Clyde Lee Choate was born on June 28, 1920 in West Frankfort, Illinois. His enlistment record is one of those missing from preservation at the National Archives, but by October 1944 he was a United States Army Staff Sergeant and the commander of a M10 or M36 gun motor carriage with the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division.
On this day seventy years ago near Bruyères, France, Staff Sergeant Choate’s “TD” was supporting American infantry that were in danger of being overrun by Nazi troops supported by armor. Choate’s vehicle was knocked out early in the battle. Regardless, he made certain that none of his crew had been left behind, then single-handedly on foot attacked and destroyed the German tank and broke up the enemy’s attack.
The Medal of Honor was presented to him at the White House by President Harry S. Truman on August 23, 1945.
CHOATE, CLYDE L.
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company C, 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion. Place and date: Near Bruyeres, France, 25 October 1944. Entered service at: Anna, Ill.
G.O. No.: 75, 5 September 1945
Citation: He commanded a tank destroyer near Bruyeres, France, on 25 October 1944. Our infantry occupied a position on a wooded hill when, at dusk, an enemy Mark IV tank and a company of infantry attacked, threatening to overrun the American position and capture a command post 400 yards to the rear. S/Sgt. Choate’s tank destroyer, the only weapon available to oppose the German armor, was set afire by 2 hits. Ordering his men to abandon the destroyer, S/Sgt. Choate reached comparative safety. He returned to the burning destroyer to search for comrades possibly trapped in the vehicle risking instant death in an explosion which was imminent and braving enemy fire which ripped his jacket and tore the helmet from his head. Completing the search and seeing the tank and its supporting infantry overrunning our infantry in their shallow foxholes, he secured a bazooka and ran after the tank, dodging from tree to tree and passing through the enemy’s loose skirmish line. He fired a rocket from a distance of 20 yards, immobilizing the tank but leaving it able to spray the area with cannon and machinegun fire. Running back to our infantry through vicious fire, he secured another rocket, and, advancing against a hail of machinegun and small-arms fire reached a position 10 yards from the tank. His second shot shattered the turret. With his pistol he killed 2 of the crew as they emerged from the tank; and then running to the crippled Mark IV while enemy infantry sniped at him, he dropped a grenade inside the tank and completed its destruction. With their armor gone, the enemy infantry became disorganized and was driven back. S/Sgt. Choate’s great daring in assaulting an enemy tank single-handed, his determination to follow the vehicle after it had passed his position, and his skill and crushing thoroughness in the attack prevented the enemy from capturing a battalion command post and turned a probable defeat into a tactical success.
Choate later served for thirty years in the Illinois House of Representatives. He passed away on October 5, 2001 at age 81 and was laid to rest in the Anna Cemetery, Anna, Illinois.
The 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion’s unit lineage is currently carried by the Army’s 61st Cavalry Regiment. Its one active squadron is the 3rd, assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.