Tuesday, January 07, 2014

TFH 1/7: Sergeant Joe C. Specker, USA

Joe C. Specker was born in Odessa, Missouri on January 10, 1921. According to his enlistment record, his education ended with grade school, and he was drafted into the United States Army for World War II service on September 9, 1942 when he was 21 years old. Prior to his induction at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, it's recorded that he was a farm laborer.

Very little is known, or at least can be found, about him. He must have demonstrated leadership, because within 16 months of his enlistment he was a Sergeant with the 48th Engineer Combat Battalion fighting the Nazi Germans in Italy. Like so many of his American wartime comrades, Sergeant Specker had likely never traveled far from his home prior to being called to defend humanity and liberty.

The motto of the 48th Engineer Combat Battalion was "Open the Way". On January 7, 1944, Specker's battalion was advancing up the slopes of Mount Porchia. It was three days before his 23rd birthday. The 48th's advance was blocked by an enemy machine gun position supported by snipers.

Joe Specker volunteered to open the way in a daring solo attack, and after his fellow combat engineers later found his body with his lifeless finger still on the trigger of his machine gun, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

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


Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, 48th Engineer Combat Battalion
Place and date: At Mount Porchia, Italy, 7 January 1944
Entered service at: Odessa, Mo.
G.O. No.. 56, 12 July 1944

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual conflict. On the night of 7 January 1944, Sgt. Specker, with his company, was advancing up the slope of Mount Porchia, Italy. He was sent forward on reconnaissance and on his return he reported to his company commander the fact that there was an enemy machine gun nest and several well-placed snipers directly in the path and awaiting the company. Sgt. Specker requested and was granted permission to place 1 of his machine guns in a position near the enemy machinegun. Voluntarily and alone he made his way up the mountain with a machinegun and a box of ammunition. He was observed by the enemy as he walked along and was severely wounded by the deadly fire directed at him. Though so seriously wounded that he was unable to walk, he continued to drag himself over the jagged edges of rock and rough terrain until he reached the position at which he desired to set up his machine gun. He set up the gun so well and fired so accurately that the enemy machine gun nest was silenced and the remainder of the snipers forced to retire, enabling his platoon to obtain their objective. Sgt. Specker was found dead at his gun. His personal bravery, self-sacrifice, and determination were an inspiration to his officers and fellow soldiers.

Sergeant Specker's remains were repatriated to the United States and today he rests in his hometown of Odessa, Missouri. He seems to be somewhat of a "lost" World War II Medal of Honor recipient; it appears that little if anything besides a stretch of Interstate 70 near Odessa is dedicated in his name in memory.

It's up to each and every one of us then to remember Joe Specker as representative and symbolic of all the nameless, faceless, and now nearly forgotten young men from across America who were called from their homes and families to fight and die on lands far abroad for the freedom and survival of us all.

If any of his relatives find their way here - information about his family (parents, siblings, etc.) is also lacking - all I can say is thank you, and be so very proud of Joe.

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