First Lieutenant Cecil H. Bolton, USA (November 2, 1944)

The 104th Infantry Division was activated on September 15, 1942 as the United States Army expanded for World War II. The division trained extensively in the northwest United States through the summer of 1944, earning the nickname “Timberwolves”. They trained for combat in Europe and were one of the first Army units trained specifically for night fighting. They arrived in France for combat service in early September, 1944.

With them in the division’s 413th Infantry Regiment was Cecil Hamilton Bolton. Bolton was born in Crawfordsville, Florida on October 7, 1908 and was working as a “hotel and restaurant manager” when he was drafted in Alabama at age 33 on July 27, 1942.

Bolton received an officer’s commission and was the weapons platoon leader of the 413th’s Company E in October, 1944 when the Timberwolves were placed under the command of the First Canadian Army in the Netherlands to assist with the clearing of the Scheldt Estuary.

On November 2, 1944, then-First Lieutenant Bolton ignored his own painful wounds to lead his men against Nazi heavy weapons which blocked his unit’s advance. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor.

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

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BOLTON, CECIL H.

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company E, 413th Infantry, 104th Infantry Division. Place and date: Mark River, Holland, 2 November 1944. Entered service at: Huntsville, Ala. G.O. No.: 74, 1 September 1945

Citation: As leader of the weapons platoon of Company E, 413th Infantry, on the night of 2 November 1944, he fought gallantly in a pitched battle which followed the crossing of the Mark River in Holland. When 2 machineguns pinned down his company, he tried to eliminate, with mortar fire, their grazing fire which was inflicting serious casualties and preventing the company’s advance from an area rocked by artillery shelling. In the moonlight it was impossible for him to locate accurately the enemy’s camouflaged positions; but he continued to direct fire until wounded severely in the legs and rendered unconscious by a German shell. When he recovered consciousness he instructed his unit and then crawled to the forward rifle platoon positions. Taking a two-man bazooka team on his voluntary mission, he advanced chest deep in chilling water along a canal toward 1 enemy machinegun. While the bazooka team covered him, he approached alone to within 15 yards of the hostile emplacement in a house. He charged the remaining distance and killed the 2 gunners with hand grenades. Returning to his men he led them through intense fire over open ground to assault the second German machinegun. An enemy sniper who tried to block the way was dispatched, and the trio pressed on. When discovered by the machinegun crew and subjected to direct fire, 1st Lt. Bolton killed 1 of the 3 gunners with carbine fire, and his 2 comrades shot the others. Continuing to disregard his wounds, he led the bazooka team toward an 88-mm. artillery piece which was having telling effect on the American ranks, and approached once more through icy canal water until he could dimly make out the gun’s silhouette. Under his fire direction, the two soldiers knocked out the enemy weapon with rockets. On the way back to his own lines he was again wounded. To prevent his men being longer subjected to deadly fire, he refused aid and ordered them back to safety, painfully crawling after them until he reached his lines, where he collapsed. 1st Lt. Bolton’s heroic assaults in the face of vicious fire, his inspiring leadership, and continued aggressiveness even through suffering from serious wounds, contributed in large measure to overcoming strong enemy resistance and made it possible for his battalion to reach its objective.

Bolton remained in the Army after the war and eventually retired with the rank of Colonel. He passed away at age 56 on January 22, 1965 and was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas.

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