Sergeant Charles A. MacGillivary, USA (January 1, 1945)

Charles Andrew MacGillivary was born on January 17, 1917 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. At age 16 he joined the Merchant Marine, and as a late teenager, emigrated to the United States, settling in Boston, Massachusetts where his brother lived.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he volunteered for the United States Army in January of 1942. During his training, he was offered the opportunity to become a United States citizen, which he took.

MacGillivary was a member of the 44th Infantry Division in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 71st Infantry Regiment. They entered combat in France during September 1944.

On New Year’s Day 1945, then-Sergeant MacGillivary was leading his rifle squad when their advance was stopped by dug-in Nazi German machine guns. He then took it upon himself to clear the way forward, and was later decorated with the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

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)
MacGillivary receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman, August 25, 1945 (Wikimedia Commons)

MacGlLLlVARY, CHARLES A.

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company I, 71st Infantry, 44th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Woelfling, France, 1 January 1945. Entered service at: Boston, Mass. G.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945

Citation: He led a squad when his unit moved forward in darkness to meet the threat of a breakthrough by elements of the 17th German Panzer Grenadier Division. Assigned to protect the left flank, he discovered hostile troops digging in. As he reported this information, several German machineguns opened fire, stopping the American advance. Knowing the position of the enemy, Sgt. MacGillivary volunteered to knock out 1 of the guns while another company closed in from the right to assault the remaining strong points. He circled from the left through woods and snow, carefully worked his way to the emplacement and shot the 2 camouflaged gunners at a range of 3 feet as other enemy forces withdrew. Early in the afternoon of the same day, Sgt. MacGillivary was dispatched on reconnaissance and found that Company I was being opposed by about 6 machineguns reinforcing a company of fanatically fighting Germans. His unit began an attack but was pinned down by furious automatic and small arms fire. With a clear idea of where the enemy guns were placed, he voluntarily embarked on a lone combat patrol. Skillfully taking advantage of all available cover, he stalked the enemy, reached a hostile machinegun and blasted its crew with a grenade. He picked up a submachine gun from the battlefield and pressed on to within 10 yards of another machinegun, where the enemy crew discovered him and feverishly tried to swing their weapon into line to cut him down. He charged ahead, jumped into the midst of the Germans and killed them with several bursts. Without hesitation, he moved on to still another machinegun, creeping, crawling, and rushing from tree to tree, until close enough to toss a grenade into the emplacement and close with its defenders. He dispatched this crew also, but was himself seriously wounded. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, great initiative, and utter disregard for personal safety in the face of powerful enemy resistance, Sgt. MacGillivary destroyed four hostile machine guns and immeasurably helped his company to continue on its mission with minimum casualties.

MacGillivary’s solo attack on the Nazis cost him his left arm. He was the sole Medal of Honor recipient from the 44th Infantry Division during the war, and was later was employed by the United States Customs Service from 1950 until he retired in 1975. MacGillivary passed away at age 83 on June 24, 2000 and was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Both the 71st Infantry Regiment and the 44th Infantry Division are presently inactive.

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