I'm a little late with my Veteran's Day post due to some software problems. Nevertheless, it is never too late or a bad time to be reminded of those who gave so much and the people who remember them.
We call him Uncle Eugene, but truthfully, he didn't live long enough to be an uncle. He had a young wife and an infant son when he was killed in Lorraine on December 8, 1944 during the last battle to liberate France. He is interred at the American Military Cemetery-Lorraine in St. Avold along with thousands of his countrymen who died in that bloody winter.
We went to St. Avold to see his final resting place. Since we never knew him, it could have been a matter-of-fact occasion but it wasn't. As a gentle rain fell, Marcel Millet, the retired soldier who tends this massive cemetery, gently rubbed some fine sand into the indented letters so that Eugene's name would stand out against he white marble of the cross. "It's sand that we get from the beach where they landed in Normandy," he explained. Then he placed flowers and two small flags, American and French on either side to mark the occasion of our visit. We got to keep the flags, a little memento of our pilgrimage. While we were there, the cemetery chapel began tolling, really playing a canned recording of many familiar hymns rung on bells. It has done so every Sunday for decades. We asked how the locals liked their "noisy" neighbor and Mr. Millet said they love the bells.
The rolling green hills, the soaring American flag, the bells, the acres and acres of marble crosses and stars: it was awesome. But what impressed be most was the quiet, dignified man whose job it was to look after all of this. Mr. Millet had been stationed for many years in Germany and had occasionally done this duty while in active service to relieve the his predecessor. Mr. Millet retired to the United States but was asked to consider returning to be the director of the cemetery, "No more hunting or fishing for me. I'm taking care of the boys. It's such an honor. I owe them my life."
There are four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients buried at the Lorraine American Military Cemetery . These are the citations of two of them:
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company G, 377th Infantry, 95th Infantry Division. Place and date: From Woippy, France, through Metz to Kerprich Hemmersdorf, Germany, 1629 November 1944. Entered service at: Two Rivers, Wis. Birth: Manitowoc, Wis. G.O. No.: 74, 1 September 1945. Citation: For performing a series of heroic deeds from 1629 November 1944, during his company's relentless drive from Woippy, France, through Metz to Kerprich Hemmersdorf, Germany. As he led a rifle squad on 16 November at Woippy, a crossfire from enemy machine guns pinned down his unit. Ordering his men to remain under cover, he went forward alone, entered a building housing 1 of the guns and forced S Germans to surrender at bayonet point. He then took the second gun single-handedly by hurling grenades into the enemy position, killing 2, wounding 3 more, and taking 2 additional prisoners. On the outskirts of Metz the next day, his platoon, confused by heavy explosions and the withdrawal of friendly tanks, retired, but he fearlessly remained behind armed with an automatic rifle and exchanged bursts with a German machine gun until he silenced the enemy weapon. His quick action in covering his comrades gave the platoon time to regroup and carry on the fight. On 19 November S/Sgt. Miller led an attack on large enemy barracks. Covered by his squad, he crawled to a barracks window, climbed in and captured 6 riflemen occupying the room. His men, and then the entire company, followed through the window, scoured the building, and took 75 prisoners. S/Sgt. Miller volunteered, with 3 comrades, to capture Gestapo officers who were preventing the surrender of German troops in another building. He ran a gauntlet of machinegun fire and was lifted through a window. Inside, he found himself covered by a machine pistol, but he persuaded the 4 Gestapo agents confronting him to surrender. Early the next morning, when strong hostile forces punished his company with heavy fire, S/Sgt. Miller assumed the task of destroying a well-placed machinegun. He was knocked down by a rifle grenade as he climbed an open stairway in a house, but pressed on with a bazooka to find an advantageous spot from which to launch his rocket. He discovered that he could fire only from the roof, a position where he would draw tremendous enemy fire. Facing the risk, he moved into the open, coolly took aim and scored a direct hit on the hostile emplacement, wreaking such havoc that the enemy troops became completely demoralized and began surrendering by the score. The following day, in Metz, he captured 12 more prisoners and silenced an enemy machinegun after volunteering for a hazardous mission in advance of his company's position. On 29 November, as Company G climbed a hill overlooking Kerprich Hemmersdorf, enemy fire pinned the unit to the ground. S/Sgt. Miller, on his own initiative, pressed ahead with his squad past the company's leading element to meet the surprise resistance. His men stood up and advanced deliberately, firing as they went. Inspired by S/Sgt. Miller's leadership, the platoon followed, and then another platoon arose and grimly closed with the Germans. The enemy action was smothered, but at the cost of S/Sgt. Miller's life. His tenacious devotion to the attack, his gallant choice to expose himself to enemy action rather than endanger his men, his limitless bravery, assured the success of Company G.
*MURPHY, FREDERICK C.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Medical Detachment, 259th Infantry, 65th Infantry Division. Place and date: Siegfried Line at Saarlautern, Germany, 18 March 1945. Entered service at: Weymouth, Mass. Birth: Boston, Mass. G.O. No.: 21, 26 February 1946. Citation: An aid man, he was wounded in the right shoulder soon after his comrades had jumped off in a dawn attack 18 March 1945, against the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern, Germany. He refused to withdraw for treatment and continued forward, administering first aid under heavy machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire. When the company ran into a thickly sown antipersonnel minefield and began to suffer more and more casualties, he continued to disregard his own wound and unhesitatingly braved the danger of exploding mines, moving about through heavy fire and helping the injured until he stepped on a mine which severed one of his feet. In spite of his grievous wounds, he struggled on with his work, refusing to be evacuated and crawling from man to man administering to them while in great pain and bleeding profusely. He was killed by the blast of another mine which he had dragged himself across in an effort to reach still another casualty. With indomitable courage, and unquenchable spirit of self-sacrifice and supreme devotion to duty which made it possible for him to continue performing his tasks while barely able to move, Pfc. Murphy saved many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own life.