Becoming a Soldier

Combat in Sicily and Italy

Monte Cassino and Anzio

Rome

San Pietro

Monte Cassino and Rome

From Rome to Southern France

Southern France and Combat Exhaustion

Vosges Mountains, the Medal of Honor and Lemberg

Medal of Honor

Ten Day Pass and Medal of Honor Ceremony

The Medal of Honor and Combat Stories

Going Home

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Charles Coolidge was born in August 1921 on Signal Mountain, Tennessee where his family spent the summer months. The family did not build a house there until 1928. In 1939 Coolidge graduated from Chattanooga High School then began learning to be a book binder. The foreman of Chattanooga Printing came to him one night after work and asked Coolidge why he did not go to school in September of 1939. Coolidge told him that he figured that it did not take much education to go and shoot people. The foreman asked him what he meant and Coolidge explained that with the events going on in Europe, America was not going to let that war go on without it getting a chance to show its skill. The foreman was shocked and told Coolidge that America would not be going to war. Coolidge said they would be and it was just a matter of time. Coolidge had not even registered for the draft. On 16 February [Annotators note: uncertain of year] he did so. They had never had the draft down in the twenty year olds until then. Four months to the day after he registered he was sworn into the army. That was on 16 June. Coolidge felt it was remarkable that it happened that quickly and did not realize until after the war when he met the man who headed up his draft board. He surprised the man and told him that he was the one who drafted Coolidge illegally and that he was supposed to exhaust drafting all of the 21 to 24 year olds before drafting those in their 20s. The man shut up then. Coolidge states that people often ask if he volunteered and he responds that he did not volunteer. He was a handcuff volunteer. For his basic training, Coolidge went to Fort McClellan, Alabama then went to Camp Butner, North Carolina for a week. Coolidge thinks they were getting ready to ship out the 36th Infantry Division, which is the Oklahoma and Texas National Guards. He was put on a train which took him onto the base at Camp Edwards. When he got off the train he was put in Company M, 141st Infantry Regiment [Annotators Note: Company M, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division]. They dealt with machineguns and 81 millimeter mortars. The 81 millimeter mortars stayed a half a mile behind the lines or more. The machine gunners were attached to rifle companies as a normal procedure. Most of the time when Coolidge was platoon sergeant he was attached to Company K. The rifle companies back then had 60 millimeter mortars. Coolidge had very little training on the weapons until he got to Camp Edwards. When he arrived there he was trained on the .30 caliber watercooled machinegun [Annotators Note: Browning M1917 .30 caliber machinegun] and the 81 millimeter mortar. When assigned to a rifle company Coolidge recalled that he and his men were at the back of it. Most of the time they would have two regiments or two companies in the attack and one would be in reserve. They were usually the ones in the attack because there was little use for them in reserve. When Coolidge arrived at Camp Edwards they discovered that he had not been home since entering the army. They sent him home to Signal Mountain in order to give him a chance to see his family before going to New York and heading overseas. He stayed home for eight days. Most of his friends had already been drafted so it was a disappointing trip home. He was not really able to go out with his friends and have fun so he went back to camp a day or two early.

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Charles Coolidge left Camp Edwards near Boston to go to New York before going overseas. He was at sea for 13 days then landed in Oran, Africa as the fighting was ending there. A reconnaissance group was set up to observe as a form of training to prepare them for what combat would be like as they entered it. [Annotators note: There is a brief interruption as Coolidge's secretary enters for a moment.] Coolidge went into the hills around Oran and bivouacked. They slept on the ground and whatever the weather sent was what they had to deal with. The unit then moved from Oran to Casablanca for a few months and then would make trips back and forth to the Oran area. They would camp near Oran and then move near Casablanca and camp and then go back to Oran. Coolidge figured out that the army was attempting to fool the locals as to how many troops were over there and made it look like they had more than they actually did. They were moving back and forth between Oran and Casablanca when Sicily was invaded. Coolidge gives a brief history of the fighting in Sicily and the arguments between General Patton and the British but he notes that his division, the 36th Infantry Division, was not a part of it. Coolidge entered the fighting at Salerno. They had to climb down rope ladders on the sides of ships to get into the landing craft that took them ashore. When they were heading to the beach the coxswain on the boat crew said he could not get the door down. They beat on the door with their rifle butts but it was to no avail and they were forced to jump over the side. When they went over the side they were in water up to their necks. Coolidge was holding a 51 pound tripod as well as his pack and his gas mask. By the time they got to the beach everyone had thrown away their gasmasks. They moved inland a few hundred yards and the Germans were there to meet them. The Germans seemed to know where they were invading beforehand. They lost 12 percent of the division during the invasion of Salerno with wounded and killed. Coolidge recalls the success of reaching their first objective and how vital it was to do so and push the Germans out. When they reached Naples all of the glass had been blown out of the buildings by the naval gunfire. The Germans put up a good fight and Coolidge says that the war in Italy was where the war really took place until 6 June 1944.

