James Lindell Harris was born on June 27, 1916 in Hillsboro, Texas and was 24 years old when he was drafted into the United States Army on March 20, 1941 prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. By October 7, 1944, Harris had risen to the rank of Second Lieutenant, having received a battlefield commission in March of that year. He was a tank platoon commander with the independent 756th Tank Battalion.
Both men later received the Medal of Honor for their heroism. The first, Harold O. Messerschmidt, was killed in action and posthumously decorated in the immediate postwar period. The second, Donald K. Schwab, fell victim to ethnic discrimination and wasn’t given the award he deserved until just this year.
Raymond Zussman was born in Hamtramck, Michigan on July 23, 1917. He was drafted into the United States Army on September 24, 1941. He received his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was then sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky. He graduated from the armor officers’ course and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Armor Branch on January 9, 1943.
John Joseph Tominac was born in Conemaugh, Pennsylvania on April 29, 1922. He voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army, specifically the United States Army Air Corps, on November 22, 1941. At some point, he was transferred to the Infantry branch and also earned an officer’s commission.
Robert Dale Maxwell was born in Boise, Idaho on October 26, 1920. He joined the United States Army from Colorado during 1942, and after his initial training, was sent to North Africa to join the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment which was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.
Upon arriving in North Africa Maxwell, who had been trained as a heavy weapons crewman for mortars and machine guns, was reassigned to be a “wireman”, responsible for setting up communications lines between the battalion headquarters and other units. These soldiers weren’t considered “combatants”, so instead of having rifles or carbines to defend themselves with, they had only their Colt M1911 .45 caliber pistols.
Over four and one-half years later, Bender was a Staff Sergeant with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment which had landed in Southern France as part of the 3rd Infantry Division and Operation DRAGOON.
James Phillip Connor was born on January 12, 1919 in Wilmington, Delaware. He possessed only a grade-school education, and was employed as a leatherworker when he was drafted into the United States Army on January 27, 1941 just after his 22nd birthday.
Connor was an infantryman with the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. I wasn’t able to confirm when he joined that regiment, but it is likely that he was a veteran of three assault landings made by the 3rd Infantry Division: Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio.
On August 15, 1944, the 3rd Infantry Division made its fourth landing on a hostile shore.
On June 2-3, 1944 near Valmontone, Italy, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 15th Infantry Regiment were ambushed by a Nazi mixed infantry and armor force. Two of the men caught in the ambush – both privates – on their own initiative sacrificed their own lives in lone attacks that diverted the enemy’s attention and allowed their comrades to escape.
Rudolph B. Davila was born in El Paso, Texas on April 27, 1916. His enlistment record indicates he was a high school graduate and working as a carpenter in Los Angeles, California when he was drafted for service in the United States Army on March 6, 1941.
The combat history of the 15th United States Infantry dates back to the War of 1812. The present 15th Infantry Regiment dates to the US Civil War. The regiment’s motto is simply, “Can Do”.
On May 23-24, 1944 as part of the 3rd Infantry Division, three soldiers of the 15th Infantry, two of them from the same company, embodied the regiment’s motto in the breakout from the Anzio beachhead at Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. All three men were decorated with the Medal of Honor.
They were Sergeant Sylvester Antolak, Private James H. Mills, and Private First Class Henry Schauer.