Patrick L. Kessler was born on March 17, 1922 in Middletown, Ohio. According to his enlistment record, he was drafted on September 8, 1942, had completed just two years of high school, was working as a dairy farmer, and had once been married but was divorced and left no dependents.
Based on his induction date into the United States Army, I’m assuming that he was posted to the 3rd Infantry Division as a replacement for combat losses; I was not able to determine when he joined the division’s 30th Infantry Regiment in its 3rd Battalion, Company K.
The 3rd Infantry Division helped spearhead the breakout from the Anzio beachhead in Italy on May 23, 1944. On that day near Ponte Rotto, Private First Class Kessler told his comrades to cover him while he assaulted the enemy positions in his unit’s way.
His heroism – killing or capturing the enemy, and keeping up the fight taking weapons and ammo from his wounded comrades as he rendered aid to them – saw him ultimately decorated with our nation’s highest honor.
*KESSLER, PATRICK L.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company K, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Ponte Rotto, Italy, 23 May 1944. Entered service at: Middletown, Ohio. G.O. No.: 1, 4 January 1945
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Kessler, acting without orders, raced 50 yards through a hail of machinegun fire, which had killed 5 of his comrades and halted the advance of his company, in order to form an assault group to destroy the machine gun. Ordering 3 men to act as a base of fire, he left the cover of a ditch and snaked his way to a point within 50 yards of the enemy machine gun before he was discovered, whereupon he plunged headlong into the furious chain of automatic fire. Reaching a spot within 6 feet of the emplacement he stood over it and killed both the gunner and his assistant, jumped into the gun position, overpowered and captured a third German after a short struggle. The remaining member of the crew escaped, but Pfc. Kessler wounded him as he ran. While taking his prisoner to the rear, this soldier saw 2 of his comrades killed as they assaulted an enemy strongpoint, fire from which had already killed 10 men in the company. Turning his prisoner over to another man, Pfc. Kessler crawled 35 yards to the side of 1 of the casualties, relieved him of his BAR and ammunition and continued on toward the strongpoint, 125 yards distant. Although 2 machineguns concentrated their fire directly on him and shells exploded within 10 yards, bowling him over, Pfc. Kessler crawled 75 yards, passing through an antipersonnel minefield to a point within 50 yards of the enemy and engaged the machineguns in a duel. When an artillery shell burst within a few feet of him, he left the cover of a ditch and advanced upon the position in a slow walk, firing his BAR from the hip. Although the enemy poured heavy machinegun and small arms fire at him, Pfc. Kessler succeeded in reaching the edge of their position, killed the gunners, and captured 13 Germans. Then, despite continuous shelling, he started to the rear. After going 25 yards, Pfc. Kessler was fired upon by 2 snipers only 100 yards away. Several of his prisoners took advantage of this opportunity and attempted to escape; however, Pfc. Kessler hit the ground, fired on either flank of his prisoners, forcing them to cover, and then engaged the 2 snipers in a fire fight, and captured them. With this last threat removed, Company K continued its advance, capturing its objective without further opposition. Pfc. Kessler was killed in a subsequent action.
Kessler was killed in action two days later on May 25, 1944. His remains were repatriated to the United States, and he today rests in peace in the Woodside Cemetery in his home town.