Medal of Honor winner dies at age 89


US Army veteran Russell Dunham, awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in France during World War II, died Monday in Illinois at age 89.

On Jan. 8, 1945, near Kayserberg, France, Dunham single-handedly knocked out three enemy machine guns with his platoon behind him.

Despite being shot, Dunham killed nine Germans, wounded seven and captured two, firing about 175 rounds of carbine ammunition and throwing 11 grenades, thereby spearheading a successful diversionary attack.

According to Wikipedia, Dunham was a platoon leader in his unit, which became pinned down at the base of snow-covered Hill 616, a steep hill in Alsace-Lorraine:

“Using a white mattress cover as a camouflage aid against the backdrop of the snow, Dunham began moving up the hill. He carried with him a dozen hand grenades and a dozen magazines for his M1 Carbine.

“Dunham began crawling more than 100 yards to the first machine gun nest under fire from two machine guns and supporting riflemen. When 10 yards from the nest, he jumped up to assault the nest and was hit by a bullet which caused him to tumble 15 yards downhill. He got back up and charged the nest firing his carbine as he went, and kicked aside an egg grenade that had landed at his feet. Prior to reaching the nest, he tossed a hand grenade into the nest. When he got to the nest, he killed the machine gunner and his assistant. His carbine then jammed, and he jumped into the machine gun emplacement. He threw a third German in the nest down the hill who was later captured by his unit.

“With his carbine jammed, he picked up another carbine from a wounded soldier and advanced on the second nest, 50 yards away. As he came within 25 yards of the nest, he lobbed two hand grenades into the nest, wiping it out. He followed this up by firing down fox holes used in support of the nest. He then began his slow advance on the third nest, 65 yards up the hill. He made his advance on the third nest under heavy automatic fire and grenades. As he came within 15 yards of the nest, he tossed more grenades and wiped out the last nest, barely being missed at point blank range by a German rifleman.”

During the action, nearly 30 other Germans were captured. Dunham’s actions saved the lives of more than 150 American soldiers that day.

After he recovered from his injuries at Kayserberg, he returned to the line. On Jan. 22, 1945, he and most of his unit were captured, according to a story in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But only a day or two later, Dunham used a hidden handgun to kill a guard and escape. He walked three days in temperatures sometimes below zero to get back to U.S. lines.


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