All Medal of Honor stories are incredible, but some are even more so than others. Some read as if they hadn’t happened, the entire course of a conflict may have been different. Today’s story is one of those; that of a not-quite 19 year-old American, in the Army for less than one year, who exhibited conduct in action far beyond his years or experience. John C. Squires was born in Lexington, Kentucky on May 19, 1925. He was drafted at age 18 on July 24, 1943 into the United States Army.
Squires had completed three years of high school and was working as a file clerk when he was inducted into the Army. He completed his training as an infantryman, was promoted to Private First Class, and was sent as a replacement for the 3rd Infantry Division, locked in combat in Italy in 1944.
He was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. Seventy years ago today on April 23, 1944 he stepped off on his first offensive action of his brief wartime career near Padiglione in the Anzio beachhead. Over the next two days, Squires truly showed what “above and beyond” means.
*SQUIRES, JOHN C.
Rank and organization: Sergeant (then Private First Class), U.S. Army, Company A, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Padiglione, Italy, 23-24 April 1944. Entered service at: Louisville, Ky. G.O. No.: 78, 2 October 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. At the start of his company’s attack on strongly held enemy positions in and around Spaccasassi Creek, near Padiglione, Italy, on the night of 23-24 April 1944, Pfc. Squires, platoon messenger, participating in his first offensive action, braved intense artillery, mortar, and antitank gun fire in order to investigate the effects of an antitank mine explosion on the leading platoon. Despite shells which burst close to him, Pfc. Squires made his way 50 yards forward to the advance element, noted the situation, reconnoitered a new route of advance and informed his platoon leader of the casualties sustained and the alternate route. Acting without orders, he rounded up stragglers, organized a group of lost men into a squad and led them forward. When the platoon reached Spaccasassi Creek and established an outpost, Pfc. Squires, knowing that almost all of the noncommissioned officers were casualties, placed 8 men in position of his own volition, disregarding enemy machinegun, machine-pistol, and grenade fire which covered the creek draw. When his platoon had been reduced to 14 men, he brought up reinforcements twice. On each trip he went through barbed wire and across an enemy minefield, under intense artillery and mortar fire. Three times in the early morning the outpost was counterattacked. Each time Pfc. Squires ignored withering enemy automatic fire and grenades which struck all around him, and fired hundreds of rounds of rifle, Browning automatic rifle, and captured German Spandau machinegun ammunition at the enemy, inflicting numerous casualties and materially aiding in repulsing the attacks. Following these fights, he moved 50 yards to the south end of the outpost and engaged 21 German soldiers in individual machinegun duels at point-blank range, forcing all 21 enemy to surrender and capturing 13 more Spandau guns. Learning the function of this weapon by questioning a German officer prisoner, he placed the captured guns in position and instructed other members of his platoon in their operation. The next night when the Germans attacked the outpost again he killed 3 and wounded more Germans with captured potato-masher grenades and fire from his Spandau gun. Pfc. Squires was killed in a subsequent action.
In the wake of the April 23-24 action, Squires was promoted to Sergeant in recognition of his obvious leadership abilities under fire. As his Medal citation indicates, one month later and just four days after his nineteenth birthday, Sergeant Squires was killed in action on May 23, 1944. His remains were repatriated to the United States, and he today rests in peace in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.
The 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry is active today as a combined-arms (mixed armor and mechanized infantry) battalion with the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the modern 3rd Infantry Division. Their home post is Fort Stewart, Georgia.