Staff Sergeant Eugene J. Bigda, USA (May 28, 1945)

Seventy years ago today – May 28, 1945 – during the Battle of Okinawa, then-Staff Sergeant Eugene J. Bigda of Company B, 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, United States Army single handedly fought both the Japanese and deplorable weather conditions while single-handedly destroying an enemy machine gun post. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

From Military Times’ Hall of Valor:

DSC-200pxThe President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Technical Sergeant [then Staff Sergeant] Eugene J. Bigda (ASN: 32017934), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Squad Leader in Company B, 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 28 May 1945 at Onna Taka, Okinawa, where he destroyed five of the enemy who had infiltrated behind his company and set up a position blocking its supply route. Moving along a narrow ridge until opposite the enemy machine-gun position on a second ridge, Technical Sergeant Bigda then turned down into the precipitous gulch between them. Taking over an hour, he finally reached the floor of the ravine and started up the other side, climbing an almost perpendicular slope, working his way up in a driving rain which made the cliff a mass of slippery, sticky mud. Slipping and falling at almost every step, literally pulling himself up the side of the cliff by weeds and bush roots, he finally reached the top. Raising his head over the edge and immediately finding himself staring straight into the muzzle of the Japanese gun, Sergeant Bigda ducked below the ridge just as the enemy gunners opened fire. Hanging to the cliff with one hand, desperately digging a toe hold, he took grenades from his pocket with the other hand, pulled the pins with his teeth, and lobbed them over the crest into the enemy position one after another, until the gun was silenced and the enemy killed. Eliminating this dangerous enemy position by his heroic and determined action, Sergeant Bigda exemplified the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflected great credit upon himself, the 27th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

Bigda also received a Silver Star for heroism about a month prior, also on Okinawa.

SilverStar-200pxThe President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Technical Sergeant [then Staff Sergeant] Eugene J. Bigda (ASN: 32017934), United States Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy while serving as Squad Leader in Company B, 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division, in action against the enemy near Iso Village, Okinawa, on 21 April 1945. While attempting to cross a small ridge in its line of advance his company was halted by enemy fire form a position which could not be destroyed by rifle or machine gun fire. Sergeant Bigda crawled forward alone to the crest of the ridge, made a quick check of the enemy position, then crawled back to his platoon. Quickly gathering several grenades, he again worked his way to the crest and, reaching it, charged the enemy position. Throwing his grenades into the openings, he accounted for eight of the enemy and destroyed the gun. Demonstrating great personal courage in his lone assault under concentrated hostile fire, Sergeant Bigda completely eliminated a strong enemy position and facilitated the company’s advance.

I couldn’t find his enlistment record among those preserved by the National Archives, nor a burial record with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This third-party record has the right name, and the birth and death dates fit for a World War II veteran. If it is the right man, he was born on December 1, 1914 and passed away at age 82 on August 25, 1997.

Author’s note: if my readers have noticed, it’s been far too long since I’ve had a new post about our nation’s military heroes. I fell off entirely recognizing the World War II Medal of Honor recipients on their 70th anniversaries, and for that, I am very sorry. I’m looking forward to resuming these posts regularly, and yes, all the Medal of Honor recipients whose recognition was missed will be caught up by the 70th anniversary of V-J Day, September 2, 2015. Thank you all for your readership and support.

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