The Great Depression & WW II
WWII TN Who Fought 04 Gen Clifton WWII TN Who Fought 03 Maj. Gen. Clifton Cates at command post WWII TN Who Fought 01 Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews

Read about some Tennesseans who fought in the war

Clifton B. Cates
Clifton Bledsoe Cates was from Tiptonville, Tennessee. He had a distinguished career as a Marine Corps officer. Cates served in World War I and a variety of later missions including working as the director of the Marine Corps Basic School. 

During World War II, Cates participated in five major operations including leading a unit of Marines in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific in 1942. In 1944, his command fought bravely at the Battle of Iwo Jima and other fights against the Japanese. 

The federal government honored Cates for his outstanding service by awarding him many medals, including three Bronze Stars and a Silver Star. After the war, he became the commander of the entire Marine Corps. 

Austin Shofner
Austin Conner Shofner was from Bedford County, Tennessee. In 1941, he joined the Marine Corps as a lieutenant. For his bravery in the early Philippine battles at Bataan and Corregidor, Shofner received a medal and was promoted to captain. Then, in May 1942, his unit was forced to surrender to an overwhelming force of Japanese soldiers.    

The Japanese treated the captured American soldiers very cruelly. They had little food or water, were beaten, and suffered from diseases without medical treatment. Shofner and a small group of other Marines and Filipino soldiers escaped from the prison camp. They joined with other Filipino forces and some other American soldiers to wage a guerilla war against the Japanese into 1943.

General Douglas MacArthur personally presented Shofner with a medal during November 1943. Shofner went on to serve with the First Marine Division in more battles to retake the Philippine Islands from the Japanese. 

Frank M. Andrews 
Frank Andrews played a major role in building up the small U.S. Army Air Corps in the 1930s to the powerful U.S. Air Force during World War II. He was born in Nashville and graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in 1901. Andrews graduated from West Point and joined the cavalry. He later earned his aviator wings.

After various postings, Andrews took command of the Army Air Corps units and started advocating that the U.S. buy large numbers of Boeing B-17s, a four-engine heavy bomber. He was overruled by his commanding officers, who wanted lighter bombers and moved him to another post. However, with the beginning of the war in Europe, events soon showed that Andrews was correct. The U.S. started buying B-17s.

After the U.S. entered the war, Andrews was named commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East that defeated the Germans in North Africa. In 1943, Andrews became the commander of all U.S. forces in Europe. However three months later, Andrews was killed in an airplane crash in Iceland. Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where the president’s airplane, Air Force One, is based, was named after him.

Tennesseans who received the Medal of Honor during World War II

Raymond H. Cooley
Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Lumboy, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 24 February 1945. Entered service at: Richard City, Tenn. Born: 7 May 1914, Dunlap, Tenn. G.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945.

Citation:
He was a platoon guide in an assault on a camouflaged entrenchment defended by machineguns, rifles, and mortars. When his men were pinned down by two enemy machineguns, he voluntarily advanced under heavy fire to within 20 yards of 1 of the guns and attacked it with a hand grenade. The enemy, however, threw the grenade back at him before it could explode. Arming a second grenade, he held it for several seconds of the safe period and then hurled it into the enemy position, where it exploded instantaneously, destroying the gun and crew. He then moved toward the remaining gun, throwing grenades into enemy foxholes as he advanced.

Inspired by his actions, one squad of his platoon joined him. After he had armed another grenade and was preparing to throw it into the second machinegun position, six enemy soldiers rushed at him. Knowing he could not dispose of the armed grenade without injuring his comrades, because of the intermingling in close combat of the men of his platoon and the enemy in the melee which ensued, he deliberately -cover-ed the grenade with his body and was severely wounded as it exploded.

By his heroic actions, S/Sgt. Cooley not only silenced a machinegun and so inspired his fellow soldiers that they pressed the attack and destroyed the remaining enemy emplacements, but also, in complete disregard of his own safety, accepted certain injury and possible loss of life to avoid wounding his comrades. (From Home of Heroes, www.homeofheroes.com)

Charles H. Coolidge
Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company M, 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: East of Belmont sur Buttant, France, 2427 October 1944. Entered service at: Signal Mountain, Tenn. Birth: Signal Mountain, Tenn. G.O. No.: 53, July 1945.

