In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!

. . . from the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Real Hometown Hero

I missed getting a post up last week for Memorial Day (here's last year's post), but perhaps I can make it up by noting a hallowed event today: the 66th anniversary of the death of Charles Neilans DeGlopper (November 30, 1921–June 9, 1944), a United States Army private who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions and sacrifice of life on June 9, 1944, during the battle for Normandy following the D-Day landings on June 6. Pvt. DeGlopper's life and death have special meaning for me, as we are both natives of the small town of Grand Island, New York (see also IsleGrande.com). I grew up hearing him referred to with reverence, and often passed by a small park in the middle of the Island that still bears his name.

Pvt. DeGlopper entered the United States Army in November 1942, and after training was deployed overseas in April 1943, where he served in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and finally in France with C Company, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. His MOH citation tells the story of his bravery and sacrifice:
O]n 9 June 1944 [Pvt. DeGlopper] advanc[ed] with the forward platoon to secure a bridgehead across the Merderet River at La Fière, France. At dawn the platoon had penetrated an outer line of machineguns and riflemen, but in so doing had become cut off from the rest of the company. Vastly superior forces began a decimation of the stricken unit and put in motion a flanking maneuver which would have completely exposed the American platoon in a shallow roadside ditch where it had taken cover. Detecting this danger, Pfc. DeGlopper volunteered to support his comrades by fire from his automatic rifle while they attempted a withdrawal through a break in a hedgerow 40 yards to the rear. Scorning a concentration of enemy automatic weapons and rifle fire, he walked from the ditch onto the road in full view of the Germans, and sprayed the hostile positions with assault fire. He was wounded, but he continued firing. Struck again, he started to fall; and yet his grim determination and valiant fighting spirit could not be broken. Kneeling in the roadway, weakened by his grievous wounds, he leveled his heavy weapon against the enemy and fired burst after burst until killed outright. He was successful in drawing the enemy action away from his fellow soldiers, who continued the fight from a more advantageous position and established the first bridgehead over the Merderet. In the area where he made his intrepid stand his comrades later found the ground strewn with dead Germans and many machineguns and automatic weapons which he had knocked out of action. Pfc. DeGlopper's gallant sacrifice and unflinching heroism while facing insurmountable odds were in great measure responsible for a highly important tactical victory in the Normandy Campaign.
Pvt. DeGlopper was the only soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division to receive the Medal of Honor for action during the Normandy campaign. He is still remembered by the people of La Fiere (which is located near Sainte-Mère-Église, made famous in the "church bells" scene in the movie The Longest Day), and a memorial plaque in his honor was erected where he fell by veterans of the 325th Glider Infantry in 2003. Pvt. DeGlopper is now buried at Maple Grove Cemetery on Grand Island.

As this day draws to a close, let us say a silent prayer of thanks for Pvt. DeGlopper and for all American military men and women who have given their lives to defend our country and the cause of freedom around the world. What that world would be like today without their sacrifice would be truly unthinkable. Everything we enjoy today was bought at a most terrible and sacred price. Let us never forget it.

Above is a digital painting of Pvt. DeGlopper in action, by artist Jean-Pierre Roy and specially commissioned for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

1 comment:

SabresLoyalist said...

Thanks for sharing this. Charlie was my Dad's favorite cousin. I grew up understanding sacrifice. We owe a debt of gratitude to the greatest generation.