Remembering my hero, my father, on this Veterans Day.
He was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 345th Regiment, of the 87th Infantry Division in World War II, and fought with them during the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) and Rhineland (Siegfried Line) Campaigns. Among the medals we was awarded were the Bronze Star (for “Heroic or Meritorious Achievement”) and the Purple Heart (for “Military Merit”). In addition, he and the entire 2nd Battalion were awarded the very rare Presidential Unit Citation by authorization of President Harry S Truman.
“In the Name of the President of the United States”
for the 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment
The 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, distinguished itself by its extraordinary heroism, savage aggressiveness and indomitable spirit during its advance through the Siegfried Line and capture of Olzheim, Germany. From 5 through 9 February, 1945, the 2nd Battalion attacked violently and captured Olzheim in the face of extremely difficult terrain, fanatical enemy resistance, and devastating artillery fire. In this exemplary accomplishment, the battalion advanced 11,000 yards, smashing 6,000 yards through the Siegfried Line, neutralized many pillboxes and bunkers, and captured 366 enemy prisoners. The Brilliant tactical planning, rapid capture of assigned objectives and the conspicuous gallantry of each member of the 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
The Presidential Unit Citation is equivalent in medal hierarchy to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army. In order to receive it, a unit must exhibit “extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy” by displaying “such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.”
Daddy was a member of F Company of the 2nd Battalion / 345th Regiment, and on the morning of February 6, 1945 (my mother’s, his wife’s 20th birthday!), they were the first to break through the Line. The Company Historian summarized it this way: “They reached their objective a little before daylight. The company commander placed his men in positions to take the first pillbox by surprise. They were successful and before [the enemy] knew what was happening, the first pillbox was in ‘F’ Company’s hands.” A later Regimental History expanded on F Company’s attack this way: “Adverse weather conditions and unfavorable terrain made rapid progress difficult, but Company F put forth a vigorous effort to achieve the element of surprise. They confronted the first of the three pillboxes, which dominated an area that included the crossroads and Jagdhs, about 2000 yards southeast of Kobscheid. At dawn they worked to the rear of the pillbox and accepted the surrender of the occupants.”
One problem, though. In the U.S.Army’s 703-page book The Siegfried Line Campaign, they don’t give ANY mention WHATSOEVER to Daddy’s battalion, regiment, or division! But Company F of the 2nd Battalion was the first to break through the Line. And several of the men with whom my father served and with whom I spoke when I was researching his wartime experiences, were justifiably proud of that accomplishment and were hurt that the Army ignored them in this fashion. Nevertheless, Gentlemen, we all salute you.
Yes, my father was and is my hero — for this and many, many more reasons.
of my father’s wartime experiences.)