“Can Do” – Antolak, Mills, & Schauer (May 23-24, 1944)

The combat history of the 15th United States Infantry dates back to the War of 1812. The present 15th Infantry Regiment dates to the US Civil War. The regiment’s motto is simply, “Can Do”.

On May 23-24, 1944 as part of the 3rd Infantry Division, three soldiers of the 15th Infantry, two of them from the same company, embodied the regiment’s motto in the breakout from the Anzio beachhead at Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. All three men were decorated with the Medal of Honor.

They were Sergeant Sylvester Antolak, Private James H. Mills, and Private First Class Henry Schauer.

Sylvester Antolak was was born in St. Clairsville, Ohio on September 10, 1916. He was drafted into the United States Army on June 31, 1941.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):MOH-200px

*ANTOLAK, SYLVESTER

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, 24 May 1944. Entered service at: St. Clairsville, Ohio

Citation: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, he charged 200 yards over flat, coverless terrain to destroy an enemy machinegun nest during the second day of the offensive which broke through the German cordon of steel around the Anzio beachhead. Fully 30 yards in advance of his squad, he ran into withering enemy machinegun, machine-pistol and rifle fire. Three times he was struck by bullets and knocked to the ground, but each time he struggled to his feet to continue his relentless advance. With one shoulder deeply gashed and his right arm shattered, he continued to rush directly into the enemy fire concentration with his submachinegun wedged under his uninjured arm until within 15 yards of the enemy strong point, where he opened fire at deadly close range, killing 2 Germans and forcing the remaining 10 to surrender. He reorganized his men and, refusing to seek medical attention so badly needed, chose to lead the way toward another strong point 100 yards distant. Utterly disregarding the hail of bullets concentrated upon him, he had stormed ahead nearly three-fourths of the space between strong points when he was instantly killed by hostile enemy fire. Inspired by his example, his squad went on to overwhelm the enemy troops. By his supreme sacrifice, superb fighting courage, and heroic devotion to the attack, Sgt. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.

Antolak rests in peace along with 7,859 of his comrades in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy.

 

James Henry Mills was born on May 2, 1923 in Ft. Meade, Florida. He was an Army volunteer, having enlisted on October 24, 1941.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

MOH-200pxMILLS, JAMES H.

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company F, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, 24 May 1944. Entered service at: Fort Meade, Fla. G.O. No.: 87, 14 November 1944

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Mills, undergoing his baptism of fire, preceded his platoon down a draw to reach a position from which an attack could be launched against a heavily fortified strongpoint. After advancing about 300 yards, Pvt. Mills was fired on by a machinegun only S yards distant. He killed the gunner with 1 shot and forced the surrender of the assistant gunner. Continuing his advance, he saw a German soldier in a camouflaged position behind a large bush pulling the pin of a potato-masher grenade. Covering the German with his rifle, Pvt. Mills forced him to drop the grenade and captured him. When another enemy soldier attempted to throw a hand grenade into the draw, Pvt. Mills killed him with 1 shot. Brought under fire by a machinegun, 2 machine pistols, and 3 rifles at a range of only 50 feet, he charged headlong into the furious chain of automatic fire shooting his M 1 from the hip. The enemy was completely demoralized by Pvt. Mills’ daring charge, and when he reached a point within 10 feet of their position, all 6 surrendered. As he neared the end of the draw, Pvt. Mills was brought under fire by a machinegunner 20 yards distant. Despite the fact that he had absolutely no cover, Pvt. Mills killed the gunner with 1 shot. Two enemy soldiers near the machinegunner fired wildly at Pvt. Mills and then fled. Pvt. Mills fired twice, killing 1 of the enemy. Continuing on to the position, he captured a fourth soldier. When it became apparent that an assault on the strongpoint would in all probability cause heavy casualties on the platoon, Pvt. Mills volunteered to cover the advance down a shallow ditch to a point within 50 yards of the objective. Standing on the bank in full view of the enemy less than 100 yards away, he shouted and fired his rifle directly into the position. His ruse worked exactly as planned. The enemy centered his fire on Pvt. Mills. Tracers passed within inches of his body, rifle and machine pistol bullets ricocheted off the rocks at his feet. Yet he stood there firing until his rifle was empty. Intent on covering the movement of his platoon, Pvt. Mills jumped into the draw, reloaded his weapon, climbed out again, and continued to lay down a base of fire. Repeating this action 4 times, he enabled his platoon to reach the designated spot undiscovered, from which position it assaulted and overwhelmed the enemy, capturing 22 Germans and taking the objective without casualties.

Mills was killed on November 11, 1973 when he stopped to render aid to whom he thought was a stranded motorist. It turned out to be a thief who murdered Mills in the ensuing struggle. He today rests in peace in the Oak Hill Burial Park, Lakeland, Florida.

 

Henry Schauer was born in Clinton, Oklahoma on October 9, 1918. I could not find his enlistment record in the National Archives database. Given that, I am surmising that he was a National Guardsman who was federalized for war service, but that’s just informed speculation.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

MOH-200pxSCHAUER, HENRY

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company F, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, 23-24 May 1944. Entered service at: Scobey, Mont. G.O. No.: 83, 27 October 1944

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On 23 May 1944, at 12 noon, Pfc. (now T/Sgt.) Schauer left the cover of a ditch to engage 4 German snipers who opened fire on the patrol from its rear. Standing erect he walked deliberately 30 yards toward the enemy, stopped amid the fire from 4 rifles centered on him, and with 4 bursts from his BAR, each at a different range, killed all of the snipers. Catching sight of a fifth sniper waiting for the patrol behind a house chimney, Pfc. Schauer brought him down with another burst. Shortly after, when a heavy enemy artillery concentration and 2 machineguns temporarily halted the patrol, Pfc. Schauer again left cover to engage the enemy weapons single-handed. While shells exploded within 15 yards, showering dirt over him, and strings of grazing German tracer bullets whipped past him at chest level, Pfc. Schauer knelt, killed the 2 gunners of the machinegun only 60 yards from him with a single burst from his BAR, and crumpled 2 other enemy soldiers who ran to man the gun. Inserting a fresh magazine in his BAR, Pfc. Schauer shifted his body to fire at the other weapon 500 yards distant and emptied his weapon into the enemy crew, killing all 4 Germans. Next morning, when shells from a German Mark VI tank and a machinegun only 100 yards distant again forced the patrol to seek cover, Pfc. Schauer crawled toward the enemy machinegun. stood upright only 80 yards from the weapon as its bullets cut the surrounding ground, and 4 tank shells fired directly at him burst within 20 yards. Raising his BAR to his shoulder, Pfc. Schauer killed the 4 members of the German machine gun crew with 1 burst of fire.

Schauer passed away on June 16, 1997 and was laid to rest in the City View Cemetery in Salem, Oregon.

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