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Medal of Honor: Melvin E. Biddle

MohbookEvery weekday for 110 straight days we will feature a different living recipient of the Medal of Honor. These are the men who have received their nation's highest military honor. Brian is a board member of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. The words and photos are courtesy of Artisan Books, publishers of "Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier with photographs by Nick Del Calzo.

MELVIN E. BIDDLE
Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment

BiddleAfter parachuting into southern France two months after D-Day, Melvin Biddle fought with the 517th Infantry Regiment as it made its way toward Germany. Enemy resistance appeared to be collapsing, and members of the 517th had begun practicing the victory parades they expected to be having back home, when on December 16, 1944, the German Army suddenly launched the counterattack that initiated the Battle of the Bulge.

On the morning of December 23, Pvt. First Class Biddle’s battalion was near the Belgian town of Soy, trying to rescue a company made up primarily of cooks and clerks that had been encircled by the German advance. Things got off to a very bad start. The two lead scouts of the battalion were injured and taken out of action when one of them stepped on a mine. The commanding officer then pointed at Biddle and barked, “You! Out front!” Crawling through the snowy underbrush of a densely wooded area, Biddle ran into a German outpost. He killed three snipers who appeared one after the other, then moved forward until he saw an enemy machine-gun nest, which he took out with hand grenades. Signaling his company to advance, he destroyed two more German machine-gun positions.

After he returned to his position, his commanding officer instructed Biddle to go back behind enemy lines to try to take a prisoner. As he was moving through a field, he heard a large number of German soldiers approaching and hid in a drainage ditch until they had passed by. Then -— it seemed almost a dream -— he saw a lone German officer all dressed up in a hat with a shiny bill, a greatcoat, and polished jackboots, looking as if he was about to attend an official review. Biddle stood and pointed his rifle at the man in hopes of capturing him, but the officer pulled out a Luger, fired a wild volley, and ran off.

Biddle continued to scout enemy positions, then returned to his unit and hunkered down for the night, so cold that he feared that his finger would freeze on the trigger of his rifle. Sometime after midnight, he heard a roar above him and saw flashes of light as an American P-38 night fighter shot down a Junkers bomber. The following morning, Christmas Eve, he found the dead pilot and copilot of the downed German plane frozen in their cockpit.

Shortly afterward, he heard the command again: “Biddle, out front!” When he had advanced several hundred yards into enemy territory, he saw 13 German soldiers running hunched over across a field right in front of him. He opened fire and killed them all. Then moving forward, he saw a boy, perhaps 14 years old, in a German uniform. He had been tied to a tree to keep him from retreating, and there were hand grenades and a rifle at his feet. Another GI who had come up behind Biddle yelled at him to shoot; instead, Biddle took the boy prisoner.

A week later, in the middle of another battle, Biddle was hit in the neck by a piece of shrapnel, which narrowly missed his jugular. He was sent to England to recuperate. Several weeks later, on a train headed back to his outfit, he read in Stars and Stripes that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.

On October 12, 1945, when President Harry Truman presented the medal to Biddle, he whispered to him, “People don’t believe me when I tell them that I’d rather have one of these than be president.”

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COMMENTS

It is with a great deal of pride that I served in the 517th with Melvin Biddle I have spoken to him and we have had some great times at our reunions If you didn't know he was a Medal of Honor winner he is a very humble man
Robert R Cooper CO D 517th

Mr. Bittle - a good account of life in the 517th as I am told by my dad, your comrade at the time, Tom McAvoy. I will forward this article to my children for there scrap book of how life in WWII was for some of there grandfathers friends.

My brother pfc George W. Cavnar was with the 517 th and the Bulge.Survived and will be in attendance at the reunion in D.C.this month.GOD BLESS THEM ALL. Kenneth C. Cavnar Houston, Tx.

My grandfather was injured at Battle of the Bulge. He died before I was old enough to understand what he'd done and regret that I'll never be able to ask him questions about his service to a country he adopted after immigrating from Italy. Thank you for sharing PFC Biddle's story. Thank you, PFC Biddle, for showing bravery at a time when it was greatly needed.

true hero no doubt.

I WANT TO SAY THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO PROTECT MY FREEDOM. WITHOUT TRUE HEROS SUCH AS YOURSELF THIS WONDERFUL COUNTRY THAT I LOVE WOULD NOT BE THE SAME. ONCE AGAIN-THANK YOU SIR!

Private Biddle is no private. He is a true American hero. All of us can thank him and others for the freedoms we cherish. During the last democratic debate not one of those fools thought winning the war on terror should be the first priority of ANY President. I wonder what Private Biddle would think about that?

God bless the 517th! My grandfather was also part of that elite unit and at the end of June I will have the honor of standing next to him in DC for a WW2 reunion. When I asked him about previous reunions he was quoted; "Son, in 87 it would be nothing for us to have 60 guys from charlie company attending these reunions- now, we are luckly to get 5-8." If we take anything from the greatest generation it should be their character, a character that is uncanny compared to all else. As we move forward as a nation it is vital that all of us, regardless of beliefs, continue to honor and fight for what these men made possible for all of us. Cheers to all who where a uniform and God bless!

I served with a Medal of Honor receiver in Korea in 1966 when I was 19 yrs. old. Eventually I heard more detail on how he won it (in Korea when he was 19) and what it did to him. He had done what his nervous/belief system made him do which saved the lives of many. He felt pride and was thankful for the medal but also told me that he believed that if he had been KIA he would have been considered a fool and forgotten soon. I was taught alot from this man and give him respect for sharing honesty, accepting the thankfullness, and moving along on the path of life. Perseverance to accept/not accept such life experiences that he taught me, has been a major factor in my life's experiences. He is a man I will always thank and never forget... a "hero" and a great "educator."

It is incredible that you followed your orders through the hell known as war, there are people that don't understand this and they must know that it truly is something very difficult to go through.

Private First Class Melvin E. Biddle truly deserving of the Medal of Honor. Part of the Greatest Generation of men who served during that time. I admire his actions and his heroism. He should be out in front and saluted for his dedication and bravery for our country. God Bless him!

Melvin sir it was an honor to meet you last March on MOH Day and I am proud to know you are a fellow Hoosier. I hope I have the pleasure of seeing and talking to you again soon.
God Bless,
Richard
IN State Captain Patriot Guard Riders

I am extremely proud to know that you followed orders in the worst of conditions through combat, foul weather. I was kind of mad at the fact that your officer in charge kept you in harms way so many times. But that is what makes some leaders great.Great men such as yourself.

My Dad (now 87) was a corparal and was in Normandy and at The Bulge and my whole life has been hearing stories of his experiences at these two great battles. These are stories that should be taught in every classroom in America so these tales never get lost to time.

I recently got to meet Mr. Biddle. It was a true honor to meet and salute this true Hero.

As a vet of the GWT I heartily agree with honoring CMH winners!

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