An American veteran, who distinguished himself in fighting German troops in eastern France in 1944, died this week at the age of 99, a museum named after him has said.
Charles Coolidge, oldest recipient of the Medal of Honor, America’s most prestigious military honor, died Tuesday “Peacefully” in Chattanooga, in the southeastern United States, said the National Heritage Center Medal of Honor, named in his honor.
During World War II, Charles Coolidge had first fought in North Africa and Italy where, in 1944, he had participated in the fighting to retake Rome from the German army, after the landing at Anzio.
Sent to the south of France in August 1944, its division then went up the Rhône to join the Moselle and fight alongside the First French Army, where it suffered heavy losses. In October, Mr. Coolidge, then a sergeant, was with a platoon in the Vosges forest of Belmont-sur-Buttant when they encountered a German company, accompanied by tanks. In the absence of an officer, the 23-year-old had taken command of the platoon and attempted to bluff, demanding the enemy’s surrender, but had faced heavy fire.
An “exceptional and heroic command” in France
“For four grueling days, the enemy had launched repeated attacks, while Sergeant Coolidge marched the front line, within direct range of fire, directing, calming and reassuring his men, mostly young recruits.”, said the museum. “Fewer in number and less well armed, the members of the small group had been able to repel the enemy on several occasions thanks to the brilliant command of Mr. Coolidge. “
The Germans having called for reinforcements, Charles Coolidge had seized a bazooka. Seeing that it was not working, he had thrown grenades at the enemy forces, before withdrawing with his troops, without having to deplore casualties on his side.
His “Exceptional and heroic command” won him the Medal of Honor the following year. By the end of the war, the veteran returned to his native Tennessee and raised three children.