Alfred B. Nietzel was born in the Fordham neighborhood of The Bronx, New York on April 27, 1921. He enlisted in the United States Army as a volunteer on October 15, 1940 when he was 19 years old. He fought during World War II in Europe as a soldier with the 1st Infantry Division.
On November 18, 1944 during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest as a member of the 1st Division’s Company H, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, then Sergeant Nietzel held a defensive position with three of his comrades when they were struck by a counterattack from a much larger Nazi German force. After ordering the other three to withdraw in search of reinforcements, Nietzel kept up the fight alone until he was struck down.
At the time, his courage was recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross. A review of Jewish-American service records to identify men who may have fell victim to discrimination in awards was authorized in 2002 and Nietzel’s decoration was one that was noted as not having been enough.
The Medal of Honor for Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel was presented to his first cousin Robert Nietzel (himself a Korean War US Army veteran) at the White House by President Barack Obama on March 18, 2014 – very nearly seventy years late.
*NIETZEL, ALFRED B.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company H, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Place and date: November 18, 1944, Heistern, Germany. Entered service at: Jamaica, NY.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a section leader for Company H, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy in Heistern, Germany on November 18, 1944. That afternoon, Sergeant Nietzel fought tenaciously to repel a vicious enemy attack against his unit. Sergeant Nietzel employed accurate, intense fire from his machinegun and successfully slowed the hostile advance. However, the overwhelming enemy force continued to press forward. Realizing he desperately needed reinforcements, Sergeant Nietzel ordered the three remaining members of his squad to return to the company command post and secure aid. He immediately turned his attention to covering their movement with his fire. After expending all his machine gun ammunition, Sergeant Nietzel began firing his rifle into the attacking ranks until he was killed by the explosion of an enemy grenade. Sergeant Nietzel’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
Nietzel was initially buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. His remains were repatriated to the United States in 1949 and reburied in the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY.
The 1st Infantry Division is presently active at Fort Riley, Kansas. 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry is presently part of the division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and is scheduled for deactivation in the summer of 2015.