Saturday, February 22, 2014

TFH 2/22: First Lieutenant Jack C. Montgomery, USA

Jack Cleveland Montgomery was born in Long, Oklahoma on July 23, 1917. He was a Cherokee Indian, and he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard in 1937. He was an infantryman in Company I, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. He went to war with the same unit after the 45th Division was federalized for wartime service with the United States Army, and also received an officer's commission.

On February 22, 1944 at Padiglione, Italy in the Anzio Beachhead, then First Lieutenant Montgomery was commanding several rifle platoons in a defensive position when a superior Nazi force approached and prepared to attack.

Montgomery single-handedly attacked the Germans and completely disrupted their planned attack with his incredible courage. He was a one-man army on that morning, and so justly was later decorated 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: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 45th Infantry Division
Place and date: Near, Padiglione, Italy, 22 February 1944
Entered service at: Sallisaw, Okla.
G.O. No.: 5, 15 January 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 22 February 1944, near Padiglione, Italy. Two hours before daybreak a strong force of enemy infantry established themselves in 3 echelons at 50 yards, 100 yards, and 300 yards, respectively, in front of the rifle platoons commanded by 1st Lt. Montgomery. The closest position, consisting of 4 machineguns and 1 mortar, threatened the immediate security of the platoon position. Seizing an Ml rifle and several hand grenades, 1st Lt. Montgomery crawled up a ditch to within hand grenade range of the enemy. Then climbing boldly onto a little mound, he fired his rifle and threw his grenades so accurately that he killed 8 of the enemy and captured the remaining 4. Returning to his platoon, he called for artillery fire on a house, in and around which he suspected that the majority of the enemy had entrenched themselves. Arming himself with a carbine, he proceeded along the shallow ditch, as withering fire from the riflemen and machine gunners in the second position was concentrated on him. He attacked this position with such fury that 7 of the enemy surrendered to him, and both machine guns were silenced. Three German dead were found in the vicinity later that morning. 1st Lt. Montgomery continued boldly toward the house, 300 yards from his platoon position. It was now daylight, and the enemy observation was excellent across the flat open terrain which led to 1st Lt. Montgomery's objective. When the artillery barrage had lifted, 1st Lt. Montgomery ran fearlessly toward the strongly defended position. As the enemy started streaming out of the house, 1st Lt. Montgomery, unafraid of treacherous snipers, exposed himself daringly to assemble the surrendering enemy and send them to the rear. His fearless, aggressive, and intrepid actions that morning, accounted for a total of 11 enemy dead, 32 prisoners, and an unknown number of wounded. That night, while aiding an adjacent unit to repulse a counterattack, he was struck by mortar fragments and seriously wounded. The selflessness and courage exhibited by 1st Lt. Montgomery in alone attacking 3 strong enemy positions inspired his men to a degree beyond estimation.

Montgomery also received a Silver Star for heroism during World War II. He survived the war, and worked for the Veterans Administration/Department of Veterans Affairs as a civilian. The VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma is named for him. He passed away at age 84 on June 11, 2002 and today rests in peace at the Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma.

The 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oklahoma National Guard today carries on the lineage and traditions of the previous 45th Infantry Division.

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