Veteran’s Day 2023

By Matt Helget

As this week is Veterans Day, we pause to honor, thank, and remember our loved ones who have served. This post reflects on the individuals who went beyond the call of duty and were recognized by their NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) and officers for their deeds and recommended for and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Of the four divisions that trained at Camp Adair, which accounted for approximately 60,000 combat troops, nine soldiers would be awarded the country’s top military honor from three divisions (two from the 91st Division, two from the 104th Division, and five from the 96th Division). Though some of these men may not have trained at Camp Adair; these men would see some of the worst combat conditions fighting through the mountains of Italy, the Rhineland of Germany, and in the Pacific. Their commitment to their buddies in their unit led them to endure unthinkable conditions to save or protect their squad mates. Of these nine men, five would be awarded the medal posthumously.
As per the Congressional Medal of Honor website ( https://www.cmohs.org/ ), here are the pictures and citations for these men. We call them heroes, but they would say I was doing it for my buddies, friends, and adopted family so they could make it home. No matter the unit, they were “Bands of Brothers” who proved they were the Greatest Generation…

Roy W. Harmon, Sargent; COMPANY C, 362D INFANTRY, 91ST INFANTRY DIVISION

 

Fig.1 Roy Harmon

He was an acting squad leader when heavy machine-gun fire from enemy positions, well dug-in on commanding ground and camouflaged by haystacks, stopped his company’s advance and pinned down one platoon where it was exposed to almost certain annihilation. Ordered to rescue the beleaguered platoon by neutralizing the German automatic fire, he led his squad forward along a draw to the right of the trapped unit against three key positions which poured murderous fire into his helpless comrades. When within range, his squad fired tracer bullets in an attempt to set fire to the three haystacks which were strung out in a loose line directly to the front, 75, 150, and 250 yards away.

Realizing that this attack was ineffective, Sgt. Harmon ordered his squad to hold their position and voluntarily began a one-man assault. Carrying white phosphorus grenades and a submachine gun, he skillfully took advantage of what little cover the terrain afforded and crept to within 25 yards of the first position. He set the haystack afire with a grenade, and when two of the enemy attempted to flee from the inferno, he killed them with his submachine gun. Crawling toward the second machine-gun emplacement, he attracted fire and Figure 1: Roy Harmon was wounded; but he continued to advance and destroyed the position with hand grenades, killing the occupants. He then attacked the third machine gun, running to a small knoll, then crawling over ground which offered no concealment or cover. About halfway to his objective, he was again wounded. But he struggled ahead until within 20 yards of the machine-gun nest, where he raised himself to his knees to throw a grenade. He was knocked down by direct enemy fire. With a final, magnificent effort, he again arose, hurled the grenade and fell dead, riddled by bullets. His missile fired the third position, destroying it. Sgt. Harmon’s extraordinary heroism, gallantry, and self-sacrifice saved a platoon from being wiped out, and made it possible for his company to advance against powerful enemy resistance.

Oscar G. Johnson Jr., Private First Class; WEAPONS PLATOON, COMPANY B, 1ST BATTALION, 363D INFANTRY, 91ST INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 2: Oscar Johnson

He practically singlehandedly protected the left flank of his company’s position in the offensive to break the Germans’s Gothic line. Company B was the extreme left assault unit of the corps. The advance was stopped by heavy fire from Monticelli Ridge, and the company took cover behind an embankment. Sgt. Johnson, a mortar gunner, having expended his ammunition, assumed the duties of a rifleman. As leader of a squad of seven men he was ordered to establish a combat post 50 yards to the left of the company to cover its exposed flank. Repeated enemy counterattacks, supported by artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire from the high ground to his front, had by the afternoon of 16 September killed or wounded all his men.

Collecting weapons and ammunition from his fallen comrades, in the face of hostile fire, he held his exposed position and inflicted heavy casualties upon the enemy, who several times came close enough to throw hand grenades. On the night of 16-17 September, the enemy launched his heaviest attack on Company B, putting his greatest pressure against the lone defender of the left flank. In spite of mortar fire which crashed about him and machine-gun bullets which whipped the crest of his shallow trench, Sgt. Johnson stood erect and repulsed the attack with grenades and small-arms fire. He remained awake and on the alert throughout the night, frustrating all attempts at infiltration. On 17 September, 25 German soldiers surrendered to him. Two men, sent to reinforce him that afternoon, were caught in a devastating mortar and artillery barrage. With no thought of his own safety, Sgt. Johnson rushed to the shell hole where they lay half buried and seriously wounded, covered their position by his fire, and assisted a medical corpsman in rendering aid. That night he secured their removal to the rear and remained on watch until his company was relieved. Five companies of a German parachute regiment had been repeatedly committed to the attack on Company B without success. Twenty dead Germans were found in front of his position. By his heroic stand and utter disregard for personal safety, Sgt. Johnson was in a large measure responsible for defeating the enemy’s attempts to turn the exposed left flank.