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For Charles Coolidge, success [Annotators Note: success in combat] continued in Italy. His unit [Annotators Note: Company M, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division] reached Rome on 5 June 1944. They tried to cross the Rapido River between 22 and 24 January 1944. Some of his men got across but others did not. The men that did get across were captured or hurt by German tanks. Coolidge and the men that did not get across were safe. The engineers tried to build a bridge across the Rapido River. Coolidge sat in the road waiting for the engineers to build the bridge as the Germans were shelling the road. His Platoon Sergeant and another man came up to him asking if he was going to use the shovel he was holding. If they dug in off the road then they were in a minefield. Coolidge's Platoon Sergeant asked to borrow the shovel so Coolidge gave it to him. That was the last time that Coolidge saw them as they were killed later that night on the road using his shovel. The artillery fire was really hurting them. Coolidge went to the front of the line to the engineers to find out how much longer it would take to build the bridge. They had barely started as they had been shelled continuously too so Coolidge and the rest of the men waiting fell back to their original positions and stayed there several days. The decision was made to go further down the line and bypass the river by going to Mount Cairo. There was a disagreement between General Walker and General Mark Clark over whether to cross the river or go past it and up Mount Cairo and on to Cassino. In February 1944 Coolidge's unit was finally relieved and went back to get replacements. His company was down to just 27 men. Coolidge saw the bombers bomb the monastery at Monte Cassino while he was up on Mount Cairo. On 28 February 1944 the 88th Infantry Division came in to relieve them so that they could go back and get replacements. They stayed off the line until approximately 25 May 1944 when the 36th Infantry Division was sent to Anzio. On the ship on the way to Anzio they overheard Axis Sally on the radio saying that she knew the 36th Division was on the way to Anzio and that when the first man stepped his foot onto the sand that there would be a shell there to meet him. Sure enough, when the first man from the 36th Division landed a shell came over that did not hit him but did land on the beach.

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Charles Coolidge went into Anzio during the day then started moving that night for a planned attack the next morning. They headed up the road and talked to people along the way who told them that a vehicle got knocked out every night by a mine. Even though the mines had been dragged over to the sides of the road a vehicle would still hit one every night on the road. Coolidge spread his men out along the road and ask them to keep in touch with the other guards out there. If they saw anybody moving through the line that should not be then they were to shoot them. A few hours later a shot rang out and a soldier was found standing over a dead woman. The soldier told her to halt and approached her finding a mine in the road. He asked her if she put it in the road and she responded in Italian that she had not. The soldier shot her and pulled the mine off to the side of the road. Killing people doing things like that prevented them from doing it again and kept vehicles and men from being killed. They moved up the next morning to Velletri and Coolidge's unit went around the right flank of the troops. Coolidge talked to a man after the war who was from that area. This man and an officer supposedly took a jeep up to the area and saw no enemy troop movements so that is the area that Coolidge and his men were sent. They stopped in Velletri and set up their guns along a rock wall. They had captured a kitchen on the way into town with frankfurters, sauerkraut and ice cream. After they set a machinegun up, a German suddenly stood up and started walking toward the American lines. Coolidge jumped up and told everyone to hold their fire as this lone German approached. Nobody shot at him and Coolidge told him to come on over the rock wall. When the man came out he was followed by seven other men. If Coolidge and his men had shot the lone man then they would have had to fight the other seven most likely. Coolidge had men in his unit who could speak German and he had one talk to them to figure out what was going on. After they broke through Velleri they made their way to Rome. They got to Rome at about early in the morning and lay on the streets to try and sleep. The next morning they got into the houses around the area. A lady in the house where Coolidge and several others were staying asked if Coolidge was German. His men laughed and told her no, that he was from Tennesee. They stayed in Rome for a day or two longer and then left to pursue the Germans. They went as far as Roccastrada, Italy. Coolidge became a sergeant in March 1944 after they came off of Mount Cairo because they did not have many other people left to promote.

