Badass of the Day: 69 Years Ago, This Army Badass Did Something Incredible
Today’s Badass of the Day is United States Army Private Joseph Frederick Merrell, Company I, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division (“The Old China Hands”), because on this day in 1945, near Lohe, Germany, while his unit was attempting to secure a hill occupied by German forces, he launched a daring and devastating one-man attack on entrenched German positions, charging headlong through a vicious barrage of enemy gunfire, disabling two enemy machine gun emplacements and, despite being wounded himself and having his weapon disabled, managed to continue the assault with enemy weapons taken from the men he had killed, eventually killing nearly two dozen of the Nazi bastards before being shot dead himself in a hail of gunfire, action which surely saved the lives of many of his comrades and for which he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He was 18 years old.
His citation reads:
He made a gallant, 1-man attack against vastly superior enemy forces near Lohe, Germany. His unit, attempting a quick conquest of hostile hill positions that would open the route to Nuremberg before the enemy could organize his defense of that city, was pinned down by brutal fire from rifles, machine pistols, and 2 heavy machine guns.
Entirely on his own initiative, Pvt. Merrell began a single-handed assault. He ran 100 yards through concentrated fire, barely escaping death at each stride, and at pointblank range engaged 4 German machine pistolmen with his rifle, killing all of them while their bullets ripped his uniform.
As he started forward again, his rifle was smashed by a sniper’s bullet, leaving him armed only with 3 grenades. But he did not hesitate.
He zigzagged 200 yards through a hail of bullets to within 10 yards of the first machinegun, where he hurled 2 grenades and then rushed the position ready to fight with his bare hands if necessary.
In the emplacement he seized a Luger pistol and killed what Germans had survived the grenade blast. Rearmed, he crawled toward the second machinegun located 30 yards away, killing 4 Germans in camouflaged foxholes on the way, but himself receiving a critical wound in the abdomen. And yet he went on, staggering, bleeding, disregarding bullets which tore through the folds of his clothing and glanced off his helmet.
He threw his last grenade into the machinegun nest and stumbled on to wipe out the crew. He had completed this self-appointed task when a machine pistol burst killed him instantly.
In his spectacular 1-man attack Pvt. Merrell killed 6 Germans in the first machinegun emplacement, 7 in the next, and an additional 10 infantrymen who were astride his path to the weapons which would have decimated his unit had he not assumed the burden of the assault and stormed the enemy positions with utter fearlessness, intrepidity of the highest order, and a willingness to sacrifice his own life so that his comrades could go on to victory.