|Lt. James Monteith, 1st Infantry Division, earned the Congressional Medal of Honor on D-Day.|
James Monteith, Jr. never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on July 1, 1917 in Virginia. His mother was also born in Virginia and his father was born in Mississippi. His father worked as an iron mine manager and later a traveling salesman for the coal industry. James had one older sister and one older brother. By 1940 James was still living at home, attending Virginia Polytechnic Institute (majoring in mechanical engineering) and working as a salesman. He was a varsity football player in both high school and college.
He enlisted in the army on October 4, 1941. He became a first lieutenant in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He participated in the 1st Infantry's campaign in Sicily in 1943. His father died while Lt. Monteith was in Italy.
Company L was one of the first units to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lt. Monteith lead his platoon of men through the initial barbed wire obstacles on the beach and got them off the beach where they were then pinned down by the enemy firing from numerous positions. When his company commander became an early casualty, Lt. Monteith took charge. Under heavy fire he went back to the beach to two American tanks that were buttoned up due to the same heavy fire. He walked ahead of the tanks through a mine field to a position where they could destroy a pillbox that was pinning down his men.
His company was still pinned down by two heavy machine gun positions on opposite sides of his position. He personally led the attacks, and relying on his athleticism, threw the grenades that destroyed the enemy machine guns. His penetration beyond the beach attracted attention of the enemy who surrounded Lt. Monteith's men. He moved in disregard of enemy fire to make sure his men were properly deployed to hold off repeated enemy attacks until more American troops moved up. Lt. Monteith was felled by enemy machine gun fire. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry, leadership, and courage under deathly fire.
His cenotaph grave is at Forest Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum in Richmond, Virginia. He is buried in St. Laurent, France, near where he died.
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