Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Jonah Edward high Kelley

  • Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company E, 311th Infantry,
    78th Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: January 30 - 31, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Kesternich, Germany
In charge of the leading squad of Company E, he heroically spearheaded the attack in furious house-to-house fighting. Early on 30 January, he led his men through intense mortar and small-arms fire in repeated assaults on barricaded houses. Although twice wounded, once when struck in the back, the second time when a mortar shell fragment passed through his left hand and rendered it practically useless, he refused to withdraw and continued to lead his squad after hasty dressings had been applied. His serious wounds forced him to fire his rifle with one hand, resting it on rubble or over his left forearm. To blast his way forward with hand grenades, he set aside his rifle to pull the pins with his teeth while grasping the missles with his good hand. Despite these handicaps, he created tremendous havoc in the enemy ranks. He rushed one house, killing three of the enemy and clearing the way for his squad to advance. On approaching the next house, he was fired upon from an upstairs window. He killed the sniper with a single shot and similarly accounted for another enemy soldier who ran from the cellar of the house. As darkness came, he assigned his men to defensive positions, never leaving them to seek medical attention. At dawn the next day, the squad resumed the attack, advancing to a point where heavy automatic and small-arms fire stalled them. Despite his wounds, S/Sgt. Kelley moved out alone, located an enemy gunner dug in under a haystack, and killed him with rifle fire. He returned to his men and found that a German machine gun, from a well-protected position in a neighboring house, still held up the advance. Ordering the squad to remain in comparatively safe positions, he valiantly dashed into the open and attacked the positions singlehandedly through a hail of bullets. He was hit several times and fell to his knees when within 25 yards of his objective; but he summoned his waning strength and emptied his rifle into the machine-gun nest, silencing the weapon before he died. The superb courage, aggressiveness, and utter disregard for his own safety displayed by S/Sgt. Kelley inspired the men he led and enabled them to penetrate the last line of defense held by the enemy in the village of Kesternich.
Medal of Honor Recipient Jonah E. Kelley
Medal of Honor Recipient Jonah E. Kelley
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Keyser, Mineral County, West Virginia
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: September 5, 1945
    Fort Hayes, Ohio, presented to his Father
  • Born: April 13, 1923, Roda, Wise County, WV, United States
  • Died: January 31, 1945, Germany Germany
  • Buried: Queens Point Cemetery (MH), Keyser, WV, United States

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