To Absent Comrades!
Seven years ago I knew nothing of The Society of the Fifth Division; for years, Iíd looked in The Army Times, Legion and VFW Magazines for a reunion notice for my old unit from Vietnam. And I didnít know how my life, my very life had depended upon the actions of men, brave soldiers of the Fifth Infantry Division and Pattonís Third Army some sixty years ago.
Then my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumorÖ and as I helped with his final arrangements with a VFW service officer, I saw the poster I had been looking for. It had the major US Army Divisions on it and under the Red Diamond was The Society of the Fifth Division and Fred Bodyís address.
Before Dad died, I learned things that previously he had not been willing to talk about; Getting shot down in May 1943, getting captured by the Germans, life as a POW, the Death March of 1945, the temporary prison compound where the recon elements of one of Pattonís tank companies found him and the other survivors, Camp Lucky Strike, and more.
Frequently I receive an email from someone trying to find information on a family member who served with the Fifth Division during World War II.† Iím the Webmaster and not the National Historian, so I have little to offer except the contact information for the Historian and few people who have provided historical information for our web pages.
One message is recurring; the families of our WWII veterans know little of the deeds of their father, uncle, or grandfather. And so it is, I believe here within the Society of the Fifth Division; for with the exception of a few men, we have not recognized individuals at any reunion Iíve attended.
Only when I started to build a web page listing the WWII Fifth Infantry Division recipients of our Nationís medals for valor and gallantry in action, did I begin to identify individual members of the Society of the Fifth Division and their role in various battles.
I want to recognize Barbara Geisler, an associate member, as the individual most responsible for making this recognition speech possible. For Barbara initiated an inquiry regarding her husbandís uncle, a member of Company F, 11th Infantry who is still missing in action, his remains not recovered. And that inquiry then led to an offer from Barbara to research the National Archives and other sources in order to build a medal registry of Fifth Infantry Division valor medal recipients.
In an email exchange with Tom Tucker we learned about his Croix de Guerre avec Palm and that prompted more research on medals issued during WWII for gallantry. I found the US Armyís official web pages for US and Foreign medals and their award criteria. For example the Croix de Guerre, either French or Belgian, is the highest award those countries can issue to a member of another country for valor. The US in contrast limits our Silver Star Medal as the highest medal that can be awarded to a member of another countryís armed forces.
The US Armyís Bronze Star Medal was authorized for anyone receiving the Combat Infantry Badge during WWII in recognition of extra ordinary service and bravery in facing the inherent danger of Infantry Combat.† As a result of the potential large number of names, to be entered into the database for Bronze Star Medal recipients of the Fifth Infantry Division, we elected to not research this further.† With limited resources we just did not have the means at this time to enter every Fifth Infantry Division WWII recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.
Gentlemen, I wonít ask you to stand, but how about a round of applause in recognition of our WWII Combat Infantrymen and Bronze Star Medal recipients?
As Barbara Geisler researched the National Archives, published works with General Orders of the Fifth Infantry Division and other sources and started her documentation spreadsheet, it soon became apparent to me that she had several times as many Silver Star Medals as had been previously credited to WWII members of the Fifth Infantry Division. As with any human endeavor mistakes are made in documentation, names are misspelled, unit designations are abbreviated incorrectly, but its most unlikely for us to go from less than 400 recipients to more than 1100 by mistake except by previous errors of omission by others.
Today, as best I can tell, the name of every Fifth Infantry Division, WWII, individual recipient of the US ARMY Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, or Soldierís Medal is listed on our web site so that any school child, family member or researcher can look up our men of valor. As I considered what we have done with the web site, the inquiries from family members, my experience not knowing my dadís war time exploits, and then realizing that for the past five reunions I have been walking amongst so many quiet heroes, I knew I had stand here at this reunion and recognize the surviving recipients of our nations highest honors.
Please note that we are only able to acknowledge recipients of valor medals, because there are many men whose acts of bravery and valor make them eligible for a medal. But in some cases there are no surviving witnesses to attest to an act of bravery. Or documentation is lost. So there may well be others here, and I am sure there are, deserving recognition that have not received it in the form of a medal for valor.
I have cross checked our medal recipient list against the current Society membership list and this yearís attendee list and at this time I would like to recognize those WWII veterans in our midst who have received medals of valor. I will not ask you to stand, youíve earned the right to sit for this recognition. The list of those recipients present is relatively short, so please hold your applause until I indicate Iím finished reading the names of the honorees.
Victor Azzoto† A Btry 449 Arty 10th Inf
Peter Berletic B Btry 46th Field Artillery
Fred P Body Med. Det. 2nd† Infantry
Harry C Chafin Anti-Tank Co 11th Infantry
Thomas L Davis 11th Infantry
Arthur Feinstein HQ 46th Field Artillery
Foster Ferguson B Co 11th Infantry
Joseph Gale C Btry 21st Field Artillery
Charles S Holtz† M Co 2nd Infantry
Finus Edward Hudson A Btry 50th Field Artillery
Lee Jamison A Btry 50th Field Artillery
Vernon J Kellner HQ Co 2nd BN 2nd Infantry
Fred M Keppler L Co 11th Infantry
Thomas G Manos 7th Engineer BN
Rich McMenemy B Co 10th Infantry
William F Menzel B Co 2nd Infantry
Ernest G Moore, Jr HQ Co 1st BN 10th Infantry
Woodrow Morse HQ 11th Infantry
Joseph Pietrorte G Co 11th Infantry
William Rule B Co 1st BN 11th Infantry
Franklin H Smith I Co 11th Infantry
John Soria Med. Det 2nd Infantry
Henry T Tackett I Co 11th Infantry
Ira A Wiggins A & C Btry 46th FA
Robert Winton F Co 2nd Infantry
Herbert M Hart K Co 11th Infantry
Lets have a round of applause for those whose names I just read.
If I have omitted anyone here tonight, I apologize. Please let me know so that I can correct my records. Thank you for service to your country and comrades in arms. Please share, all veterans here, please share your history with the Fifth Infantry Division with us and your families.