Thursday, May 26, 2011

Battle of the Bulge World War II Medal of Honor recipient Paul Wiedorfer dies

MOH Paul J. Wiedorfer
On Christmas Day 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Staff Sergeant (then Private) Paul Wiedorfer made a daring 150 yard charge across an open snow covered field and destroyed two German machine gun emplacements.

He alone made it possible for his company to advance until its objective was seized. Company G had cleared a wooded area of snipers, and one platoon was advancing across an open clearing toward another wood when it was met by heavy machinegun fire from two German positions dug in at the edge of the second wood. These positions were flanked by enemy riflemen.

The platoon took cover behind a small ridge approximately 40 yards from the enemy position. There was no other available protection and the entire platoon was pinned down by the German fire. It was about noon and the day was clear, but the terrain was extremely difficult due to a three-inch snowfall the night before over ice-covered ground.

Private Wiedorfer, realizing that the platoon advance could not continue until the two enemy machinegun nests were destroyed, voluntarily charged alone across the slippery open ground with no protecting cover of any kind. Running in a crouched position, under a hail of enemy fire, he slipped and fell in the snow, but quickly rose and continued forward with the enemy concentrating automatic and small-arms fire on him as he advanced.

Miraculously escaping injury, Private Wiedorfer reached a point some ten yards from the first machinegun emplacement and hurled a hand grenade into it. With his rifle he killed the remaining Germans, and, without hesitation, wheeled to the right and attacked the second emplacement.

One of the enemy was wounded by his fire and the other six immediately surrendered. This heroic action by one man enabled the platoon to advance from behind its protecting ridge and continue successfully to reach its objective. A few minutes later, when both the platoon leader and the platoon sergeant were wounded, Private Wiedorfer assumed command of the platoon, leading it forward with inspired energy until the mission was accomplished. (From the official Citation)

"So I thought, somebody's got to do something. And all of a sudden I said, 'Goddammit, let's see if we can get that nest.' I remember slipping, falling and the good Lord was with me and I got it. I got two of 'em." Paul J. Wiedorfer On the Medal of Honor suicide charge.

Wiedorfer was training to be a pilot, but the Army switched him to infantry because of greater need. On the way to England he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary, and by December 25, 1944, was serving as a private in Company G, 318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division.

He was subsequently promoted to staff sergeant and, on June 12, 1945, issued the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle.

MOH Paul J. Wiedorfer
While crossing the Saar River, he was severely injured February 10, 1945, by a mortar shell that blew up near him; shrapnel broke his left leg, ripped into his stomach, and seriously injured two fingers on his right hand. The sergeant next to him was killed instantly. He was evacuated to the 137th United States Army General Hospital in England where he was placed in traction. While in the hospital a sergeant reading Stars and Stripes asked him how he spelled his name, and then told him he had received the Medal of Honor. Later, on May 5, 1945, Brigadier General Egmont F. Koenig with a band entered the ward to present him with his medal.

Wiedorfer reached the rank of master sergeant before retiring from the Army. In addition to the Medal of Honor he was also awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

He returned to Baltimore on June 11, 1945, and was given a ticker tape parade with General George C. Marshall and Maryland governor Herbert O’Connor in attendance.

After the war he spent another three years recovering in different Army hospitals and then returned to Baltimore Gas & Electric, and retired in 1981, after 40 years of service. He and Alice had four children.

He died on May 25th, 2011 and was 90 years old. He will be buried at Parkwood Cemetery, Baltimore, MD.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Medal of Honor didn't exist because there were no wars and we could all live in peace? And that the only way to spell war was love? Wouldn't that be wonderful?" Paul J. Wiedorfer On the Medal of Honor

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