CPL Quiren M. Groessl

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Quiren M. Groessl, a German-American from Algoma, Wisconsin, described the early morning of May 28, 1918. Groessl had lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Army, then served as a corporal in the 5th Wisconsin Regiment at the Western Front after the United States entered World War I.

The relative calm of that May morning soon vanished, and the day turned out to be a horrific one for Groessl. The German artillery bombardment turned more fierce, killing the other soldiers in his trench. Seeming to appear from nowhere, German soldiers captured him in the trench and began marching him across No Man’s Land toward the German lines.

When he attempted to escape, Groessl was bayoneted in the back by one of his three captors. Wounded and angry, Groessl managed to kill two of the Germans. The third German readied to bayonet Groessl yet again but suddenly fell dead — apparently killed by an artillery explosion.

Free of his captors but unable to stand because of his wounds, Groessl during the course of the next several hours rolled over repeatedly, hoping he was headed in the right direction, toward the American lines.

“I managed to get to a sitting position, but how I managed to get to my feet with the use of my arms is something I am unable to explain,” he later wrote. “Staggering drunkenly, my head hanging down and my arms hanging helplessly at my sides, I fell to the ground trying to cross the parapet in front of our trench.”

“Even before I could cry out for help, the lookouts in our trench had alerted the others who laid down a covering fire. Two of our boys crawled partially out of the trench, grabbed me by the blouse and pulled me in into the trench.”

Groessl spent several months in hospitals, first in France then back in the United States, recovering from his wounds. In September 1918 he was recruited to give speeches for the Liberty Bonds campaign, raising money for the war effort. He was discharged from the Army in January 1919.

In September 1927, revisiting the scene in France of his dramatic capture by the Germans, Groessl narrowly escaped being wounded yet again. Walking along a field where the trenches had been, Groessl and his brother Joe avoided, by seconds, the detonation by French demolition engineers of ordnance left over from the war.

Talk about a ‘big moment.’ This was it, nearly getting killed on almost the exact spot where I had been wounded ten years before,” he wrote.

Groessl recounted his war-time experiences in a vivid memoir, Big Boy: A Diary of World War I, which he wrote in 1966 at the age of seventy. It is available at the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.

We honor you, Quiren M. Groessl.

(#Repost @A Glimpse from WWI)

GEN Lucian Truscott

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Some men are born to serve in the Armed Forces. Sometimes it’s familial tradition for sons to follow in a father’s footsteps, or a grandfather’s. In other cases, young men, at a very early age, dream of doing nothing else. And some men are drawn to service not by birthright or innate desire, but by circumstances in which they find themselves or their country.

Men in the latter category can become surprisingly effective, adapting to the service’s rigors and demands as if they were, in fact, born to it.

One such man is Lucian Truscott, considered to be one of the finest Generals who ever served in World War II. Even though he didn’t attend West Point, the prestigious military academy, and had no battlefield experience at the outset of the war, Truscott’s less obvious talents soon became clear, and he proved himself an ideal candidate for top honors as a military commander.

He first entered the war as a Colonel, as he had signed up during World War 1, feeling honor bound to serve his country. But when that war ended, he had a decision to make: realistically, would his lack of experience on the field impinge on his chances for advancement? But he stayed, and when World War Two arrived, he was made Colonel.

Truscott turned out to have a skill that proved very valuable to his leaders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower. He could play, and knew a great deal about, polo. This gave him a connection to Lord Mountbatten, who was leading forces in Europe at the time.

Eisenhower sent Truscott overseas with a mandate to forge a stronger bond between the two Allies. Truscott and others watched the Dieppe battle led by Mountbatten in 1942, and though it was a somewhat disastrous raid, but learned a lot about what not to do.

He was subsequently determined to use what he had learned at Dieppe to reduce casualties and death among his men when he finally began planning raids and battles himself.

His first mission as a General, in 1942, was when he led Operation Torch in Morocco. It was considered a success and earned Truscott a second star. But he felt it had been less than wonderful, too many men lost their lives. Yet it led Eisenhower to appoint him Deputy Commander.

Truscott always tried to think of strategic ways to reduce casualties. Because he believed that the enemy was in superior shape, he insisted his men undergo brutal rounds of personal training before heading into battle. They got into such great physical shape that they went into fighting doing what the men fondly dubbed, “the Truscott Trot.” But it helped, and the men grew fiercely loyal to him.

Truscott’s dedication to his men, as much as his training and experience, led to him becoming one of the most in demand generals leading forces into battle all over Europe.

When sent to Italy, he was not happy with one General, in particular, Mark Clark, who had rerouted troops in an attempt to seize Rome. Truscott felt that the attack was Clark’s vainglorious attempt to stroke his own ego, demonstrating little regard for the well being of the men, or the bigger picture of the war’s goals. He did not wish to participate in what he deemed to be an exercise in ego. Ultimately, Truscott led VI Corps in the invasion of Southern France.

In May, 1945, Truscott was asked to speak at a ceremony at the Sicily Rome American Cemetery in Italy. When he rose to stand by the dais, Truscott turned his back on his listeners so he could speak directly to the dead. Then, as World War II cartoonist Bill Mauldin recalled, he apologized to the fallen men buried there.

