Harold Alva Garman was born in Fairfield, Illinois on February 26, 1918. A search of World War II records didn’t find when he enlisted or was drafted into the United States Army, but we do know that on August 25, 1944 he was a 26-year old Private serving as a medic with the 5th Medical Battalion as part of the 5th Infantry Division and at war against the Nazi Germans in France.
Combat medics, while wearing the international Red Cross insignia, are unarmed on the battlefield and are technically “non-combatants”. The enemies of liberty frequently show them no quarter regardless.
On this day seventy years ago, American casualties were being evacuated in boats across the Seine River when one boat came under fire from a Nazi machine gun. Harold Garman unhesitatingly dove into the water, swam out, and towed the boat and the men it carried to safety with nothing but his own strength and raw guts.
About seven months later, he received the Medal of Honor.
GARMAN, HAROLD A.
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company B, 5th Medical Battalion, 5th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Montereau, France, 25 August 1944. Entered service at: Albion, Ill. G.O. No.: 20, 29 March 1945
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On 25 August 1944, in the vicinity of Montereau, France, the enemy was sharply contesting any enlargement of the bridgehead which our forces had established on the northern bank of the Seine River in this sector. Casualties were being evacuated to the southern shore in assault boats paddled by litter bearers from a medical battalion. Pvt. Garman, also a litter bearer in this battalion, was working on the friendly shore carrying the wounded from the boats to waiting ambulances. As 1 boatload of wounded reached midstream, a German machinegun suddenly opened fire upon it from a commanding position on the northern bank 100 yards away. All of the men in the boat immediately took to the water except 1 man who was so badly wounded he could not rise from his litter. Two other patients who were unable to swim because of their wounds clung to the sides of the boat. Seeing the extreme danger of these patients, Pvt. Garman without a moment’s hesitation plunged into the Seine. Swimming directly into a hail of machinegun bullets, he rapidly reached the assault boat and then while still under accurately aimed fire towed the boat with great effort to the southern shore. This soldier’s moving heroism not only saved the lives of the three patients but so inspired his comrades that additional assault boats were immediately procured and the evacuation of the wounded resumed. Pvt. Garman’s great courage and his heroic devotion to the highest tenets of the Medical Corps may be written with great pride in the annals of the corps.
Garman survived the war and attained the rank of Technician 5th Grade before leaving the Army. He died at age 74 on August 13, 1992 and was laid to rest in the Samaria Baptist Church Cemetery, Albion, Illinois.
The 5th Infantry Division was last an active formation of the United States Army in 1992.