Monday, July 29, 2013

TFH 7/29: 2LT Robert S. Scott, USA

Robert Sheldon Scott was born in our nation's capital on November 30, 1913. He grew up in New Mexico, graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1937. He was drafted into the United States Army in September 1941. Thanks to his education, he was enrolled in Officer Candidates' School and was ultimately commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry branch.

Lieutenant Scott was assigned as a rifle platoon leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 172d Infantry Regiment which was part of the 43d Infantry Division, a National Guard unit federalized for war service from Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. The division arrived for action in the South Pacific in October 1942 and saw their first heavy combat during the New Georgia Campaign in the summer of 1943.

Seventy years ago today, Lieutenant Scott led his platoon against a Japanese hilltop strongpoint near the Munda Airstrip, which had to be captured. When the lead element's attack bogged down and they began to withdraw, he advanced alone. At that moment, the Japanese counter-attacked and it was up to Scott fighting alone to hold them off.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):


Rank and organization: Captain (then Lieutenant), U.S. Army, 172d Infantry, 43d Infantry Division. Place and date. Near Munda Air Strip, New Georgia, Solomon Islands, 29 July 1943. Entered service at. Santa Fe, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 81, 14 October 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Munda Airstrip, New Georgia, Solomon Islands, on 29 July 1943. After 27 days of bitter fighting, the enemy held a hilltop salient which commanded the approach to Munda Airstrip. Our troops were exhausted from prolonged battle and heavy casualties, but Lt. Scott advanced with the leading platoon of his company to attack the enemy position, urging his men forward in the face of enemy rifle and enemy machinegun fire. He had pushed forward alone to a point midway across the barren hilltop within 75 yards of the enemy when the enemy launched a desperate counterattack, which if successful would have gained undisputed possession of the hill. Enemy riflemen charged out on the plateau, firing and throwing grenades as they moved to engage our troops. The company withdrew, but Lt. Scott, with only a blasted tree stump for cover, stood his ground against the wild enemy assault. By firing his carbine and throwing the grenades in his possession he momentarily stopped the enemy advance using the brief respite to obtain more grenades. Disregarding small-arms fire and exploding grenades aimed at him, suffering a bullet wound in the left hand and a painful shrapnel wound in the head after his carbine had been shot from his hand, he threw grenade after grenade with devastating accuracy until the beaten enemy withdrew. Our troops, inspired to renewed effort by Lt. Scott's intrepid stand and incomparable courage, swept across the plateau to capture the hill, and from this strategic position 4 days later captured Munda Airstrip.

As his citation indicates, Scott had been promoted to Captain by the time his award of the Medal of Honor was approved in October 1944. He remained in the Army after the war's end and served during both the Korean War and Vietnam War as well. He retired from the Army in 1966 with the rank of Colonel.

Colonel Scott passed away on February 5, 1999 at age 85. He rests in peace at the Santa Fe National Cemetery in New Mexico.

The 1st Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment is currently inactive. The 43rd Infantry Division was disbanded as a National Guard formation in 1967.

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