Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Arlo Laverne Olson

  • Rank: Captain
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company F, 15th Infantry,
    3d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: October 13, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: crossing of the Volturno River, Italy
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. On 13 October 1943, when the drive across the Volturno River began, Capt. Olson and his company spearheaded the advance of the regiment through 30 miles of mountainous enemy territory in 13 days. Placing himself at the head of his men, Capt. Olson waded into the chest-deep water of the raging Volturno River and despite point-blank machine-gun fire aimed directly at him made his way to the opposite bank and threw two hand grenades into the gun position, killing the crew. When an enemy machine gun 150 yards distant opened fire on his company, Capt. Olson advanced upon the position in a slow, deliberate walk. Although five German soldiers threw hand grenades at him from a range of five yards, Capt. Olson dispatched them all, picked up a machine pistol, and continued toward the enemy. Advancing to within 15 yards of the position he shot it out with the foe, killing nine and seizing the post. Throughout the next 13 days Capt. Olson led combat patrols, acted as company No. 1 scout, and maintained unbroken contact with the enemy. On 27 October 1943, Capt. Olson conducted a platoon in attack on a strongpoint, crawling to within 25 yards of the enemy and then charging the position. Despite continuous machine-gun fire which barely missed him, Capt. Olson made his way to the gun and killed the crew with his pistol. When the men saw their leader make this desperate attack they followed him and overran the position. Continuing the advance, Capt. Olson led his company to the next objective at the summit of Monte San Nicola. Although the company to his right was forced to take cover from the furious automatic and small-arms fire, which was directed upon him and his men with equal intensity, Capt. Olson waved his company into a skirmish line and despite the fire of a machine gun which singled him out as its sole target led the assault which drove the enemy away. While making a reconnaissance for defensive positions, Capt. Olson was fatally wounded. Ignoring his severe pain, this intrepid officer completed his reconnaissance, supervised the location of his men in the best defense positions, refused medical aid until all of his men had been cared for, and died as he was being carried down the mountain.
Medal of Honor Recipient Arlo L. Olson
Medal of Honor Recipient Arlo L. Olson
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Toronto, Deuel County, South Dakota
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: September 16, 1944
    Camp Ban Dorn, Mississippi - presented by Gen. Louis E. Hibbs to his widow Mrs. Myna Olson
  • Born: April 20, 1918, Greenville, Clay County, IA, United States
  • Died: October 28, 1943, Mount San Nicola, Italy
  • Buried: Fort Snelling National Cemetery (MH) (C-24-13787) , Minneapolis, MN, United States

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