From the 104th Division;
Willy F. James Jr., Private First Class; COMPANY G, 413 INFANTRY, 104th INFANTRY
DIVISION:

Figure 3: Willy James

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr. Distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism at the risk og his own life on 7 April 1945 in the Weser River Valley, in the vicinity of Lippoldsberg, Germany. On 7 April 1945, Company G, 413 Infantry, fought its way across the Weser River in order to establish a crucial bridgehead. The company then launched a fierce attack against the town of Lippoldsberg, possession of which was vital to securing and expanding the important bridgehead. Private First Class James was first scout of the lead squad in the assault platoon. The mission of the unit was to seize and secure a group of houses on the edge of town, a foothold from which the unit could launch an attack on the rest of the town.

Far out in front, Private First Class James was the first to draw enemy fire. His platoon leader came forward to investigate, but poor visibilty made it difficult for Private First Class James to point out enemy positions with any accuracy. Private First Class James volunteered to go forward to fully reconnoiter the enemy situation. Furious crossfire from enemy snipers and machineguns finally pinned down Private First Class James after making his way forward approximately 200 yards across open terrain. Lying in an exposed position for more than an hour, Private First Class James intrepidly observed the enemy’s positions which were given away by the fire Private First Class James was daringly drawing upon himself. Then, with utter indifference to his personal safety, in a storm of enemy small arms fire, Private First Class James made his way back more than 300 yards across open terrain under enemy observation to his platoon positions, and gave a full, detailed report on the enemy disposition. The unit worked out a new plan on maneuver based on Private First Class James’ information. The gallant soldier volunteered to lead a squad in an assault on the key house in the group that formed the platoon objective. He made his way forward, leading his squad in the assault on the strongly held enemy positions in the building and designating targets accurately and continuously as he moved along. While doing so, Private First Class James saw his platoon leader shot down by enemy snipers. Hastily designating and coolly orienting a leader in his place, Private First Class James instantly went to the aid of his platoon leader, exposing himself recklessly to the incessant enemy fire. As he was making his way across open ground, Private First Class James was killed by a burst from an enemy machine gun. Private First Class James’ extraordinary heroic action in the face of withering enemy fire provided the disposition of enemy troops to his platoon. Inspired to the utmost by Private First Class James’ self-sacifice, the platoon sustained the momentum of the assault and successfully accomplished its mission with a minimum of casualities. Private First Class James contributed very definitely to the success of his battalion in the vitally important combat operation of establishing and expanding a bridgehead over the Weser River. His fearless, self-assigned actions, far above and beyond the normal call of duty, exemplify the finest traditions of the American combat soldier and reflect with highest credit upon Private First Class James and the Armed Forces of the United States.

Cecil Bolton, First Lieutenant; COMPANY E, 413TH INFANTRY, 104TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 4: Cecil Bolton

As leader of the weapons platoon of Company E, 413th Infantry, on the night of 2 November 1944, he fought gallantly in a pitched battle which followed the crossing of the Mark River in Holland. When two machine guns pinned down his company, he tried to eliminate, with mortar fire, their grazing fire which was inflicting serious casualties and preventing the company’s advance from an area rocked by artillery shelling. In the moonlight it was impossible for him to locate accurately the enemy’s camouflaged positions; but he continued to direct fire until wounded severely in the legs and rendered unconscious by a German shell. When he recovered consciousness he instructed his unit and then crawled to the forward rifle platoon positions. Taking a two-man bazooka team on his voluntary mission, he advanced chest-deep in chilling water along a canal toward one enemy machine gun.