He would not speak of “the glorious dead,” Mauldin commented, as so many other military leaders did. He found no glory in row after row of white crosses giving mute testimony to dead soldiers, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties.

According to Mauldin, Truscott then made a promise. That if he ever met any old people, particularly old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. It was, he said, the least he could do.

We honor you, Lucian Truscott.

(#Repost @War Stories)

PVT Sabatino Abilio

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I am writing this narrative in behalf of my father who served his country in World War One. At this point and time, I can only relate the story that he told me as a child. He told me that he fought in World War One, in France, in the Campaign of Chateau Thierry. He was in the Battle of Verdun where he was wounded in the right leg. As a consequence, he laid on the battlefield among many, many dead and wounded soldiers. He laid there for three days before they came to pick up the wounded and the dead. this is as far as the story goes in my recollection, and unfortunately I do not know the exact date that he was wounded. I do know that my father walked with a limp his entire life as a result of his injury.

He was a very, very shy and humble man and to me it is fitting that he should be remembered for his service.

We honor you, Sabatino Abilio.

(Written by his daughter: Angelina LoSasso. #Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)

MAJ Samuel Woodfill

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He was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, in January 1883. Accounts say his father, John H. Woodfill, was a veteran of the Mexican War and had served with the 5th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. Woodfill reportedly became a good shot by age 10 and often sneaked off to go hunting. He enlisted in the Army in 1901 and was sent to the Philippines. The United States had won control of the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War. Before that war, some natives of the Philippines were already waging guerrilla warfare against the Spanish. The guerrillas supported the American troops, assuming the United States would grant them independence. The US won but did not grant the islands independence. That led to a prolonged guerrilla war against the U.S.

Later, Woodfill was stationed in Alaska during an American show of force when the US was involved in a border dispute with Canada and England over the Alaska-Yukon area. Woodfill apparently was stationed first in Fort Thomas in 1912 and 2 years later was among troops from Fort Thomas sent to the Mexican border in an attempt to protect Texas, New Mexico and Arizona from attacks by Mexican bandits. At the time Mexico was involved in a civil war. The troops, including Woodfill, eventually returned to Fort Thomas. While back in Fort Thomas, Woodfill met and on Christmas Day 1917 married Lorena Wiltshire.

An account in 1942 said Mrs. Woodfill was a direct descendent of Daniel Boone. The Woodfills later owned a house at 1334 Alexandria Pike in Fort Thomas. The year he married, Woodfill was promoted to Lieutenant. That was the rank he held in April 1918 when he and others at Fort Thomas were dispatched to Europe. They were part of the American Expeditionary Force headed by General Pershing to fight in World War I.

Woodfill was a member of the Army’s 60th Infantry, Fifth Division, which was sent to the Meuse-Argonne front in France in the fall of 1918. The battle there began in September and lasted 45 days, costing thousands of lives on both sides.

Woodfill earned his place in American military history on the morning of October 12, 1918, near Cunel, France. While Woodfill and his men were attempting to move through a thick fog, German artillery and machine gun fire pinned them down. Followed by two of his men, Woodfill went about 25 yards ahead toward a German-held machine gun emplacement. Leaving his two men where they were, Woodfill moved alone, working his way around the end of the machine gun emplacement.

The machine gun was firing, but Woodfill was not hit. When he was within about 10 yards of the Germans, the gun stopped firing and Woodfill could see three German soldiers. Woodfill shot all three. A fourth German in the gun pit – an officer – rushed Woodfill. In a hand-to-hand struggle, Woodfill killed the officer. Woodfill then ordered the rest of his patrol ahead, but they soon encountered another machine gun.

Woodfill ordered a charge, shooting several of the Germans, capturing three others alive and silencing the machine gun. A few minutes later Woodfill and his men discovered another machine gun emplacement. Again Woodfill charged the emplacement, shooting and killing five German soldiers with rifle fire. He then drew his pistol and jumped into the machine gun pit. Unable to kill the enemy with his pistol, Woodfill grabbed a pick that was in the pit and clubbed the two German soldiers to death. Exhausted and suffering from the effects of exposure to mustard gas – a chemical explosive shot by German artillery -Woodfill safely made it back to American lines. He was hospitalized at Bordeaux and saw no further action during the war.

For his courage in that one morning of service, Woodfill received the Medal of Honor – American’s greatest military honor – in ceremonies at Chaumont, France, on February 9, 1919. General Pershing presented the medal to Woodfill. The French government decorated him with the Croix de Guerre with palm and made him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. The Italian government presented Woodfill with its Meriot di Guerra, and the government of Montenegro honored Woodfill with its Cross of Prince Danilo, First Class. Woodfill also was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Woodfill was found dead at the Indiana farm on August 13, 1951, at the age of 68. He apparently had died of natural causes several days before he was found. Neighbors said they had not missed him because he had talked of going to Cincinnati to buy plumbing supplies. Despite his Indiana roots, a Kentucky Post editorial on August 15, 1951, called Woodfill “one of the greatest soldiers produced by the Bluegrass state.” Woodfill was buried in the Jefferson County Cemetery near Madison, Indiana. But through the efforts of Indiana Congressman Earl Wilson, Woodfill’s body was removed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery in August 1955.

