Charles H. Coolidge was born on August 4, 1921 in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. A high school graduate, he was drafted about seven weeks before his 21st birthday on June 16, 1942. Coolidge was assigned to the United States Army‘s 36th Infantry Division and fought in both Italy and France.
On October 24-27, 1944 – seventy years ago today – Coolidge, then a Technical Sergeant with the division’s Company M, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, took command of a group of “green” soldiers and kept them in the fight against a numerically superior enemy force. For his constant courage and indomitable fighting spirit across those four days, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
COOLIDGE, CHARLES H.
Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company M, 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: East of Belmont sur Buttant, France, 24-27 October 1944. Entered service at: Signal Mountain, Tenn. G.O. No.: 53, July 1945
Citation: Leading a section of heavy machine guns supported by 1 platoon of Company K, he took a position near Hill 623, east of Belmont sur Buttant, France, on 24 October 1944, with the mission of covering the right flank of the 3d Battalion and supporting its action. T/Sgt. Coolidge went forward with a sergeant of Company K to reconnoiter positions for coordinating the fires of the light and heavy machine guns. They ran into an enemy force in the woods estimated to be an infantry company. T/Sgt. Coolidge, attempting to bluff the Germans by a show of assurance and boldness called upon them to surrender, whereupon the enemy opened fire. With his carbine, T/Sgt. Coolidge wounded 2 of them. There being no officer present with the force, T/Sgt. Coolidge at once assumed command. Many of the men were replacements recently arrived; this was their first experience under fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge, unmindful of the enemy fire delivered at close range, walked along the position, calming and encouraging his men and directing their fire. The attack was thrown back. Through 25 and 26 October the enemy launched repeated attacks against the position of this combat group but each was repulsed due to T/Sgt. Coolidge’s able leadership. On 27 October, German infantry, supported by 2 tanks, made a determined attack on the position. The area was swept by enemy small arms, machine gun, and tank fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge armed himself with a bazooka and advanced to within 25 yards of the tanks. His bazooka failed to function and he threw it aside. Securing all the hand grenades he could carry, he crawled forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing enemy. Finally it became apparent that the enemy, in greatly superior force, supported by tanks, would overrun the position. T/Sgt. Coolidge, displaying great coolness and courage, directed and conducted an orderly withdrawal, being himself the last to leave the position. As a result of T/Sgt. Coolidge’s heroic and superior leadership, the mission of this combat group was accomplished throughout 4 days of continuous fighting against numerically superior enemy troops in rain and cold and amid dense woods.
During the 36th Infantry Division’s Italian Campaign fighting earlier in 1944, Coolidge was also decorated with the Silver Star for his valor on May 31st. Here is the citation from Military Times’ Hall of Valor.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Sergeant Charles Henry Coolidge (ASN: 34286521), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with Company M, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, on 31 May 1944 in Italy. Sergeant Coolidge’s machine gun section had participated in a forced night march to cut off the enemy garrison in a beleaguered strongpoint. Shortly after daylight the battalion made contact with the enemy and deployed for a fight. Operating in support of a rifle company, the machine gun section recieved severe sniping and point blank fire from self-propelled guns. When the enemy counterattacked in strength, Sergeant Coolidge and the other members of the machine gun section greated them with devastating fire and inflicted many casualties. Approximately a company of enemy threatened the left flank. Quickly moving their guns to an exposed position only twenty-five yards from the nearest enemy, Sergeant Coolidge and his company used a free traverse to place such an effective fire on the onrushing foe that those not killed or wounded were panicked into scattered disorganization and made easy to capture. Thus the threat was dispelled largely because of the quick-witted courage of Sergeant Coolidge and his comrades. His gallant action reflects great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.
Charles H. Coolidge is still living at age 93 and resides near Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is currently the third-oldest living recipient. The oldest, Robert D. Maxwell, was featured in September of this year. The second-oldest will be honored on this site later this week!