I’ve seen threads in the past about dubious medals and recipients who may not have deserved what they were awarded (Gen. MacArthur, et al). But there are thousands of cases in all services of men who performed acts of unbelievable heroism and sacrifice and were never officially recognized for them, or were awarded something less than they deserved. In some cases, there were not enough witnesses or witnesses were KIA themselves before a recommendation could be pushed up. In some units, such as the 83rd Division, no emphasis was placed on awards at all and there were comparatively few awards for valor given especially considering the amount of fighting they experienced. In other cases politics may have gotten in the way. Sometimes their stories are only remembered and told by a close buddy or found buried in dust covered After Action Reports that rarely see the light of day. If you know of any who fit this description please share it here!
I’ll get it started with PFC Henry W. Saaga, Co G, 330th Infantry, 83rd Division. He’s not in NARA and there is not much information available for him. He was a native of Samoa and enlisted from Hawaii in 1942. Shortly after the 83rd landed on Omaha beach in late June 1944 they started pushing inland and began the process of replacing the 101st Airborne Division in the Carentan sector, which was heavily defended by elite German SS, panzer, and paratroops. Before the 83rd went on the offensive they began sending out reconnaissance patrols. The result of one of these is recorded on the Company Morning Report of 1 July 1944 by the Company Commander, Captain William P. Buhrman. A copy is attached to this post. It reads:
“…Co sent out first daylight patrol at 1230 led by Capt Buhrman the Co Commander. The members of this patrol were all volunteers and were Pvt Saaga, who displayed extraordinary courage and bravery without respect for his own life when he vaulted an enemy occupied hedge row to attack, alone, an enemy MG position whose fire was pinning the patrol down. As a result of his act, the patrol was able to move out and return to their own lines. When last heard of Pvt Saaga was throwing hand grenades and firing his rifle. At this time Pvt Saaga’s whereabouts remain unknown.”
In my opinion this action would have merited at least a Silver Star. Maybe even a DSC considering that he gave his life allowing his comrades to escape. But only 3 days later Capt Buhrman was himself KIA attempting to climb over a hedgerow when the 83rd launched their attack (my Uncle was by his side when it happened). The others may very well have suffered a similar fate. Henry Saaga’s extraordinary act was lost to history, never to be officially recognized accept for a paragraph in a morning report. One has to wonder if his family ever knew how he died. His body was never recovered and after the one year waiting period the Army declared him KIA. His name is included on the Tablet of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer.
I would like to see some more, so if you know of a similar story please post it!