We honor you, Samuel Woodfill.

(#Repost @The Hawaii Reporter)

General George Patton

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Born November 11, 1885, in San Gabriel, California, as a young boy, George Patton set his sights on becoming a war hero. During his childhood, he heard countless stories of his ancestors’ victories in the American Revolution and Civil War. Striving to follow in their footsteps, he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute in 1904.  A year later, he attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating on June 11, 1909. In 1910 he married Beatrice Ayer, a childhood friend.    In 1912 Patton competed in the Pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics. He did well in the fencing portion and placed fifth overall. In 1913 he was ordered to the post of Master of the Sword at the Mounted Service School in Kansas, where he taught swordsmanship while also attending as a student. Despite his grace with a sword, Patton had a reputation for being an accident prone young man. Some even speculate that his explosive temper and incessant cursing were the result of a skull injury in his 20s.

Patton had his first real taste of battle in 1915, when leading cavalry patrols against Pancho Villa at Fort Bliss along the Mexican border. In 1916 he was selected to aide John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Mexico. In Mexico, Patton impressed Pershing by personally shooting Mexican leader Julio Cardenas during the Battle of Columbus. Pershing promoted Patton to captain and invited him to lead Pershing’s Headquarters Troop once they left Mexico.

In 1917, during WWI, Patton was the first officer assigned to the new American Expeditionary Force tank corps. Tanks had proven effective in France at the Battle of Cambrai. Patton studied this battle and established himself as one of the leading experts in tank warfare. He organized the American tank school in Bourg, France, and trained American tankers to pilot the French Renault tanks. Patton’s first battle was at St. Mihiel, in September 1918. He was later wounded in the battle of Meuse-Argonne and later earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership of the tank brigade and establishing the tank school.

It was during WWII that Patton hit the high point of his military career. In 1943 he used daring assault and defense tactics to lead the 7th U.S. army to victory at the invasion of Sicily. On D-Day in 1944, when the allies invaded Normandy, President Roosevelt granted Patton command of the 3rd U.S. Army. Under Patton’s leadership, the 3rd Army swept across France, capturing town after town. “Keep on advancing… whether we go over, under, or through the enemy,” Patton told his troops. Nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts” due to his ruthless drive and apparent lust for battle, he wrote home to his wife, “When I’m not attacking, I get bilious.”

In 1945, Patton and his army managed to cross the Rhine and charge straight into the heart of Germany, capturing 10,000 square miles of enemy territory along the course of the 10-day march, and liberating Germany from the Nazi’s in the process.

In December of 1945, General George S. Patton broke his neck in a car crash near Mannheim, Germany. He died at the hospital in Heidelberg 12 days after, on December 21, 1945. In 1947, his memoir, War as I Knew It, was published posthumously.

In 1970 the film Patton explored Patton’s complex character, which ran the gamut from seemingly ruthless to surprisingly sentimental. The film garnered seven Academy Awards. To this day, Patton is considered one of the most successful field commanders in U.S history.

We honor you, George Patton.

(#Repost @https://www.biography.com/people/george-patton-9434904)

BG Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

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On Oct. 25, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. became the first African American to hold star rank in the U.S. Army and in the armed forces. He was promoted to brigadier general, temporary — a situation with which he was all too familiar, as his promotions to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel had all originally been “temporary.” Such was the situation for black officers in Davis’s day — all two or three of them.

Fortunately for today’s 10,000-plus African-American Army officers, Davis was a patient man. Born in Washington in 1877, he first entered the military as a temporary first lieutenant on July 13, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Mustered out in 1899, he enlisted as a private just six months later. Within two years, he had been commissioned a second lieutenant of cavalry in the regular Army.

Davis’s service as an officer with the famed “Buffalo Soldiers” regiment in the Philippines and on the Mexican border was exemplary, yet his subsequent assignments as a college ROTC instructor and as a National Guard advisor were far from the front lines. All of his postings, including duty as the military attache to Liberia, were designed to avoid putting Davis in command of white troops or officers.

Because these were not high profile jobs, Davis rose slowly through the ranks, earning his colonel’s eagle only in 1930. In 1938, he received his first independent command, the 369th National Guard Infantry Regiment. When Davis was promoted to brigadier, some saw it as a political action from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

However, as advisor on race relations in the European theater during World War II, Davis, as his Distinguished Service Medal citation relates, showed “initiative, intelligence and sympathetic understanding” while conducting investigations, bringing about “a fair and equitable solution to … problems which have since become the basis of far-reaching War Department policy.”

Davis’s slow, steady, and determined rise in the Army paved the way for countless minority men and women — including his son Benjamin O. Davis Jr., a West Point graduate who in 1954 became only the second African-American general in the U.S. military and the first in the Air Force.

We honor you, Benjamin Davis Sr.

(#Repost @Military.com)