One of the many instances of supreme soldiering in the New Year’s Nordwind engagement is the action of Sergeant Charles MacGillivary.
MacGillivary came to the United States when he was 16, from Prince Edward Island, Canada. He took up residence with his older brother in Boston. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he volunteer for the army. As he told the United States Senate Subcommittee on Immigration 50 years later, when he was in boot camp in Massachusetts, "an officer asked me and two other immigrants ... whether we wanted to become U.S. citizens. [They took us] to a federal courthouse and [swore us] in before a judge. I thought that if I was going to fight for this country, I should be a U.S. citizen."
Sgt MacGillivary alone dispatched four Waffen SS squads armed with the fearsome MG42. The MG42 is widely regarded is the best machine gun ever with a fire rate of over 1,400 rounds per second.
On New years Day, Company I, 71st Regiment, was alerted and ordered to move one mile to be in apposition in the event of an enemy breakthrough within the Regimental area. As the Company was proceeding along the road from Wolfling to Gros Rederching, MacGillivary, the squad leader in the second platoon, was given the mission of protecting the left flank. Sergeant MacGillivary, alone, closed in from the left flank and reported the enemy, grenadiers of the 17th Waffen SS Division, digging in. A few minutes later the enemy opened fire with machine guns, halting the advance. Company K was given the mission to come around the right flank and knock out the opposition. Sgt MacGillivary knowing the position of the enemy, voluntarily for a solo patrol and went around the lleft flank in the rear of one enemy machine gun. With his M1 rifle, at the distance of
three feet, killed both the gunner and his assistant. Company I continue to its forward assembly area. By his own initiative and prompt action, after giving knowledge of enemy positions and their fire sectors, he prevented great loss of life to our troops.
As Company I went into attack again, it came under heavy machine gun fire. Sergeant MacGillivary, again upon his own initiative, knowing the enemy positions, crawled alone towards the nests of six machine guns, which had halted the attacking force and destroyed three machine gun teams, killing all of them before he himself because seriously wounded by a fourth machine gun. The Sergeant lost one arm as a result of this action.
For this extraordinary heroic action, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, his aggressiveness and self sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty, Sgt MacGillivary was awarded the nations highest honor, The Medal of Honor.
Text from Medal of Honor Citation
Sergeant Charles MacGillivary
Company I, 71st Infantry, 44th Infantry Division
“He led a squad when his unit moved forward in darkness to meet the threat of a breakthrough by elements of the 17th German Panzer Grenadier Division. Assigned to protect the left flank, he discovered hostile troops digging in. As he reported this information, several German machine guns opened fire, stopping the American advance. Knowing the position of the enemy, Sgt. MacGillivary volunteered to knock out 1 of the guns while another company closed in from the right to assault the remaining strong points. He circled from the left through woods and snow, carefully worked his way to the emplacement and shot the 2 camouflaged gunners at a range of 3 feet as other enemy forces withdrew. Early in the afternoon of the same day, Sgt. MacGillivary was dispatched on reconnaissance and found that Company I was being opposed by about 6 machineguns reinforcing a company of fanatically fighting Germans. His unit began an attack but was pinned down by furious automatic and small arms fire. With a clear idea of where the enemy guns were placed, he voluntarily embarked on a lone combat patrol. Skillfully taking advantage of all available cover, he stalked the enemy, reached a hostile machinegun and blasted its crew with a grenade. He picked up a submachine gun from the battlefield and pressed on to within 10 yards of another machinegun, where the enemy crew discovered him and feverishly tried to swing their weapon into line to cut him down. He charged ahead, jumped into the midst of the Germans and killed them with several bursts. Without hesitation, he moved on to still another machinegun, creeping, crawling, and rushing from tree to tree, until close enough to toss a grenade into the emplacement and close with its defenders. He dispatched this crew also, but was himself seriously wounded. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, great initiative, and utter disregard for personal safety in the face of powerful enemy resistance, Sgt. MacGillivary destroyed four hostile machineguns and immeasurably helped his company to continue on its mission with minimum casualties.”
“There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.”