While the bazooka team covered him, he approached alone to within 15 yards of the hostile emplacement in a house. He charged the remaining distance and killed the two gunners with hand grenades. Returning to his men he led them through intense fire over open ground to assault the second German machine gun. An enemy sniper who tried to block the way was dispatched, and the trio pressed on. When discovered by the machine-gun crew and subjected to direct fire, 1st Lt. Bolton killed one of the three gunners with carbine fire, and his two comrades shot the others. Continuing to disregard his wounds, he led the bazooka team toward an 88-mm artillery piece which was having telling effect on the American ranks, and approached once more through icy canal water until he could dimly make out the gun’s silhouette. Under his fire direction, the two soldiers knocked out the enemy weapon with rockets. On the way back to his own lines he was again wounded. To prevent his men being longer subjected to deadly fire, he refused aid and ordered them back to safety, painfully crawling after them until he reached his lines, where he collapsed. First Lt. Bolton’s heroic assaults in the face of vicious fire, his inspiring leadership, and continued aggressiveness even through suffering from serious wounds contributed in large measure to overcoming strong enemy resistance and made it possible for his battalion to reach its objective.

         And from the 96th Division;
Ova A. Kelly, Private; COMPANY A, 382D INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 5: Ova Kelley

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Before dawn, near the edge of enemy-held Buri airstrip, the company was immobilized by heavy, accurate rifle and machine-gun fire from hostile troops entrenched in bomb craters and a ditch less than 100 yards distant. The company commander ordered a mortar concentration which destroyed one machine gun but failed to dislodge the main body of the enemy. At this critical moment Pvt. Kelley, on his own initiative, left his shallow foxhole with an armload of hand grenades and began a one-man assault on the foe. Throwing his missles with great accuracy, he moved forward, killing or wounding five men, and forced the remainder to flee in a disorganized route.

He picked up an M1 rifle and emptied its clip at the running Japanese, killing three. Discarding this weapon, he took a carbine and killed three more of the enemy. Inspired by his example, his comrades followed him in a charge which destroyed the entire enemy force of 34 enlisted men and two officers and captured two heavy and one light machine guns. Pvt. Kelley continued to press the attack onto an airstrip, where sniper fire wounded him so grievously that he died two days later. His outstanding courage, aggressiveness, and initiative in the face of grave danger was an inspiration to his entire company and led to the success of the attack.

Clarence B. Craft, Private First Class; COMPANY G, 2D BATTALION, 382D INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 6: Clarence Craft

He was a rifleman when his platoon spearheaded an attack on Hen Hill, the tactical position on which the entire Naha-Shuri-Yonaburu line of Japanese defense on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, was hinged. For 12 days our forces had been stalled, and repeated, heavy assaults by one battalion and then another had been thrown back by the enemy with serious casualties. With five comrades, Pfc. Craft was dispatched in advance of Company G to feel out the enemy resistance. The group had proceeded only a short distance up the slope when rifle and machine-gun fire, coupled with a terrific barrage of grenades, wounded three and pinned down the others.

Against odds that appeared suicidal, Pfc. Craft launched a remarkable one-man attack. He stood up in full view of the enemy and began shooting with deadly marksmanship wherever he saw a hostile movement. He steadily advanced up the hill, killing Japanese soldiers with rapid fire, driving others to cover in their strongly disposed trenches, unhesitatingly facing alone the strength that had previously beaten back attacks in battalion strength. He reached the crest of the hill, where he stood silhouetted against the sky while quickly throwing grenades at extremely short range into the enemy positions. His extraordinary assault lifted the pressure from his company for the moment, allowing members of his platoon to comply with his motions to advance and pass him more grenades. With a chain of his comrades supplying him while he stood atop the hill, he furiously hurled a total of two cases of grenades into a main trench and other positions on the reverse slope of Hen Hill, meanwhile directing the aim of his fellow soldiers who threw grenades from the slope below him. He left his position, where grenades from both sides were passing over his head and bursting on either slope, to attack the main enemy trench as confusion and panic seized the defenders. Straddling the excavation, he pumped rifle fire into the Japanese at point-blank range, killing many and causing the others to flee down the trench. Pursuing them, he came upon a heavy machine gun which was still creating havoc in the American ranks. With rifle fire and a grenade he wiped out this position. By this time the Japanese were in complete rout and American forces were swarming over the hill. Pfc. Craft continued down the central trench to the mouth of a cave where many of the enemy had taken cover. A satchel charge was brought to him, and he tossed it into the cave. It failed to explode. With great daring, the intrepid fighter retrieved the charge from the cave, relighted the fuse, and threw it back, sealing up the Japs in a tomb. In the local action, against tremendously superior forces heavily armed with rifles, machine guns, mortars, and grenades, Pfc. Craft killed at least 25 of the enemy; but his contribution to the campaign on Okinawa was of much more far-reaching consequence, for Hen Hill was the key to the entire defense line, which rapidly crumbled after his utterly fearless and heroic attack.

