A Pennsylvania boy, born in Charleroi, PA, Mitch grew up as the typical small-town American boy. His family had immigrated to the United States at the turn of the century and instilled in him a great love for God and his country, America. Mitch wrote, “I will never forget listening to the exciting stories of American history in my school when I was a child. I learned all about the men who gave their lives to make this country free.”
Along with what he learned from his parents and teachers, he carried with him values learned in the Boy Scouts while acquiring the rank of Eagle Scout and lived his life by the Boy Scout Oath, which reads:
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
He went off in 1936 to join the Marine Corps to seek adventure, serve his nation, and see the world. When war with Japan broke out in 1941, Mitch was a platoon sergeant in charge of a machine gun platoon with the 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. On October 23, 1942 on the Island of Guadalcanal, he and his 33 men held off approximately 3,000 Japanese soldiers in an attack that threatened Henderson Airfield. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Paige rose through the ranks of the Marine Corps after a battlefield commission in 1943, retiring as a full colonel in 1964.
After retirement he became involved in the scientific research and development of various miniature rockets and rocket weaponry. With orders from President Johnson, Mitch went to Vietnam in 1967 to test the weapon company’s 13mm handgun and 13mm Foliage Penetrating Signal Distress Kit in combat conditions. Further involvement with development of military items led to his invention of the “TUPIT” (The Universal Paige Inflatable Tent), the design of which was donated to U.S. Army laboratories.
Later in life, he served as an official liaison between the FBI and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to expose and prosecute imposters claiming to be Medal of Honor winners until his death in 2003.
The Eldred World War II Museum is proud to share the story of this American Hero. Visitors to the Museum can see Col. Paige’s Medal of Honor, Battlefield Artifacts, and a statue commissioned to remember his heroism. Visitors can also hear Col. Paige’s story in “his own words.”
Reflections of Col. Paige
Often I am asked the questions “Why, as a Marine, were you willing to put your life on the line for your county?” and “Were you afraid during your battles in the South Pacific in World War II?” The answers took me back to my childhood and to a small three room, country school in Pennsylvania where the children were so steeped in the legends and traditions of America that they literally felt themselves a part of our glorious heritage. Each day after the bell rang we marched into our classrooms to the rousing strains of one of John Philip Sousa’s marches played on the old, upright piano by one of our teachers. Then, as we stood by our desks, the teacher read a verse from the Bible and we pledged allegiance to the flag of our country, which hung in every classroom, before we sat down for our normal school day.
My parents had admonished me to listen and to learn all I could about this wonderful country, America! They had emigrated from Europe about the turn of the century, and they fully understood the importance of all the freedoms that so many took for granted. My mother never failed to take me to the patriotic parades where I saw the soldiers, sailors, and Marines march by with flags flying and bands playing. What a thrill and joy that was!
I will never forget listening to the exciting stories of American history in my school. I learned all about the men who gave their lives to make this country free. We had to memorize all the great documents such as the Gettysburg Address, John Adam’s magnificent, spine-tingling speech given on July 4, 1776, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, when our country was born. I can still recite it by memory to this day. Every American should and must be familiar with the trials and tribulations experienced by our great Founding Fathers as they established the very bedrock of the United States of America.
This history with its heroes is a truly necessary foundation for every American boy and girl. Without this knowledge, how can they understand why our nation became the great country that it is today? My parents and teachers instilled in me a devout love of God, family and country.
So, to respond to those who ask, why were you willing to put your life on the line? My response is, “my undying love of country, and my strong loyalty to the Marines fighting by my side gave me no choice but to fight on unswervingly throughout my battles, utilizing my God-given ability to make use of what I had been taught and what I learned.”
When I left home in 1936 to walk two-hundred miles to Baltimore, Maryland, the nearest recruiting station, to join the Marine Corps, my mother’s admonition to me was, as she handed me my sack lunch, “Trust in the Lord, son, and He will guide you always.” These words forever remained in my mind and whenever fear would overtake me I was comforted.
I will never forget sitting in a foxhole, bloody, burned, and injured the morning after our all night, fierce, hand-to-hand battle against an overwhelming Japanese force on Guadalcanal… I was alone except for hundreds of dead bodies of the enemy surrounding me. I emptied my pack looking for something to stop the bleeding from a bayonet wound and out fell my small Bible. Picking it up in my dirty, bloody, hands I could scarcely believe it when providentially it opened at Proverbs 3:5-6 and there were my mother’s words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
We honor you, Mitchell Paige.