. Jachman Dies Fighting

.Jachman

For some American soldiers in World War II, the War was not simply a matter of foreign affairs, but intensely personal.  That was certainly the case with Staff Sergeant Isadore S. Jachman  of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 17th Airborne Division.  His family had come from Germany to America when he was two.  The Nazis murdered several of his relatives, including six uncles and aunts.  Maybe that was part of his motivation when the chips were down for his unit seventy-seven years ago.  His Medal of Honor citation tells us what happened:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at Flamierge, Belgium, on 4 January 1945, when his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire, 2 hostile tanks attacked the unit, inflicting heavy casualties. S/Sgt. Jachman, seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover and with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one and forced both to retire. S/Sgt. Jachman’s heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack, reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the parachute infantry. (more…)

Published in: on January 4, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 4, 1945: Isadore S. Jachman Dies Fighting  
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POW Servant of God’s Body Coming Home

kapaun

 

 

His soul has been in his eternal home since his death.

In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play Mass with his younger brother. (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on POW Servant of God’s Body Coming Home  
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March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor

Original Army Medal of Honor

On March 25, 1865 Secretary of War Stanton made the first awards of the Medal of Honor.  Amazingly enough, the United States had no medals for members of its armed forces who distinguished themselves in battle at the beginning of the Civil War.  General in Chief Winfield Scott, who ironically had been awarded  gold medals by Congress in 1814 and 1848, was adamantly against officers and men receiving medals for valor, viewing them as a European affectation and that it was insulting to give special recognition for courage, since officers and men had a duty to be brave and giving anyone a medal for simply doing his duty was preposterous in his opinion.  Medals had been used during the American Revolution but not in following conflicts, other than Congress voting a special gold medal, except in the Mexican War during which Congress authorized the issuance of certificates of merit. (more…)

Published in: on March 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor  
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July 18, 1918: Marine Mustang From Croatia Earns Medal of Honor

“I am Cukela. I attack.”

Louis Cukela immigrated to the US from what is now Croatia in 1913 at the age of 25.  His English would always be somewhat broken, but that did not prevent from becoming a Marine legend.  Initially he served in the US Army as a trooper, being honorably discharged in 1916.  He enlisted in the Marines on January 31, 1917.  By July 18, 1918 he was a Gunnery Sergeant with the Fifth Marines.  He would come out of the War with a Second Lieutenant’s Commission and a chestful of medals, including the Medal of Honor, four Silver Star citations;  from France he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, the Médaille militaire and the Croix de guerre 1914–18 with two palms and one silver star;  Italy decorated him with the Croce al Merito di Guerra;   and the newly formed state of Yugoslavia remembered their native son after the War with the Commander’s Cross of the Royal Order of the Crown of Yugoslavia.

He fought in every engagement in which the Fifth Marines were involved in France.  He earned the Medal of Honor on July 18, 1918 near Villers-Cotterets, France.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation:

 

 

When his company, advancing through a wood, met with strong resistance from an enemy strong point, Sgt. Cukela crawled out from the flank and made his way toward the German lines in the face of heavy fire, disregarding the warnings of his comrades. He succeeded in getting behind the enemy position and rushed a machinegun emplacement, killing or driving off the crew with his bayonet. With German handgrenades he then bombed out the remaining portion of the strong point, capturing 4 men and 2 damaged machineguns.

Technically he received two Medals of Honor, one from the Army and one from the Navy.  Cukela stayed in the Corps, rising to the rank of Major and retiring in 1946.  He became famous in the Corps for his eccentricities, his mangling of English and his rough and ready humor.  Go here to read more about him.  He was buried with full military honors at Arlington in 1956, his beloved wife joining him a few months after his death.  Apparently there was a lot to love about the old warrior.

Published in: on July 18, 2018 at 11:59 pm  Comments Off on July 18, 1918: Marine Mustang From Croatia Earns Medal of Honor  
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July 18, 1863: Assault on Fort Wagner

We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!

Response of the parents of Colonel Robert Shaw as to whether they wished to have his body exhumed and brought back to Boston.

The 155th anniversary of the second assault on Fort Wagner, the Confederate fort on Morris Island, guarding entry into Charleston Harbor, made immortal by the film Glory (1989) depicting the attack of the 54th Massachusetts.  The 54th sustained the following casualties out of 600 men:  29 killed, including the commander of the regiment, 25 year old Colonel Robert Shaw, 15 captured, 52 missing in action and 149 wounded.  The white regiments that participated in the attack also sustained heavy losses.  A total of 1515 Union casualties against approximately 174 Confederate casualties.   Ironically, Fort Wagner would be abandoned by the Confederates in September, it being too difficult to keep the Fort supplied in the teeth of a continual Union bombardment, and the water supply in the Fort being contaminated by the number of corpses in the soil surrounding the fort from the two unsuccessful assaults.

