Oldest US Medal of Honor holder dies; braved heavy fire in WWII
WASHINGTON– Charles Coolidge, who was granted the U.S. Medal of Honor for leading an outmanned squadron versus German soldiers and tanks in eastern France in 1944, passed away previously today at 99, according to the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.
Coolidge, the oldest-living recipient of the greatest U.S. war honor, passed away “peacefully” in Chattanooga, Tennessee, near his birth place of Signal Mountain, on April 6, the Heritage Center stated.
During World War II Coolidge battled in North Africa and after that Italy, where, in mid-1944 as part of the 36th Infantry Division, he won the Silver Star, the second-highest commendation, in the battle to record Rome from the German army after the Anzio landing.
His department was then sent out to Southern France in August 1944, where it marched up the Rhone River and after that transferred to the northeast along the Moselle, combating with the First French Army.
The department took heavy casualties in a variety of skirmishes with the Germans.
In October, Coolidge, as a technical sergeant, was with an army in the forest at Belmont- sur-Buttant in the mountainous Vosges area of eastern France near the German border, when they encountered a German business with tank assistance, according to the Heritage Center.
With no officer in the location, the 23-year-old took command of the squadron and attempted to bluff their escape, requiring the opponent surrender, just to be addressed with heavy fire.
“Over the course of four harrowing days, the enemy launched repeated attacks against the position while Technical Sergeant Coolidge walked up and down the front line in direct line of fire, leading, calming, and reassuring his men, most of whom were fresh recruits,” the Heritage Center stated.
“Outnumbered and outgunned, the small combat group was able to repeatedly repel the enemy force due to Coolidge’s adept leadership.”
After the Germans contacted supports and proceeded their position, Coolidge tried another rebuff, taking a bazooka up towards the tanks.
But the bazooka would not fire, so he lobbed grenades at the opponent, prior to heading back to withdraw the squadron, without any deaths on his side.
The next year he was granted the Medal of Honor for “his heroic and superior leadership” under extreme fire.
After the war he went back to Tennessee, raising a household with 3 children and joining his dad’s printing organization, retiring just 4 years back.
He on the other hand battled numerous sclerosis for over 5 years, the Heritage Center stated.
“Coolidge was, above all, a model of integrity, honor, and determination,” it stated.