Tuesday, May 1, 2018

WW2 Fallen - Medal of Honor paratrooper hero Clinton Hedrick + Tonight Show Tie-In

Sgt. Clinton Hedrick earned the Medal of Honor while capturing Lembeck Castle.
Clinton M. Hedrick never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on May 1, 1918 in West Virginia. His parents Preston and May were also both born in West Virginia. His father worked as a camp woodsman and later as a farm laborer. Clinton had one older sister, one younger brother, and three younger sisters. His younger brother served in the Army Air Forces during WW2. By 1940 Clinton had completed two years of high school and was working as a logging and farm laborer.

He enlisted in the army on December 5, 1940. The war for him started in November 1942 when he landed at Oran, Algeria, probably while serving with the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He also fought in Tunisia, Italy, and Southern France. 

At some point in 1944 he was transferred to the 17th Airborne Division and served as a tech sergeant in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 194th Glider Infantry Regiment. The 17th Airborne first saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, fighting as infantry. Next it participated in it's only airborne operation that was part of Operation Varsity, supporting the 21st Army Group's crossing of the Rhine. 

Sgt. Hedrick, in the glider regiment, survived heavy casualties among the glider troops during their March 24, 1945 landing. His unit quickly achieved the mission of taking out the German artillery threatening the Rhine crossing. Three days later he was part of the assault on Lembeck.

Sgt. Hedrick was an experienced and courageous squad leader. One of his men asked him why he didn't duck for cover. He replied, "It makes no difference. I'm six feet standing up or laying down. If I'm going to get it, I'm going to get it." Over two days of fighting on March 27-28, Sgt. Hedrick knocked out multiple enemy machine-gun positions. He even stormed across a drawbridge and captured a castle. How many WW2 soldiers can make that claim?

When a German soldier in the castle told Sgt. Hedrick that the garrison wanted to surrender, he let his guard down and was mortally wounded by a self-propelled gun. He covered for his men while they retreated. They regrouped and retook the castle. Sgt. Hedrick died while his men were taking him back to the aid station.

Sgt. Hedrick was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

He displayed extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action on 27-March 28, 1945, in Germany. Following an airborne landing near Wesel, his unit was assigned as the assault platoon for the assault on Lembeck. Three times the landing elements were pinned down by intense automatic weapons fire from strongly defended positions. Each time, T/Sgt. Hedrick fearlessly charged through heavy fire, shooting his automatic rifle from his hip. His courageous action so inspired his men that they reduced the enemy positions in rapid succession. 

When six of the enemy attempted a surprise, flanking movement, he quickly turned and killed the entire party with a burst of fire. Later, the enemy withdrew across a moat into Lembeck Castle. T/Sgt. Hedrick, with utter disregard for his own safety, plunged across the drawbridge alone in pursuit. When a German soldier, with hands upraised, declared the garrison wished to surrender, he entered the castle yard with four of his men to accept the capitulation. The group moved through a sally port, and was met by fire from a German self-propelled gun. Although mortally wounded, T/Sgt. Hedrick fired at the enemy gun and covered the withdrawal of his comrades. He died while being evacuated after the castle was taken. 

His great personal courage and heroic leadership contributed in large measure to the speedy capture of Lembeck and provided an inspiring example to his comrades.

His grave is at North Fork Memorial Cemetery in Riverton, West Virginia.

Thank you Clinton for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Clinton.


Born on the same day as Clinton Hedrick was Jack Paar, who would go on to precede Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show. 

Paar had a successful radio carrier as an announcer and DJ before the war. He was drafted into the army, and because of his entertainment skills was assigned to work on USO tours in the South Pacific during the war.

Paar died in 2004.

While the WW2 fallen may not have reached the fame of Jack Paar, we will never know what they could have accomplished had they returned home. We are still richer for the sacrifices they made that left a world safe from more world wars.

Last year on this date I profiled 63rd Infantry Division truck driver Norman Penny. You can read about Norman here.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.

Follow on Twitter @ww2fallen100
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WW2 Fallen 100 is supported by

The Greatest GENERATIONS Foundation

“Where Every Day is Memorial Day”

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