The courage shown by the men of the 54th put the lie to the fairly common belief, completely at variance with history, that black men could not make good soldiers.  The 54th would go on to fight in several more battles during the course of the War.

Sergeant William Carney of the 54th earned a Medal of Honor in the assault.  Despite being wounded several times he placed the national flag on the parapet of Fort Wagner, and when the 54th retreated he brought back the flag in spite of being wounded twice more.  He told the men he gave the flag to:  “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!” (more…)

Published in: on July 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 18, 1863: Assault on Fort Wagner  
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July 31, 1943: Death of Private Petrarca

Hero

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

It is a trite but true observation that war brings out the very worst and the very best in men.  In the category of very best, sacrificial courage has to be high on the list.  Such was displayed by Private Frank J. Petrarca on three occasions in the bitter fighting on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.  One of ten children he had attended parochial school before following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a carpenter.  In October 1940 he enlisted in the Army.  On July 27, 1943 he began displaying a courage that was rare even in the Pacific theater where, as Admiral Nimitz stated, valor was a common virtue.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation: (more…)

Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Andrew’s Raid

One of the more colorful raids of the Civil War, known as Andrew’s Raid and The Great Locomotive Chase,  occurred on April 12, 1862 in northern Georgia.  James J. Andrews, a Kentucky civilian and secret agent for the Union, convinced Major General Ormsby Mitchell, commanding military troops in Middle Tennessee to authorize a raid into northern Georgia to steal a Confederate locomotive and then to ride it North, cutting the telegraph links between Chattanooga and Atlanta, and destroy train tracks and bridges.  Mitchell planned the raid in tandem with a Union move on Chattanooga.  Andrews recruited 22 men from three Ohio regiments and another civilian, William Hunter Campbell.  The raiders were ordered to travel in civilian attire in small groups behind enemy lines and rendezvous at Marietta, Georgia on April 10, 1862.

All but two of the raiders reached Marietta on time.  On April 12, 1862 they captured the locomotive The General and began to steam North.  Unfortunately for the raiders, the conductor of The General, William Allen Fuller, was a very determined man, immediately beginning to pursue the raiders, by foot, railcar, and then by commandeering locomotives.  He spread the news that Yankee raiders had stolen The General.  Andrews and his raiders ran out of fuel and abandoned The General 18 miles south of Chattanooga.  All the raiders were caught in the next two weeks. (more…)

Published in: on April 5, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Andrew’s Raid  
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POW Servant of God To Receive Medal of Honor

On April 11, 2012 Father Emil Kapaun, the POW Servant of God, will receive posthumously this nation’s highest decoration for heroism, the Medal of Honor:

The Pentagon is expected to invite several of Kapaun’s fellow former prisoners of war to attend the ceremony. They survived horrific conditions in the prison camp after they were captured in the first battles against the Chinese Army in late 1950, shortly after China entered the Korean War.

All of these soldiers, now in their mid- or upper 80s, have lobbied for more than 60 years to persuade the Army to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor.

They also have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to elevate him to sainthood. The Vatican recently completed an extensive investigation and is considering the matter.

Soldiers like Mike Dowe, William Funchess, Robert Wood, Robert McGreevy and Herb Miller, most of them Protestants, have spent decades writing letters or giving interviews describing repeated acts of bravery by Kapaun. They said he repeatedly ran through machine gun fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety during the first months of the war.

They said his most courageous acts followed in a prisoner of war camp, where Kapaun died in May 1951. They said he saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives using faith and the skills honed on his family’s farm near Pilsen. (more…)

Rodger Young

Born on April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio, Rodger Young had a happy childhood until in a basketball game in high school he received a head injury which affected his hearing and his eyesight.  He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year because he could not hear the teachers and could not see the blackboards.

A small man physically, along with his hearing and eyesight problems, Young would have seemed to have been totally unsuited to be a soldier.  Nevertheless, Young joined the National Guard in Ohio in 1938.  He made a good soldier and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was assigned to Company B of the 148th Infantry Regiment.  With the coming of World War II his regiment was assigned to fight on New Georgia.

Shortly before his unit arrived in New Georgia Young took a voluntary demotion to private.  He was by now almost completely deaf and his eyesight was worse.  With these disabilities his commanding officer wanted to send Young to the hospital.  Young pleaded his case to remain with his unit with such passion, that he was allowed to stay with Company B.

A week after his unit landed in New Georgia, Young was part of a 20 man patrol near Munda that ran into a Japanese ambush.  What he did next earned Young the Medal of Honor and cost him his life.  Here is the text of his Medal of Honor citation: (more…)