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Orvill Emil Bloch, Medal of Honor


A Streeter man, Orville E. Bloch, was the only North Dakota soldier to receive a Medal of Honor in WWII. As a 1st Lieutenant in 85th Infantry Division, he silenced five machine guns and captured 19 Germans near Firenzuola, Italy. A 1945 Bismarck Tribune published the following story, which was based on the accounts of the two men who were with him on this day in 1944:

“Nazi guns firing from three buildings on a hill were holding up the advance in a Gothic Line attack,” the story reads, “and his company commander told Bloch to take care of the enemy strongpoint (sic). [Sgt. Charles] Sherwood and [Pfc. Dale] Hankinson responded to Bloch’s call for volunteers.

“‘We crawled 165 yards to a rock 15 yards below the first house,’ Hankinson said. ‘The machineguns to our front [and] right flank were firing incessantly. Lt. Bloch told us to wait behind the rock and he charged toward the gun firing his carbine from the hip. When he reached the door he kicked over the gun, captured the crew of five and sent them back to us.’

“. . .Bloch could see another gun dug in by a corner of the next house, Hankinson said. He pulled the pin from a grenade and started for the gun, still firing the carbine. About halfway, he threw the grenade [wounding the gunner]. Two other Jerries ran into the doorway of the house and he captured the wounded Nazi.

“‘About that time,’ said Hankinson, ‘I got a message over my radio [that] five Nazis were running down a hill behind the house toward us and that they were carrying a machinegun and ammunition.’

“‘We left Hankinson at the corner of the house to guard the wounded prisoner,’ Sherwood said. ‘I was about 10 feet behind Lt. Bloch when we started out to meet the Jerries coming down the hill. We opened fire when they were about 30 yards away, and the lieutenant shot the machinegun from the hands of the German carrying it. The four others dropped their ammunition and ran into the same house into which the other two Jerries had gone.’

“While Sherwood covered him,” the story continued, “Bloch charged through the door of the house, wounding three Nazis and capturing the other four. Bloch and Sherwood then turned their attention to the third house from which a machinegun had been firing. They found the gun but the gunners had disappeared.

“Bloch looked around the corner and there was another machinegun firing. The Jerries fired pistols at him and he returned their fire with his carbine. Six Nazis ran into the house, with Bloch behind them, Sherwood related. The lieutenant wounded two of them and the four others surrendered,” the story concluded.

Orville Bloch listed himself as a member of the motion picture industry when he first joined the Army. But he didn’t go back to the entertainment field after the war. He stayed in the military and retired as a Colonel. He died near Seattle WA in 1983.

Written by Merry Helm

Source: Streeter Soldier Captures 19 Germans in Bold Raid. The Bismarck Tribune. Wed, 3 Jan 1945: 7.