The Ambush at Valmontone: Privates Christian & Johnson (June 2-3,1944)

On June 2-3, 1944 near Valmontone, Italy, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 15th Infantry Regiment were ambushed by a Nazi mixed infantry and armor force. Two of the men caught in the ambush – both privates – on their own initiative sacrificed their own lives in lone attacks that diverted the enemy’s attention and allowed their comrades to escape.

Their names were Herbert F. Christian and Elden H. Johnston. Both men posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

Herbert F. Christian was a 30 year-old retail manager in Steubenville, Ohio when he was inducted into the United States Army on November 24, 1942.

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

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*CHRISTIAN, HERBERT F.

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Valmontone, Italy, 2-3 June 1944. Entered service at: Steubenville, Ohio. G.O. No.: 43, 30 May 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On 2-3 June 1944, at 1 a.m., Pvt. Christian elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving massed fire of about 60 riflemen, 3 machineguns, and 3 tanks from positions only 30 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled to the patrol to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Although his right leg was severed above the knee by cannon fire, Pvt. Christian advanced on his left knee and the bloody stump of his right thigh, firing his submachinegun. Despite excruciating pain, Pvt. Christian continued on his self-assigned mission. He succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. He killed 3 enemy soldiers almost at once. Leaving a trail of blood behind him, he made his way forward 20 yards, halted at a point within 10 yards of the enemy, and despite intense fire killed a machine-pistol man. Reloading his weapon, he fired directly into the enemy position. The enemy appeared enraged at the success of his ruse, concentrated 20-mm. machinegun, machine-pistol and rifle fire on him, yet he refused to seek cover. Maintaining his erect position, Pvt. Christian fired his weapon to the very last. Just as he emptied his submachinegun, the enemy bullets found their mark and Pvt. Christian slumped forward dead. The courage and spirit of self-sacrifice displayed by this soldier were an inspiration to his comrades and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

Private Christian’s remains were repatriated to the United States and were laid to rest in his birth city of Byesville, Ohio.

Elden H. Johnson was born in New Jersey and living in East Weymouth, Massachusetts when he was drafted at age 22 on April 28, 1943.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*JOHNSON, ELDEN H.

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 15th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Valmontone, Italy, 3 June 1944. Entered service at: East Weymouth, Mass. G.O. No.: 38, 16 May 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Johnson elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving the massed fire of about 60 riflemen, 3 machineguns, and 3 tanks from positions only 25 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled his patrol leader to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Then, despite 20mm. machineguns, machine pistol, and rifle fire directed at him, Pvt. Johnson advanced beyond the enemy in a slow deliberate walk. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. Advancing to within 5 yards of a machinegun, emptying his weapon, Pvt. Johnson killed its crew. Standing in full view of the enemy he reloaded and turned on the riflemen to the left, firing directly into their positions. He either killed or wounded 4 of them. A burst of machinegun fire tore into Pvt. Johnson and he dropped to his knees. Fighting to the very last, he steadied himself on his knees and sent a final burst of fire crashing into another German. With that he slumped forward dead. Pvt. Johnson had willingly given his life in order that his comrades might live. These acts on the part of Pvt. Johnson were an inspiration to the entire command and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

Private Johnson rests in peace in the Union Cemetery of Scituate, Massachusetts.

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2 thoughts on “The Ambush at Valmontone: Privates Christian & Johnson (June 2-3,1944)”

  1. I’ve been looking in on things on Elden H Johnson, and have over 20 things on him, most are copy’s but the same as said here but if want more info on my great, great uncle, send me a message on G-mail at this username-Logun Johnson

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