Seventy years ago today on September 23, 1943 in action near Oliveto, Italy, Corporal Slaton advanced alone and used his bayonet, his M1 Garand rifle, and hand grenades to take out three Nazi machine guns that had pinned down two rifle platoons in the attack. His heroism was later recognized with the Medal of Honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):
|Photo from Military Times' Hall of Valor|
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division
Place and date: Near Oliveto, Italy, 23 September 1943
Entered service at: Gulfport, Miss.
G.O. No.: 44, 30 May 1944
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy in the vicinity of Oliveto, Italy, on 23 September 1943. Cpl. Slaton was lead scout of an infantry squad which had been committed to a flank to knock out enemy resistance which had succeeded in pinning 2 attacking platoons to the ground. Working ahead of his squad, Cpl. Slaton crept upon an enemy machinegun nest and, assaulting it with his bayonet, succeeded in killing the gunner. When his bayonet stuck, he detached it from the rifle and killed another gunner with rifle fire. At that time he was fired upon by a machine gun to his immediate left. Cpl. Slaton then moved over open ground under constant fire to within throwing distance, and on his second try scored a direct hit on the second enemy machinegun nest, killing 2 enemy gunners. At that time a third machine gun fired on him 100 yards to his front, and Cpl. Slaton killed both of these enemy gunners with rifle fire. As a result of Cpl. Slaton's heroic action in immobilizing 3 enemy machinegun nests with bayonet, grenade, and rifle fire, the 2 rifle platoons which were receiving heavy casualties from enemy fire were enabled to withdraw to covered positions and again take the initiative. Cpl. Slaton withdrew under mortar fire on order of his platoon leader at dusk that evening. The heroic actions of Cpl. Slaton were far above and beyond the call of duty and are worthy of emulation.
Slaton survived the war. He passed away on February 25, 1961 and rests in peace in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Laurel, Mississippi. The 157th Infantry carries on today in modified form as the 157th Field Artillery Regiment of the Colorado Army National Guard and is part of the 169th Fires Brigade.
The 45th Infantry Division was disbanded as a National Guard formation in 1968. The division's lineage and history is maintained by the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oklahoma Army National Guard.