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When Charles Coolidge was in Italy Patton did not mean a thing to him. Coolidge passed a vehicle with General Patton in it. Patton jumped out of the jeep and kept walking along chewing a lieutenant out and telling him to fasten his chinstrap. The lieutenant said he would but when General Patton left he would unfasten it again. Patton repeated his order two more times with the same response from the lieutenant. The third time, the lieutenant said he would unfasten it again after Patton left because if a shell came in and exploded nearby he did not want his helmet to break his neck and have him finish the war like that. General Patton did not say a word but turned to the following jeep, stepped back into it and left. The next day an order came down from Headquarters that from that day forward the chinstraps would be fastened behind the helmet and not under the chin. Coolidge felt that Patton would listen to his troops. Coincidentally, Coolidge and that lieutenant became good friends. Coolidge remembered the Germans making a big mistake at Salerno. They came down the road and when they did the lieutenant was on the road with four tanks. He had them turn and face toward the ocean. It was dark and early in the morning when he lined the tanks up and he motioned for them to move forward. When they did they fell into a swamp. The tanks could not get out which rendered them useless. It put the fear in all of the Germans. Coolidge had a man jump up on another tank and got shot through the stomach. The man begged his buddies to kill him but they could not do it. He would have to shoot himself. They got into some elevation and had stone walls that marked property lines as cover. They invaded at Salerno with no shelling at the beach until after noon the next day. They went in against some resistance, set up a line and waited until daylight before heading up to Altavilla which was the high mountain past the beachhead. The division took the mountain and held it. They also found a little boy there whose parents had been killed and who ended up going home with one of the mess sergeants to live in Texas after the war. They were called on to bring K rations to the 143rd Infantry Regiment, or whoever was on the mountain just before San Pietro. They got to the foot of the mountain and saw many dead and wounded laying along the base of the mountain. Coolidge and his men went up the path and gave out rations to the people. After they got up there and delivered their rations then headed back down the mountain. The view as they came down the mountain was beautiful. It was a sunny winter day. Coolidge could hear Germans off to his right starting to laugh. He stepped off the path a little to relieve himself and heard the Germans chuckling. A small voice told to him to get out of there so he pulled his pants up and started moving. When he got about 25 feet from where he had been he looked back just as a round came in and scored a direct hit on where he had been standing. He got back down the mountain and the Germans finally gave up. They could have put that round anywhere they wanted but instead tried to drop it on him.

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Charles Coolidge recalls the weather at Monte Cassino as being cold and rainy. Coolidge feels that had they gone with what General Walker wanted to do, instead of Mark Clark, it would have saved the losses from the Rapido River and could have taken them to the top of the mountain. They would have had the Germans right where they wanted them. Instead the Germans had time to arrange their troops and build a defense. The 36th Infantry Division did lose men at Cassino too though and they did have to get across the river with a rope. They would tie a rope around a GI and let him swim across and tie the rope off on something else to guide them across. The water was going fast in the narrow river and men could easily get swept away. That night the shellfire was bad. A piece of shrapnel hit the ground near his face and sizzled in the water on the ground after it hit his wool knit cap. Another night on one of the mountains they started climbing the mountain early in the evening. As they climbed it started to get dark but they kept climbing. They met no resistance and kept climbing the mountain. Early in the morning Coolidge told another sergeant that they would have to do something soon before daylight came. They called back to the regimental headquarters [Annotators Note: 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division] to get further orders. The regimental headquarters told them to get off the mountain the best way they could and it was every man for himself. Coolidge had a 51 pound tripod over his shoulder and when he heard it was every man for himself he tossed the tripod over the mountain and with it went his helmet which is why he did not have it later when the shrapnel hit his jeep cap. In Rome they had no resistance coming into town. It was so early in the morning that nobody was there to greet them and all was quiet as they got into town. They lay down on the streets of Rome and blocked it off. Those that could sleep did so. When daylight came they started checking houses and got into a house with a lady wanting to know if he was a German. He continued in combat without wearing a helmet and did so because he could not hear with a helmet on like he could when he was not wearing one.

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Charles Coolidge passed through Rome and went as far as Roccastrada where the Germans turned and surrounded the Americans. They fell back to Naples to get replacements. They learned how each other walked at night so that they did not shoot their own men. They did not have many men that did not wear a helmet and he was one of the few which made him easily recognizable. Coolidge learned from the British and particularly the tankers. They never wore helmets. The tankers would share their food with them and Coolidge recalled sharing their chocolate D Bars [Annotators note: Dessert bar ration was a chocolate bar loaded with calories to sustain a soldier in the field] with the kids. When they prepared to make a river crossing they made sure to have three D bars. If they ate one they were not very hungry that day. While training in Africa they walked all one day and into the next. He and another man in his unit did not carry water because they did not want the extra weight. When they took a break his buddy Matthews said he would give 50 dollars for a drink of water. That was a lot of money back then and Coolidge yelled to the mortars behind them that he would give 50 dollars for water. A lieutenant heard him and told his men not to give Coolidge or Matthews any water. Coolidge told the lieutenant that he was raised in the mountains and had sense enough to know that if there was a path going up the mountain in Africa then there would be water somewhere on the path. When they got moving again there was water not 100 yards up the path. They stopped to fill their canteens and they never heard a peep out of them. When they entered combat Coolidge joked with that lieutenant that the invasion was nice and that everybody had water which irritated him. The invasion of Southern France was different from previous invasions because they shelled it before they landed. When they landed on 15 August 1944 it looked like a Fourth of July celebration. When they landed they thought they were going to land on sand. For several weeks they trained with the navy for the invasion of Southern France. Their casualties in Southern France were practically nothing. Coolidge drilled the sergeant with him [Annotators note: Coolidge may be referring to the coxswain of the landing craft he was aboard] that he had been let off in the past out in the ocean and that it would not happen again. He told him that the boat would be pulled up to the shore and when the gangplank went down it would be on dry land. Coolidge did not care what happened to his boat. By this time Coolidge was a Tech Sergeant [Annotators Note: now referred to as a Sergeant First Class, or E7] or a Sergeant and told him that it would be on the land and was assured it would be even if the boat never gets off. That morning when they were going in they got about 200 yards out and the coxswain opened up the throttle and ran the boat wide open. When they hit the shoreline they hit rock. It scraped the bottom of the boat and they jumped off. Coolidge thanked him on the way off the boat and the coxswain called for them to help get the boat off of the rock which they did.

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When Charles Coolidge landed in Southern France there was little opposition after the major shelling the Germans took beforehand. He only recalls one gun firing at them in his landing area but there was some firing further away. In 30 days they moved 500 miles. They were losing people along the way but making good time. Coolidge never figured out how they had time to go in to the Vosges Mountains or why they went up there. He felt like if they bypassed everything else then why could they not bypass one more mountain. Coolidge had access to four jeeps and a weapons carrier for his company to move along the route at such a fast pace. The people along the way seem to love the Americans. One woman asked why it took them so long to get there and he responded telling her that they did not know they needed help and that they should ask for help if they want it. [Annotators note: There is a brief break in the interview and then it picks back up with October 1944] Coolidge served at Hill 623. He returned there years later with his son, daughter in law and his wife to go to some of the areas fought at. They rented a German car and drove into Italy down to Salerno. They looked over the terrain there and went to a hotel that is on the beach area now. After 68 years [Annotators note: at the time of his interview] it is difficult to remember some of the small details. He can recall certain instances in places but he could not recall houses he stayed in or people’s names or he would have written a book. At Limburg [Annotators note: Limburg, Germany] during the war they went in at night with snow that was eight to ten inches deep. They went through the town and into the woods with the guns. The next day they went back to the rear echelon and got into the end house. Next door was another house that was occupied by Germans. The Germans were staying in the second house while Coolidge and his men were in the first one. They never went out the front door that faces the street but instead went out the side door on the house. The Germans only had a front door and a back door in the house they occupied across the street. After they were there for a few days, Coolidge went out the front door with a runner named Pete who was just 18. After a few days he talked to Coolidge and told him he could not make it anymore. Coolidge ask him what he meant and he said he could not take the war anymore and was going to go back. Coolidge told him he would never make it because he would shoot him if he had to in order to keep him from leaving. He stayed with Coolidge instead and started being his runner. The Germans eventually started shelling the house with Coolidge and his men in it even though it was just across the street from them. As the shellfire kept getting closer Pete decided he was going to go downstairs. Coolidge had never been downstairs because he was afraid that if they went down then a German could toss a hand grenade in on them and there would be nothing that they could do about it. Pete went down the stairs and Coolidge decided to follow him. When he got down to the first floor the house was hit by a shell that landed in the bed that Coolidge had been laying in. Coolidge and his men all survived it and Pete stayed on through with Coolidge until Coolidge left the war. He feels that had he let Pete go back to the rear then he would have lost his pride or his heart and soul. Pete came from California twice after the war to see Coolidge. He became a baker and had a wife that was a school teacher. Coolidge had another guy in the platoon that came to him when they were making an attack on a city in France. They were right in the middle of the attack and Coolidge had to stop the platoon. This GI was screaming and hollering and Coolidge told him to give him his helmet. Coolidge wrote him a note and told him to go back and to give the note to the medical officer at battalion headquarters and tell him to read it and to let him know that Coolidge meant every word that he said on it. He went on back and Coolidge did not hear from him again for a month or two until he was in the middle of a poker game when all the men playing the game with Coolidge started looking up. Coolidge was looking at his cards thinking he had a pretty good hand. Coolidge realized everyone was looking up so he looked up too and saw this GI [Annotators note: Coolidge says his name but it is difficult to understand what the name is] and ask what he was doing there. The man was in an MP uniform and said he had been looking for Coolidge since early that morning to thank him and wanted to know what he wrote on the note. Coolidge said he could not remember what was on the note but that he would try. They were in the middle of the attack and this GI started yelling. He remembered being mad not at the GI but at the doctors that sent him back up to the front when he was not cut out for it anymore. He had been sent back three times before. Coolidge put in the note to the medical officer in charge that he had sent this GI back three times and each time he ends up being sent back to the front. Coolidge told him that if they sent him back again then they better be ready to come with him because if he comes back without the medical officer with him then Coolidge would come back to the rear and make the medical officer come up front. The GI understood and said when he handed the medical officer the note he gave the note to an ambulance driver and told him to take the man back and to not send him back to the front lines. They believed what Coolidge wrote and the medical officer knew Coolidge and that he would follow through.

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[Annotators note: Charles Coolidge starts this segment in the middle of conversation as the camera started recording again. Much of the conversation is about his family and his sister passing away. The interview then cuts to the start of his Medal of Honor action story.] The morning Charles Coolidge left for the Vosges Mountains was like any regular day. He was attached to Company K [Annotators Note: Company K, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division]. They started up the mountain and would occasionally reach areas that they would have to navigate but eventually made it to the top. At the top of the mountain there was a path that dropped off on his left side. The path was wide enough for a tank to come down. Coolidge only had two heavy machineguns with him. He and his sergeant, after they got to that point, decided to do a little reconnaissance to figure out where to set up the two machineguns. About that time they saw German soldiers coming toward them. The sergeant spoke German so Coolidge aske him to call out to the Germans and ask them if they wanted to give up. The sergeant started talking to them and Coolidge noticed another German with a rifle near a tree. He kept his eye on him. The sergeant [Annotators note: Coolidge calls him George] and one of the first Germans they spotted were talking but Coolidge did not know what they were saying. Coolidge noticed the rifleman behind the tree pointing his rifle at George so Coolidge shot him. When he did that all the Germans started firing and George got hit in the left arm. Coolidge got George out of there and sent him back to the aid station. The unit stayed on Hill 623 for five days. Each day the Germans would attack and would be repulsed. Coolidge had been asking for some help because with his men and Company K there were only 27 men left. They lost George and had a BAR [Annotators note: Browning Automatic Rifle] man get killed taking them down to 25 men. Previously, on the first day, the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment had moved across in front of Coolidge and his battalion. They had gone into the valley, through it, and then onto the next mountain. The Germans let them through then surrounded them. This battalion soon became known as the Lost Battalion. Coolidge assumes the Germans wanted to capture them. Coolidge's battalion was the nearest element to the Lost Battalion. Instead of attacking the Lost Battalion the Germans dug in to keep others from getting to them. That worked for several days but on the third day Coolidge complained to his battalion that he wanted some help to go up. They decided to attack at night instead and got down below where Coolidge and his men were. After an hour or two the Americans pulled out of the area. Coolidge found out later that they went back to where they started. Coolidge tapped into the line of Charlie Company talking to Able Company [Annotators Note: Companies C and A, 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Divsion] and listened to their conversation. They began to get alarmed about what was going on and found out about this battalion being cut off. They did not know at the time that they were not sending any more troops in to try and attack. Instead, sent the 442 [Annotators note: 442nd Regimental Combat Team] that was an all Japanese American unit. Coolidge knew this because they followed the same wire that he had tapped into. On the fifth day the Germans decided to bring tanks in. They came up the mountain right to where Coolidge had his machineguns set up. The machine gunner was a fairly new guy to the outfit and the man in the hole with him was a medic. Coolidge had a medic with him too but his was with Company M and not a rifle company medic like the one in the hole. The Germans tried to force them off the hill. Coolidge had gone to check on the machinegun on the right and was about halfway back when he saw a German tank. The turret raised suddenly and the tank commander stood up. He spoke to Coolidge in perfect English and asked if the Americans wanted to give up. Coolidge stood up and told the German that he would have to come get him. [Annotators note: he repeats the story because there is a beeping in the background that interrupts him initially] The tank fired five times point blank at Coolidge. Each time they fired he would go the opposite way. He tried to get the tank to fire over his men and not through them. Coolidge came to his men and told them that they were going to let the Germans have the hill and get out of there. A BAR man had been killed. A gunner and a medic who were eight feet from the tank could not be extracted and had to be left behind. After the war one of them wrote to Coolidge to tell him that the Germans treated them pretty well. Coolidge had a bazooka but it did not work. German infantry came up the draw on all five attacks. Coolidge threw grenades at them. When the tanks came up he threw 20 grenades or more at the tank because the infantry would cling to them for cover and security. During all of this action Coolidge was concerned with getting the two machineguns and all of his men out. He got one machinegun out but had to leave the other behind with the gunner and medic in the hole with it. The weather during the five days on that hill was rainy but not cold. Coolidge as used to being out in the weather and did not even carry a raincoat anymore. He did always carry a blanket doubled up and folded over the back of his web belt which helped his men always recognize him in the field. [Annotators note: There is a brief interruption by a secretary then the interview resumes with Coolidge talking about his Medal of Honor.] Coolidge found out in November 1944 that he was put in for the Medal of Honor. He knew Alvin York and that he had the Medal of Honor but it did not make an impression on him much at the time. Many soldiers at the time did not think much about getting medals. They thought more about survival and trying to get home. Coolidge was doing his best to get home. After getting off of Hill 623 Coolidge made his way into Germany. In December he went to Lemberg. That is where they had the house that half of the kitchen was blown away [Annotators Note: See Charles Coolidge segment titled Southern France and Combat Exhaustion]. They were eating dinner when someone came in and told everyone to grab their gear and that they would be moving over 100 miles away where the 100th Division was in full retreat [Annotators note: Coolidge could not recall if it was the 100th Division for certain that was in retreat]. Company M was different from a rifle company. A rifle company was riding to the front in two and a half ton trucks. Coolidge and his men rode six to a squad in jeeps. They arrived in Lemberg and passed through town to the last house. They entered the woods then met in a house where the officers talked and decided on a plan. Coolidge did not have a platoon leader which he felt was a good thing because he liked his choices better than theirs. They set their guns up in their positions and he and Pete Beeno [Annotators note: unsure of spelling] went back toward the house. They ran across some foxholes and decided to sleep in the one by the road. Daylight came and Coolidge was an early riser. He got up and checked out his guns. The rear echelon had stopped in the house at the end of town. Unbeknownst to Coolidge at the time the house next to it was full of Germans and that was the end of their lines. They stayed there several days before being relieved and taken off the front. There was not even a fire fight the whole time they were there. One night Coolidge did not bother Pete. He got four jeep loads of rations and brought them back to the front and gave them out. Before the jeep driver left Coolidge, Pete and two medics loaded up a wounded man that had been hit with shrapnel around the eye in his position up on the front. He felt all they needed then was another replacement and just carry on.

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In January or February 1945 the company commander called Charles Coolidge to the company CP [Annotators note: Command Post]. There he was told that he was going to the United States. The company commander said he had a choice of who he would send to the United States and Coolidge replied saying goodbye. The company commander said it was not him and Coolidge asked why not. Wyatt was standing behind Coolidge. He was a good friend and he said he was the one that had been picked. Coolidge asked the company commander how he based his decision. He replied that Wyatt was married and Coolidge was not which made sense to Coolidge so he told his friend to have a nice trip. The company commander then said he had another pass for a trip. The men cut a deck of cards to see who would go. Coolidge drew the Jack of Spades and won a ten day pass to England. Coming back from his pass, Coolidge still had his blanket which he carried everywhere he went. He got on the two and a half ton truck to make the 300 mile drive back to the front lines. A Frenchman walked up to him and asked him how much he wanted for the blanket. Coolidge told him 100 dollars even though two MPs [Annotators note: Military Police] were standing nearby. The MPs told Coolidge he better not sell the blanket. He said he was not going to sell it but was going to give it to the man. He gave the man the blanket and asked the man what his gift was to which the man replied one hundred red dollars. He gave Coolidge the money and the MPs walked away. Coolidge returned to his unit late March [Annotators Note: March 1945]. When he got back the Americans were concerned about the remaining Germans going up into the Alps and fighting. He had already experienced the mountain fighting in Italy and so he was assigned to a new non com [Annotators note: Referring to non-commissioned officer] school to train them how to fight in the Alps. He stayed at the school for 30 days. The last day there was 1 May 1945. While preparing to leave, a man cleaning his gun slipped and the gun went off. He shot himself in the knee. It did not kill him but it ended the war for him which was almost over anyway. Coolidge left to catch up with his old unit and when he got back to it they told him he could have a jeep and a driver and could go anywhere that he wanted to go which suited him just fine. He gave them the jeep back and decided to just stay in town and if he needed a jeep he would call for one. He stayed there until they figured out when to have his Medal of Honor ceremony, which ended up being around 19 or 20 June 1945. At the ceremony he was the only person receiving anything. The Company K [Annotators Note: Company K, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division] sergeants put him in for the Medal of Honor. They wrote it up and did so very carefully. It was sent back to be redone or reworded and was a big deal to the company commander who ended up getting killed when they went along a ridge of a mountain. The rifle companies had already gone through but Coolidge and other companies were skirting along this lower ridge. The Germans were falling back on the mountain and he could hear hobnail boots coming towards him. Immediately, when he got to where he heard it, he stopped his men and pulled up into the woods. The men began to complain and mumble about it some but they listened and got off the path. Soon after that the colonel and the company commander came to check where they were and went into a minefield. The colonel stepped on a mine and was wounded and the company commander was killed when he stepped on one. Coolidge tried to rush in to help them but the Germans started shelling them. A shell hit a tree limb above his head and went off. All the shrapnel went up but the smoke wiped him out. They decided to get out of the area. Coolidge has Silver Star which was earned for standing up in battle and telling his men not to shoot a German wanting to surrender. The German ended up having seven more troops surrender that were right behind him. This did not just happen once. Another time a German stood up and Coolidge told his men that if they take one prisoner then they may get several more. He heard that the Japanese would fight to the end but by the end of the war he felt like the Germans had learned their lesson, especially once the Allies had air superiority. The more bombs they dropped the more the morale of the GIs would build up.

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Charles Coolidge took sheep into a minefield instead of sending men through it to be sure there were no mines. Early in the war the Germans used a lot of mines but they may have thought it was cruel later because children or mothers or anybody could walk into a minefield if they did not know it was there. The Germans had a lot of good qualities but had a bad leader. Sometimes they let a bad leader go too far which is what happened. Coolidge heard the news about Hitler taking his own life. He weighs in on the controversy regarding the abbey at Monte Cassino being occupied by Germans. He went to visit it after the war and was told by a man that they never had guns near or in the abbey. Coolidge responded that 54 Flying Fortresses [Annotators note: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers] flew over and bombed the abbey and he asked the man what happened after that. The man was not sure and Coolidge told him that a machinegun fired after they passed the monastery. Now whether they were inside or along the outside wall the machinegun fire came from that direction and he pointed out where he was sitting on Mount Cario when he witnessed it. Maybe the Italians were using it instead of the Germans but someone was firing the gun. Coolidge says that it is a great honor to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor. It is nice to know you received the highest award and to him he was just doing his duty. If some people believe it was above and beyond the call of duty then he is glad they see it that way. He thought it was his job to do what he did. He may have overextended it to risk his life beyond the call of duty but he did it many times. They took a barn in France before the end of the war. They had taken a town and were about to take a farmhouse that they knew the Germans held. They jumped off that morning and got just to the creek where they waited for the Americans to fire off their barrage. When they fired, the shells fell short and landed on Coolidge and his men. Fortunately, he realized what was going on and had all of his men get onto the bank so that the shell would go over. After the American attack to soften up the Germans the Germans opened up on the attack to prevent it. Coolidge had his men swap bank sides to keep the German shells from hitting them. After the shelling ended they ran to the opened barn and stayed there. A runner kept trying to leave to report back to the colonel but the Germans dropped a mortar every 30 seconds. The GI was young and crying and so Coolidge jumped up and ask the captain where the colonel was located. He waited until he got a chance to see or hear the shell hit and explode where he was heading. As soon as the shell hit he started walking. He had learned not to run because with walking you can hear better just like with not wearing a helmet. He walked on out to the road and nobody shot at him. He made a left turn and made it to the town and found the company commander with a colonel he did not recognize. When they were ready to go they started walking. They walked about 100 yards when the colonel asked where the place was located. About that time a shell came in headed for the town. It went overhead and the colonel hit the ground and got all dirty. Coolidge stayed there and kept his clothes clean. The colonel got up with mud all over himself and asked where the barn was. Coolidge gave him the directions but about that time another shell came in and the colonel hit the road again while Coolidge continued walking. The colonel told Coolidge he wanted to make a run for it and Coolidge told him to go ahead and he would be walking right behind him. He got there and gave the shell time to hit before he walked to the barn. He stayed with his men while the officers talked. Coolidge got pemission to take his men back to the town. He instructed his men to time getting out of the barn and explained where the other shells fall while they make their way to town. He got all 12 of his men and himself back unscathed.

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Charles Coolidge discusses his reunion with his family. When he got to Camp Atterbury he went to the Top Sergeant and requested to see the commanding officer and gave him his name. The general asked for Coolidge to come in and Coolidge introduced himself to the general. Then he asked for a 30 day leave. The general told him it was a separation center and nobody gets a leave from there. Coolidge restated it and told him he wanted a recuperation leave to which the general replied that he could not. Coolidge said they had a conflict of opinions and suggested he contact the Adjutant General's Office in Washington to see what he thought about it. The general slid the phone to Coolidge who immediately picked it up and was ready to call. The general asked for the phone back and called for the sergeant to come in. The sergeant said he could do it on one condition which was if Coolidge had the Medal of Honor. The general asked if he had the Medal of Honor and Coolidge replied that he did. The general then changed his tone and said they would send him home. They sent him to the railroad station. The rail man called the general and said they should send Coolidge home by plane. Soon after, the general sent his jeep over with a driver in it. The driver took Coolidge to the airport but they did not have a flight to Chattanooga. After waiting a little while a colonel walked in. He looked at a few maps and asked what type of airport they had in Chattanooga. The colonel was mad that he was flying Coolidge instead of the general. Coolidge got into the airplane and got fastened into the seat and started to doze off when one of the sergeants on the flight shook him awake and told him the colonel wanted to talk to him. Coolidge told him to tell the Colonel to fly the plane and get them to Chattanooga. He was not going to come up and talk. When they got to Chattanooga the colonel called the tower for landing instructions. The tower responded that military planes were not allowed to land at Lovell Field [Annotators note: the name of the Chattanooga airport]. The colonel repeated his request for landing instructions and received the same reply. The colonel repeated it a third time and told them he was going to land anyway with landing instructions or not. He landed the plane in the middle of the field and stopped. The colonel got off the plane. He was fuming. Coolidge could see his family and the press and stopped to thank the sergeants for their help. He started double timing to the colonel to thank him too. When he got to him he told the colonel that he wanted to thank him for flying him home and said that they had plenty of space for him and the sergeants to stay the night if they wanted. The colonel turned and replied that he had instructions to fly him to Chattanooga and return and that is what he intended to do. Coolidge just thanked him and said he hoped he had a nice flight back. He laughed and told the press that he did not have a problem but the pilot did because he had to fly back that night.
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