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Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Dexter James Kerstetter

  • Rank: Private First Class
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company C, 130th Infantry,
    33d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 13, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Galiano, Luzon, Philippine Islands
He was with his unit in a dawn attack against hill positions appoachable only along a narrow ridge paralleled on each side by steep cliffs which were heavily defended by enemy mortars, machine guns, and rifles in well-camouflaged spider holes and tunnels leading to caves. When the leading element was halted by intense fire that inflicted five casualties, Pfc. Kerstetter passed through the American line with his squad. Placing himself well in advance of his men, he grimly worked his way up the narrow steep hogback, meeting the brunt of enemy action. With well-aimed shots and rifle-grenade fire, he forced the Japs to take cover. He left the trail and, moving down a cliff that offered only precarious footholds, dropped among four Japs at the entrance to a cave, fired his rifle from his hip, and killed them all. Climbing back to the trail, he advanced against heavy enemy machine-gun, rifle, and mortar fire to silence a heavy machine gun by killing its crew of four with rifle fire and grenades. He expended his remaining ammunition and grenades on a group of approximately 20 Japs, scattering them, and returned to his squad for more ammunition and first aid for his left hand, which had been blistered by the heat from his rifle. Resupplied, he guided a fresh platoon into a position from which a concerted attack could be launched, killing three hostile soldiers on the way. In all, he dispatched 16 Japs that day. The hill was taken and held against the enemy's counterattacks, which continued for three days. Pfc. Kerstetter's dauntless and gallant heroism was largely responsible for the capture of this key enemy position, and his fearless attack in the face of great odds was an inspiration to his comrades in their dangerous task.
Medal of Honor Recipient Dexter J. Kerstetter
Medal of Honor Recipient Dexter J. Kerstetter
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Centralia, Lewis County, Washington
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: October 12, 1945
    The White House, by Pres. Harry S. Truman
  • Born: December 21, 1907, Centralia, Lewis County, WA, United States
  • Died: July 9, 1972, Puget Sound, Hood Canal (drowned), WA, United States
  • Buried: body not recovered, Seabeck, WA, United States

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