Technician Fifth Grade Forrest E. Peden, USA (February 3, 1945)

Forrest E. Peden was born on October 3, 1913 in Saint Joseph, Missouri. He was living in Wathena, Kansas and working in automotive service when he was drafted for World War II service in the United States Army on February 3, 1943 at age 29. Peden was trained as an artilleryman and fought in Europe with the 10th Field Artillery Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division.

On February 3, 1945 during the fight to destroy the Nazi salient known as the Colmar Pocket in France, Peden was acting as an artillery forward observer for a small infantry force when they came under assault by a determined German counter-attack. He assisted wounded men until he realized that unless someone went for reinforcements, he and his comrades would be overrun.

He found two light tanks nearby, and stood atop one of them completely exposed to lead them to the battle. He was killed when the tank he was riding on was destroyed, and his posthumous award of the Medal of Honor for his actions was secured about one year later.

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)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*PEDEN, FORREST E.

Rank and organization: Technician 5th Grade, U.S. Army, Battery C, 10th Field Artillery Battalion, 3d Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Biesheim, France, 3 February 1945. Entered service at: Wathena, Kans. G.O. No.: 18, 13 February 1946

Citation: He was a forward artillery observer when the group of about 45 infantrymen with whom he was advancing was ambushed in the uncertain light of a waning moon. Enemy forces outnumbering the Americans by 4 to 1 poured withering artillery, mortar, machinegun, and small-arms fire into the stricken unit from the flanks, forcing our men to seek the cover of a ditch which they found already occupied by enemy foot troops. As the opposing infantrymen struggled in hand-to-hand combat, Technician Peden courageously went to the assistance of 2 wounded soldiers and rendered first aid under heavy fire. With radio communications inoperative, he realized that the unit would be wiped out unless help could be secured from the rear. On his own initiative, he ran 800 yards to the battalion command post through a hail of bullets which pierced his jacket and there secured 2 light tanks to go to the relief of his hard-pressed comrades. Knowing the terrible risk involved, he climbed upon the hull of the lead tank and guided it into battle. Through a murderous concentration of fire the tank lumbered onward, bullets and shell fragments ricocheting from its steel armor within inches of the completely exposed rider, until it reached the ditch. As it was about to go into action it was turned into a flaming pyre by a direct hit which killed Technician Peden. However, his intrepidity and gallant sacrifice was not in vain. Attracted by the light from the burning tank, reinforcements found the beleaguered Americans and drove off the enemy.

Forrest Peden’s remains were returned home after the end of the war and laid to rest in the Mount Olive Cemetery of Troy, Kansas. The 3rd Infantry Division is still active and is home based at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

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