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Awesome Goodwill 30th ID Malmedy Artillery Observer Uniform, CIB x2, SSM x2, BSM x2, CdG, KMAG


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Hope everyone is having a good week! All I can say is that I think Ive just received one of my favorite and most decorated uniforms by far.

 

First Lieutenant Chester J. Churns, of Kansas City, Missouri, was 25 when he enlisted into the United States Army as an officer, completing his training in 1943 and being sent overseas to join the 30th Infantry Division which was soon to earn the title “Roosevelt’s SS.” Churns was trained in infantry and artillery tactics and was assigned to the Cannon Company of the 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, landing in Normandy on June 11th, 5 days after the initial forces. While he may have missed the beach assault, Churns and the 30th quickly found themselves engaged in extremely harsh combat which would come to define the story of the “Old Hickory” Division.

From what I can tell Churns became the head observer for the company in September as the former was killed by German forces during a close fight. Churns was much more active than his predecessor and quickly earned a reputation for being a brave, bold frontline leader. He consistently found himself going far above what was necessary to find the howitzers their targets and to effectively support the men of the 120th. Over the course of his service he would earn two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for Valor as a result of his actions. I have managed to find the stories behind his two Silver Stars but am still searching for the Bronze. Below I have detailed these actions.

When the Germans struck the American lines on December 16th to begin the Battle of the Bulge, there was mass fear for the breaking of American troops and the collapse of the lines. The 30th, known for their crack service in prior campaigns, was given the task of stopping Hitler’s elite 1st SS Panzer Division which was rushing towards the Malmedy area. Having met the 1st SS months prior in Normandy, the 30th was surprised to find part of the unit having changed its tactics. GIs began finding German soldiers of the 150th Pnz Brigade, now attached to the 1st SS, wearing American uniforms, driving American jeeps, trucks, armored cars, or tanks. Some of the Panzers were even painted up with American markings to confuse the allies. As the Germans pushed through Malmedy on the 21st of December, heavy fog rolled in and the men of the 30th secretly repositioned themselves into a “U” shape where the German forces found themselves surrounded on three sides by heavy concentrations of American forces. It was when the fog lifted that morning that Churns went to work.

Now able to see the Germans heavily congregated in the woods and outer buildings of the town, artillery observers were sent to sight in the helpless and confused masses of SS troops. With limited time before the Germans could reorganize themselves into a defense position or retreat, Churns sought to quickly find an effective spotting post. Seeing an abandoned building on a hill well past the allied lines, Churns rushed forward without support to secure the house as a forward observation post. Trudging through the thick snow under heavy German small arms fire in the woods, Churns soon found himself at the door of the house. Pulling out his issued .45 pistol, he kicked in the door, surprising a group of 6 German soldiers jumping to grab their weapons. Churns brought up his 1911 and shot two directly in the chest. The others, frightened of this emboldened and fearsome American, rushed out of the back door and windows to avoid facing wrath in the form of .45 ACP. Churns found the post as useful as he had hoped and began to call in artillery strikes on the still-trapped German forces. The regimental history discusses how his fire helped to bring massive casualties onto the congregated German forces, and for his actions in securing the critical observation post, he was awarded the Silver Star.

The 30th would go on to devastate the 1st SS and the other German units around Malmedy, leading the charge in a counterattack on January 13th which would mark the beginning of the end of the Battle of the Bulge. By mid April of 1945, the division found itself rapidly approaching the prominent Belgian urban center of Brunswick. To set up support for the eventual push, a few infantry companies as well as Cannon Company, of the 120th were sent to secure the bridgeheads at Ulfingen, a small town southeast of the city. The attack came on April 9th and saw intense combat between the German garrison and the men of the 30th, only ending at 2345 when the call came in that the town had finally been secured. The men were not safe yet, however, as early the next morning explosions began racking the city. The retreating Germans had managed to gather a number of 88mm and 20mm cannons and put them on top of a ridge overlooking the canal bordering the town. Chester Churns and his operator, despite heavy exhaustion from the fighting to secure the city only hours before, took lead in silencing the threats. Running to the outer buildings of the city, Churns found a tall structure which had not yet been destroyed by artillery fire. Heading to the highest level, Churns began coordinating direct fire support right on top of the German forces. Unfortunately, he was not undiscovered, and soon the German artillery began targeting his position and the buildings around him. In spite of this, Churns remained salient and continued to direct American fire until every gun of the German battery was eliminated. For his actions in helping to secure the bridgehead at Ulfingen and save the troops from severe German artillery, Churns was again awarded the Silver Star.

These are only two of countless heroic actions performed by the men of Roosevelt’s SS. Engaging in some of the heaviest fighting of the war and playing a crucial role in supporting allied efforts time and time again, the 30th Division earned the reputation of the Army’s single “best infantry division” by head Army historian S. L. A. Marshall and many other generals in the European theater.

Even with his valorous and memorable service during the World War, Churns would go on to serve in Korea. While I have not been able to find out much specific information about his time over there, it is clear he saw some action and likely directly trained a number of soldiers in the South Korean Army. If anyone thinks they can help me in finding the Korean side of his story, it would be much appreciated. I believe it was here he earned his second Bronze Star and of course, his Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

 

This has quickly become one of my all-time favorite uniforms in the collection. A Missouri native, this uniform ended up being donated to a Goodwill in his hometown but I am more than happy to keep his story alive and the uniform out of the hands of any old hipster which might have walked in looking for a stylish coat. The uniform itself has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the plastic coated ribbons are in fantastic shape. It appears as though the star on the ETO ribbon is a silver star which has lost its coating, but I cannot tell whether the Korean one is a bronze or a silver in a similar situation. The double CIB is pretty unique, it doesn’t have a maker mark and based on other examples Ive seen, I believe it to be Korean made. He also has a Belgian Croix de Guerre, which the regiment was awarded for its actions over the course of several months. The right shoulder shows a 30th ID patch while the left bears a very nice bullion version of the KMAG insignia. When researching Lt. Churns I managed to find a photo from his obituary in 2006. I was also looking through the 120th Regiment Unit History for context on his awards and photos of the Cannon Company when I stumbled across this late war photo of an observer fighting alongside the infantry. Being the primary observer for the regiment’s own artillery unit, I lean towards the possibility that this photo might show Churns himself as he was clearly a well-known and respected personality amongst the unit. I hope you all enjoy this historic uniform as much as I do, his sacrifice and valor to securing our victory in European will never be forgotten.

 

Best,

Alex

 

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Very possibly a photo of Churns as well as a January picture of a 120th Cannon Co battery.

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Situation at Malmedy

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Germans in disguise

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His second Silver Star at Ulfingen

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The bridgehead

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The 120ths travels

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His citations

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20191205/20f7121002da8a1a333e26d48cf3ee5b.jpg

 

https://uploads.tapatalk-cdn.com/20191205/178f34d9a6c9f6850c8579a02ce78786.jpg

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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I saw that one- very nice! Glad it has found a good home!

Mr.JERRY
Collector of WWI & WWII Home Front Flags, Unit Flags & Guidons,US & German helmets, insignia, uniforms, medals,

Women's Military Uniforms,Wisconsin Vocational School made Fighting Knives.

Military Shop Owner & Dealer in everything else~!


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Thanks for the comments yall! Ive said it before on here but my all time favorite part of this hobby is finding the story behind the item, so when I started looking into Churns I knew I had to have it.

 

I was also very surprised to see it in such complete shape, another reason I went for it. It gives me hope that at least some workers out there understand the value in keeping these things as they were left by the men who wore them.

 

Alex

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bumping this to the top as today marks 75 years since his Silver Star actions in the Bulge to defeat the 1st SS at Malmedy

GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard              ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR                      ACW               Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR                  ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID       WWI                WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co.           WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID    WWII              WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70                     WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div         Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div     Vietnam

 

Contact me with items from the 36th Infantry Division or any IDd uniforms of European Theater Infantry Divisions

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Fantastic piece and great history! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Always looking for medic helmets, 30th Infantry Division/Brigade items, and TOW missile items.

 

 

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So your the one who outbid me!

 

I'm just kidding, I really did want this uniform, but I guess you just wanted it more. LOL

 

Cool uniform, I researched him a little while I had the highest bid.

 

LMK if you need anything that I found.

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