Master Sergeant Vito R. Bertoldo, USA (January 9-10, 1945)

Vito R. Bertoldo was born on December 1, 1916 in Decatur, Illinois. On January 9-10, 1945 as a Master Sergeant in Company A, 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, when his unit’s positions were beset by a massed counter-attack of Nazi armor and infantry, his single-handed courage under fire turned the tide of the battle, and is best left to his citation for the Medal of Honor to tell the tale.

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: MIlitary Times’ Hall of Valor

BERTOLDO, VITO R.

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company A, 242d Infantry, 42d Infantry Division. Place and date: Hatten, France, 9-10 January 1945. Entered service at: Decatur, Ill. G.O. No.: 5, 10 January 1946

Citation: He fought with extreme gallantry while guarding 2 command posts against the assault of powerful infantry and armored forces which had overrun the battalion’s main line of resistance. On the close approach of enemy soldiers, he left the protection of the building he defended and set up his gun in the street, there to remain for almost 12 hours driving back attacks while in full view of his adversaries and completely exposed to 88-mm., machinegun and small-arms fire. He moved back inside the command post, strapped his machinegun to a table and covered the main approach to the building by firing through a window, remaining steadfast even in the face of 88-mm. fire from tanks only 75 yards away. One shell blasted him across the room, but he returned to his weapon. When 2 enemy personnel carriers led by a tank moved toward his position, he calmly waited for the troops to dismount and then, with the tank firing directly at him, leaned out of the window and mowed down the entire group of more than 20 Germans. Some time later, removal of the command post to another building was ordered. M/Sgt. Bertoldo voluntarily remained behind, covering the withdrawal of his comrades and maintaining his stand all night. In the morning he carried his machinegun to an adjacent building used as the command post of another battalion and began a day-long defense of that position. He broke up a heavy attack, launched by a self-propelled 88-mm. gun covered by a tank and about 15 infantrymen. Soon afterward another 88-mm. weapon moved up to within a few feet of his position, and, placing the muzzle of its gun almost inside the building, fired into the room, knocking him down and seriously wounding others. An American bazooka team set the German weapon afire, and M/Sgt. Bertoldo went back to his machinegun dazed as he was and killed several of the hostile troops as they attempted to withdraw. It was decided to evacuate the command post under the cover of darkness, but before the plan could be put into operation the enemy began an intensive assault supported by fire from their tanks and heavy guns. Disregarding the devastating barrage, he remained at his post and hurled white phosphorous grenades into the advancing enemy troops until they broke and retreated. A tank less than 50 yards away fired at his stronghold, destroyed the machinegun and blew him across the room again but he once more returned to the bitter fight and, with a rifle, single-handedly covered the withdrawal of his fellow soldiers when the post was finally abandoned. With inspiring bravery and intrepidity M/Sgt. Bertoldo withstood the attack of vastly superior forces for more than 48 hours without rest or relief, time after time escaping death only by the slightest margin while killing at least 40 hostile soldiers and wounding many more during his grim battle against the enemy hordes.

Master Sergeant Bertoldo passed away at age 49 on July 23, 1966 and was laid to rest in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

The 242nd Infantry is presently inactive. The 42nd Infantry Division is an Army National Guard formation and is comprised of Guardsmen from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The division is headquartered at the Glenmore Armory in Troy, New York.

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