Edward J. Moskala, Private; COMPANY C, 383D INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 7: Edward Moskala

He was the leading element when grenade explosions and concentrated machine-gun and mortar fire halted the unit’s attack on Kakazu Ridge, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he charged 40 yards through withering, grazing fire and wiped out two machine-gun nests with well-aimed grenades and deadly accurate fire from his automatic rifle. When strong counterattacks and fierce enemy resistance from other positions forced his company to withdraw, he voluntarily remained behind with eight others to cover the maneuver. Fighting from a critically dangerous position for three hours, he killed more than 25 Japanese before following his surviving companions through screening smoke down the face of the ridge to a gorge where it was discovered that one of the group had been left behind, wounded.

Unhesitatingly, Pvt. Moskala climbed the bullet-swept slope to assist in the rescue, and, returning to lower ground, volunteered to protect other wounded while the bulk of the troops quickly took up more favorable positions. He had saved another casualty and killed four enemy infiltrators when he was struck and mortally wounded himself while aiding still another disabled soldier. With gallant initiative, unfaltering courage, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy, Pvt. Moskala gave his life in his complete devotion to his company’s mission and his comrades’ well-being. His intrepid conduct provided a lasting inspiration for those with whom he served.

Seymour W. Terry, Captain; COMPANY B, 382D INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 8: Seymour Terry

First Lt. Terry was leading an attack against heavily defended Zebra Hill when devastating fire from five pillboxes halted the advance. He braved the hail of bullets to secure satchel charges and white phosphorus grenades, and then ran 30 yards directly at the enemy with an ignited charge to the first stronghold, demolished it, and moved on to the other pillboxes, bombarding them with his grenades and calmly cutting down their defenders with rifle fire as they attempted to escape. When he had finished this job by sealing the four pillboxes with explosives, he had killed 20 Japanese and destroyed three machine guns. The advance was again held up by an intense grenade barrage which inflicted several casualties.

Locating the source of enemy fire in trenches on the reverse slope of the hill, 1st Lt. Terry, burdened by six satchel charges, launched a one-man assault. He wrecked the enemy’s defenses by throwing explosives into their positions and he himself accounted for 10 of the hostile troops killed when his men overran the area. Pressing forward again toward a nearby ridge, his two assault platoons were stopped by slashing machine-gun and mortar fire. He fearlessly ran across 100 yards of fire-swept terrain to join the support platoon and urge it on in a flanking maneuver. This thrust, too, was halted by stubborn resistance. First Lt. Terry began another one-man drive, hurling grenades upon the strongly entrenched defenders until they fled in confusion, leaving five dead behind them. Inspired by this bold action, the support platoon charged the retreating enemy and annihilated them. Soon afterward, while organizing his company to repulse a possible counterattack, the gallant company commander was mortally wounded by the burst of an enemy mortar shell. By his indomitable fighting spirit, brilliant leadership, and unwavering courage in the face of tremendous odds, 1st Lt. Terry made possible the accomplishment of his unit’s mission and set an example of heroism in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
Figure 8: Seymour Terry

Beauford T. Anderson, Technical Sargent; WEAPONS PLATOON, COMPANY A, 1ST BATTALION, 381ST INFANTRY, 96TH INFANTRY DIVISION:

Figure 9: Beauford Anderson

He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. When a powerfully conducted predawn Japanese counterattack struck his unit’s flank, he ordered his men to take cover in an old tomb, and then, armed only with a carbine, faced the onslaught alone. After emptying one magazine at point-blank range into the screaming attackers, he seized an enemy mortar dud and threw it back among the charging Japs, killing several as it burst. Securing a box of mortar shells, he extracted the safety pins, banged the bases upon a rock to arm them and proceeded alternately to hurl shells and fire his piece among the fanatical foe, finally forcing them to withdraw.

Despite the protests of his comrades, and bleeding profusely from a severe shrapnel wound, he made his way to his company commander to report the action. TSgt. Anderson’s intrepid conduct in the face of overwhelming odds accounted for 25 enemy killed and several machine guns and knee mortars destroyed, thus singlehandedly removing a serious threat to the company’s flank.