Vernon McGarity, Medal of Honor winner, dies at 91By DOUGLAS MARTIN
The New York Times | May 24,2013Vernon McGarity, who won the Medal of Honor for braving enemy gunfire to rescue wounded soldiers and destroy German weapons during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, died Tuesday in Memphis, Tenn. He was 91.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced the death.
McGarity was a technical sergeant in the 99th Infantry Division in December 1944 when Hitler mounted his last offensive of the war in the snowy, densely forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg.
Allied forces, which had been moving toward Germany after the D-Day invasion of France, were caught unaware by the counteroffensive and were initially pushed back. Hitler had hoped to defeat the British and Americans there so he could concentrate on fighting the Soviet Union on the eastern front.
The 99th was hailed as heroic in the battle, holding its position under withering fire until reinforcements came. Though outnumbered 5 to 1, it inflicted casualties by a ratio of 18 to 1.
McGarity was “painfully wounded” near Krinkelt, Belgium, the Medal of Honor citation said. But after receiving treatment he refused to be evacuated and rejoined his unit to direct them in the ensuing battle.
“So tenaciously did these men fight on orders to stand firm at all costs that they could not be dislodged despite murderous enemy fire and the breakdown of communications,” the citation said.
On Dec. 16, the battle’s first day, McGarity risked his life to rescue a wounded soldier. Throughout the night he exhorted his comrades to repel the enemy. At daybreak the Germans attacked with tanks and infantry. Dashing to where he could fire a rocket launcher, he destroyed the lead tank. Three other tanks withdrew under fire.
He rescued another wounded American, then directed what the citation called “devastating fire” on a German light cannon. When ammunition ran low, he braved gunfire to retrieve ammunition stashed 100 yards away.
He then single-handedly attacked a machine-gun nest, killing or wounding all the gunners. Only when his squad’s last round had been fired were the Germans able to advance and capture him and his troops.
The citation lauded McGarity for giving American forces “the time necessary for assembling reserves and forming a line against which the German striking power was shattered.”
McGarity spent the next six months in a prisoner-of-war camp, until the war was over. The 99th Division drew back to a defensive position and held.
The Battle of the Bulge, lasting about six weeks, was the costliest of the war for the United States, resulting in about 75,000 casualties and some 19,000 dead. German casualties were estimated at 100,000. The battle eroded Germany’s military resources, and the Allies marched on to Berlin.
McGarity was born Dec. 1, 1921, in Hardin County, Tenn. He lived in Barlett, a Memphis suburb, and worked for the Veterans Administration after the war. He is survived by a son, Ray. His wife, Ethelene, and a daughter, Sharron, died earlier.
Ray McGarity said his father never talked about the war.MORE IN Wire NewsNEW YORK — NBC said Monday that it is ending its business relationship with mogul and GOP... Full StorySEATTLE — A wildfire fueled by high temperatures and strong winds roared into a central... Full StoryPLAINVILLE, Mass. Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day 1739, 'Richard Palmer' identified in prison at York Castle as the notorious outlaw DICK TURPIN; IN 1836, Battle of the Alamo begins near San Antonio de Bexar, Texas; 1896, the Tootsie Roll invented by LEO HIRSCHFELD.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1472, Orkney, Shetland islands put up as collateral by Norway to Scotland in lieu of dowry for MARGARET OF DENMARK on her marriage with JAMES III, king of Scotland; 1962, JOHN GLENN first American to orbit Earth.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: City mayoral candidates debate campaign issues; Hartford, Conn., woman still missing; Neal Goswami reports attempts to legislate suicide; local woman loses 100 pounds through TOPS program.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1878, JOHN TUNSTALL murdered near Lincoln, New Mexico, by the outlaw JESSE EVANS; in 1930, ELM FARM OLLIE first cow to fly in aircraft, first to be milked airborne; 1955, nuke test WASP; '79, snow in Sahara.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Rutland Herald News Editor Alan J. Keays and staff writer Gordon Dritschilo discuss stories planned for the February 18, 2015, edition of the newspaper: Winter budgets maxed, legal marijuana, Springfield bank job, USPS slowdown
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1249 AD, ANDRE of LONGJUMEAU is dispatched by LOUIS IX of France to meet the KHAGAN, ruler of the Mongol Empire; in 1804, during 1st Barbary War, STEPHEN DECATUR scuttles the pirate-held USS Philadelphia in Tripoli.