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Jack Pendleton, War Hero


It was on this date in 1944 that Army Staff Sergeant Jack Pendleton became a hero. It was also the last day of his life.

It happened during the final offensive against Germany during World War II. Pendleton was in Company I, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division, which entered the war on Normandy Beach on June 15th, 1944.

On July 25, the Pendleton’s Division spearheaded one of the war’s crucial actions, the St Lo breakthrough. Advances were slow, but by August 6th, they had relieved the 1st Infantry Division near Mortain. Five armored Nazi divisions launched a surprise attack, hoping to split the American First and Third Armies, but the Division held fast and broke the Nazi spearhead within a week.

The 30th advanced, took the French town of Reuilly in August, and took part in an offensive on the southern edge of Belgium in September. By the middle of the month, they moved into Germany and accomplished key objectives near Horbach; this opened the way for an assault on the Siegfried Line. The attack began on October 2nd, and the Division, which the Germans later dubbed “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” broke through the lines the following day.

In an ensuing battle near Bardenberg, Germany, the 30th was on its way to receiving the third of seven Distinguished Unit Citations it would receive. On October 12th, the Company was pinned down by a nest of enemy machine guns strategically protected by a lone machine gun placed at an intersection. The gunner was firing down a street that offered little or no cover for the advancing troops, and it was imperative for the troops to eliminate the lone gunner.

The 30th tried repeatedly to knock out his position, but they had no luck. Staff Sergeant Jack Pendleton volunteered to lead his squad forward to neutralize this strong point. Crawled about ten yards in front of his men, Pendleton advanced toward the enemy gun. He made it approximately 130 yards under withering fire when he was seriously wounded in the leg. His next action won him a Congressional Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty...”

“Disregarding his grievous wound,” his commendation read, “he ordered his men to remain where they were, and with a supply of hand-grenades he slowly and painfully worked his way forward alone. With no hope of surviving the veritable hail of machine gun fire, which he deliberately drew onto himself, he succeeded in advancing to within 10 yards of the enemy position when he was instantly killed by a burst from the enemy gun.”

The commendation continued, “By deliberately diverting the attention of the enemy machine gunners upon himself, a second squad was able to advance, undetected, and with the help of S/Sgt. Pendleton’s squad, neutralized the lone machine gun, while another platoon of his company advanced up the intersecting street and knocked out the machine gun nest which the first gun had been covering. S/Sgt. Pendleton’s sacrifice enabled the entire company to continue the advance and complete their mission at a critical phase of the action.”

Pendleton’s Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously on April 6th, 1945. He was born in Sentinel Butte and entered the service from Yakima, Washington.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm