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PFC Charles R Martin, D Co. 142nd IR. 36th ID. SSM x2, BSM, PH x3


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In honor of National Purple Heart day, I wish to share with you all the story a heroic veteran of the 36th Infantry Division. He was a dual Silver Star recipient and 3 times awarded the Purple Heart, the final time losing his right leg.

 

Charles R Martin was born in a small rural parish of northern Kentucky to a farming family. As he grew, the charm of the Kentucky countryside fell from Martin and he moved in with an aunt living in the big city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Old enough to work on his own, Martin found a job working as a pin boy at the Price Hill Exchange/Red Richmond Bowling Alley in the west end. It was here that he picked up a knack for bowling and before long found himself playing at some of the biggest tournaments in Ohio. Martin was also a pitcher for the local Acme Baseball Club and became one of Ohio’s young sports stars, considered one of the state’s best up and coming bowlers by the time the war hit.

 

In early 1943 Martin came home to his appointment with a draft notice. Spending the first half of his year training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, Martin soon found himself on his way overseas where he joined the famed 36th Infantry Division in December of that year. Trained as a machine gunner, Martin was sent to the 142nd Infantry Regiment’s heavy weapons company, D Company, where he began as an assistant gunner and ammo carrier for a .30 machine gun team.

 

With only a few weeks in the company under his belt, now PFC Martin received his first wound in action while assaulting the San Pietro line in early December. While moving to assist a friendly machine gun, Martin’s leg and foot were ripped by a burst of German MP40 fire, leaving him struggling on the ground as his company retreated. He lay there for the majority of the night before medics found him, but not before frostbite set into his feet. Martin was brought off the line and spent several months in the hospital before rejoining the company for the Italian spring offensive.

 

Martin’s next story of heroism comes int he weeks after the second invasion of France in the cleanup of Operation Dragoon. Just over a week after the initial landings, the 142nd IR was tasked with surrounding and eliminating a strong pocket of German resistance. While the regiment was successful in securing their lines, the inevitable German counterattack came quickly on the 25th of August to break and push through the American lines. Repelling the first attack, the Germans attacked once again on the 26th to smash the battalion. A battalion of German infantry with the support of several tanks (believed to be Panzer IVs) crossed the river near Darnes. The T-Patchers quickly drew into an attack position and called upon two of the regimental tank destroyers for support. Martin’s machine gun team was advancing to support a rifle platoon beginning the attack when all the sudden the German infantry and tanks opened fire. The rifle platoon built a defensive line around Martin’s machine gun where he assisted his comrades to put the gun into action and supply a constant feed of ammunition. With the battle going nowhere, Martin decided to act. Grabbing his carbine and a handful of rifle grenades, he dashed across the open to the German position, killing several of them in the process. Somehow unhit, he ducked into cover as a German panzer advanced. Remaining staunchly in his position, Martin began launching rifle grenades at the tank, disabling it and finally destroying it. By this time the tank destroyers had arrived and knocked out another panzer alongside Martin’s. With their armor support seriously diminished, Martin’s company pushed further and ran the Germans from the area. For his heroism in attacking the German line and successfully eliminating a German tank which contributed greatly to the success of the attack, Martin was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

 

Now quite the figure in the company, Martin headed his own machine gun squad as first gunner and led the platoon for the continuous drive into France. In late September the regiment was given the task of taking the German fortifications at Hill 827, a hill mass near Tendon. For three long days and nights all three battalions were heavily involved in the attacks on the hill where German tanks, artillery, and infantry had been well fortified. It was on one of these assaults that Martin earned his second Silver Star.

 

The battles around Hill 827 were full of strategic planning and counter-maneuvers. During one of these troop movements the first battalion was tasked with crossing a highway to prepare for an attack. The problem was that the highway was fairly exposed to attack. To account for this, the company commander sent Martin’s MG team ahead of the unit to cover the advance. Things went smoothly for the first two crossing companies, however, as the third began its movement enemy soldiers and machine guns hidden in ambush opened fire and began tearing the company apart. Martin immediately began returning fire, but the company was already thoroughly disorganized and on the retreat. Taking advantage, the Germans began to advance in hopes of cutting the battalion in two. PFC Martin was not about to let this happen. Despite calls to draw back and reposition himself, Martin stayed firm on his defelade and continued pouring fire into the onrushing German forces up until they began climbing the embankment to get him. Now firing at point blank range, Martin continued suppressing the enemy forces even when a German hand grenade went off beside him, blowing his helmet off and peppering his leg with shrapnel, and his foot was torn apart by the rip of a German machine gun. Martin stayed in his position and delayed the attackers until the battalion had reorganized and advanced to clear he road of hostile forces. For his crucial actions in saving the entire battalion from certain defeat, Martin was once again awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

 

Martin spent over a month in the hospital recovering from the wounds he received at hill 827, but returned the company as a new platoon leader with all the perks and prestige. He fought valiantly with the company through the Vosges hills and into the deep snow of the Colmer as the winter set in. By early January, in an attempt to divert American forces from the Bulge, the German army launched a counteroffensive across the 7th Army front. The 36th was called into action and sent to secure the line along the Franco-German border. Immediately on the move, Martin’s battalion was sent on a 40 mile motor march under blackout conditions. Sharply cold with snow falling all around them, the men of the 1st Battalion, 142nd moved onwards until they set up a decent line near Lemberg. As both sides were unaware of the other’s line, patrols were sent out by each to feel out the strength of the opposition. On one of these patrols, Martin and his MG team came under attack by a German patrol. The attack was brief but a well-placed hand grenade left Martin’s right leg shredded into pieces. Too far from the American lines, Martin’s men were forced to retreat without him, leaving him stuck beside his machine gun bleeding heavily. He lay there for over 77 hours before another German patrol came across his position. Taking him into their possession, the German soldiers brought him behind their lines and immediately sent him to a field hospital where his leg was necessarily amputated. Martin was stuck moving from German hospital to hospital before being finally found by the 36th almost two months later in March.

 

Martin sent a letter home warning of his injury, but made sure that his bowling buddies knew he was still out to get them. While this leg injury meant the end of his army career, being sent home many months later in late 1945, he by no means let it get the best of him. Martin continued playing baseball with other war amputees and still upheld his bowling record even from a wheelchair. For ten years, however, he dealt with the pains and treatments for his injuries at a VA hospital in Cincinnati. In a newspaper article written on Martin in 1955, a reporter described Martin as “with nothing but a smile on his face. Upon his tongue there is never anything other than a quip, perhaps slightly ribald, perhaps clean as a whistle. In him there is only a vast consumption of life as life is lived. Martin never complained about his disabilities, instead, becoming the life of the ward hall always seeking to cheer up his fellow hospitalized veterans With crazy antics and stunts in his wheelchair.

 

In 1949 Martin was invited to a special ceremony on Army day where he was presented a special decoration set of medals from US Army general Walter Krueger at Xavier College in Cincinnati. Hailed as a local hero, Martin remained humble about his service. He continued his work managing the bowling alley, marrying later in life with a few kids, but was left alone after a divorce and passed away on his own in 1981.

 

Private First Class Charles Martin is one of the most exemplary and heroic men of the 36th Division I have ever come across. His love for life, men, and country is clear across his military records and news articles recounting his life. I am extremely proud to preserve his story through these medals, which I strongly believe to be the decoration set awarded by General Krueger at Army Day 1949. I hope you all have enjoyed his story and take today to remember the true valor and sacrifice of the men and women in America’s armed services.

 

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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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Thanks all for the comments, he was truly an incredible soldier and I am proud to keep his memory alive. I finally got a riker Mount in today after many USPS delays, I think it really does the group justice.

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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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Very nice display ! What size riker is that ?

It’s a 14x20x2, one of the largest sizes they make. I got it because I was able to cut out some of the fluff to make indentions for the coffin boxes which was then surrounded by the stretchy cloth to give a plush look.

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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Very professional looking. And great job integrating the boxes into the display. How did you do your write-ups for the display?They look like museum quality.
 
Friar

So the title card I just made up and the other two are his Silver Star citations. They look good in the picture and are actually just a very fine card stock. I printed a gold square and then glued a second slightly smaller piece that contained on the citation to give it a border.

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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