Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Joseph Frederick Merrell

  • Rank: Private
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company I, 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry,
    3d Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 18, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: near Lohe, Germany
He made a gallant, one-man attack against vastly superior enemy forces near Lohe, Germany. His unit, attempting a quick conquest of hostile hill positions that would open the route to Nuremberg before the enemy could organize his defense of that city, was pinned down by brutal fire from rifles, machine pistols, and two heavy machine guns. Entirely on his own initiative, Pvt. Merrell began a singlehanded assault. He ran 100 yards through concentrated fire, barely escaping death at each stride, and at point-blank range engaged four German machine pistolmen with his rifle, killing all of them while their bullets ripped his uniform. As he started forward again, his rifle was smashed by a sniper's bullet, leaving him armed only with three grenades. But he did not hesitate. He zigzagged 200 yards through a hail of bullets to within 10 yards of the first machine gun, where he hurled two grenades and then rushed the position ready to fight with his bare hands if necessary. In the emplacement he seized a Luger pistol and killed what Germans had survived the grenade blast. Rearmed, he crawled toward the second machine gun located 30 yards away, killing four Germans in camouflaged foxholes on the way, but himself receiving a critical wound in the abdomen. And yet he went on, staggering, bleeding, disregarding bullets which tore through the folds of his clothing and glanced off his helmet. He threw his last grenade into the machine-gun nest and stumbled on to wipe out the crew. He had completed this self-appointed task when a machine pistol burst killed him instantly. In his spectacular one-man attack Pvt. Merrell killed six Germans in the first machine-gun emplacement, seven in the next, and an additional 10 infantrymen who were astride his path to the weapons which would have decimated his unit had he not assumed the burden of the assault and stormed the enemy positions with utter fearlessness, intrepidity of the highest order, and a willingness to sacrifice his own life so that his comrades could go on to victory.
Medal of Honor Recipient Joseph F. Merrell
Medal of Honor Recipient Joseph F. Merrell
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Staten Island, Richmond County, New York
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Born: August 21, 1926, Staten Island, Richmond County, NY, United States
  • Died: April 18, 1945, Germany
  • Buried: St. Peter's Cemetery (MH) (XXX-434-3), Staten Island, NY, United States

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