Citation:
Leading a section of heavy machineguns supported by 1 platoon of Company K, he took a position near Hill 623, east of Belmont sur Buttant, France, on 24 October 1944, with the mission of -cover-ing the right flank of the 3d Battalion and supporting its action. T/Sgt. Coolidge went forward with a sergeant of Company K to reconnoiter positions for coordinating the fires of the light and heavy machineguns. They ran into an enemy force in the woods estimated to be an infantry company.

T/Sgt. Coolidge, attempting to bluff the Germans by a show of assurance and boldness called upon them to surrender, whereupon the enemy opened fire. With his carbine, T/Sgt. Coolidge wounded two of them. There being no officer present with the force, T/Sgt. Coolidge at once assumed command. Many of the men were replacements recently arrived; this was their first experience under fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge, unmindful of the enemy fire delivered at close range, walked along the position, calming and encouraging his men and directing their fire. The attack was thrown back.

Through 25 and 26 October the enemy launched repeated attacks against the position of this combat group but each was repulsed due to T/Sgt. Coolidge's able leadership. On 27 October, German infantry, supported by two tanks, made a determined attack on the position. The area was swept by enemy small arms, machinegun, and tank fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge armed himself with a bazooka and advanced to within 25 yards of the tanks. His bazooka failed to function and he threw it aside. Securing all the hand grenades he could carry, he crawled forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing enemy.

Finally it became apparent that the enemy, in greatly superior force, supported by tanks, would overrun the position. T/Sgt. Coolidge, displaying great coolness and courage, directed and conducted an orderly withdrawal, being himself the last to leave the position. As a result of T/Sgt. Coolidge's heroic and superior leadership, the mission of this combat group was accomplished throughout four days of continuous fighting against numerically superior enemy troops in rain and cold and amid dense woods. (www.homeofheroes.com )

Paul B. Huff
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. Place and date: Near Carano, Italy, 8 February 1944. Entered service at: Cleveland, Tenn. Birth: Cleveland, Tenn. G.O. No: 41, 26 May 1944.

Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on 8 February 1944, near Carano, Italy. Cpl. Huff volunteered to lead a six-man patrol with the mission of determining the location and strength of an enemy unit which was delivering fire on the exposed right flank of his company. The terrain over which he had to travel consisted of exposed, rolling ground, affording the enemy excellent visibility.

As the patrol advanced, its members were subjected to small arms and machinegun fire and a concentration of mortar fire, shells bursting within 5 to 10 yards of them and bullets striking the ground at their feet. Moving ahead of his patrol, Cpl. Huff drew fire from three enemy machineguns and a 20mm. weapon. Realizing the danger confronting his patrol, he advanced alone under deadly fire through a minefield and arrived at a point within 75 yards of the nearest machinegun position. Under direct fire from the rear machinegun, he crawled the remaining 75 yards to the closest emplacement, killed the crew with his submachine gun and destroyed the gun.

During this act he fired from a kneeling position which drew fire from other positions, enabling him to estimate correctly the strength and location of the enemy. Still under concentrated fire, he returned to his patrol and led his men to safety. As a result of the information he gained, a patrol in strength sent out that afternoon, one group under the leadership of Cpl. Huff, succeeded in routing an enemy company of 125 men, killing 27 Germans and capturing 21 others, with a loss of only three patrol members. Cpl. Huff's intrepid leadership and daring combat skill reflect the finest traditions of the American infantryman. (www.homeofheroes.com)

Elbert L. Kinser
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Born: 21 October 1922, Greeneville, Tenn. Accredited to: Tennessee.

Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while acting as leader of a Rifle Platoon, serving with Company I, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 4 May 1945. Taken under sudden, close attack by hostile troops entrenched on the reverse slope while moving up a strategic ridge along which his platoon was holding newly won positions, Sgt. Kinser engaged the enemy in a fierce hand grenade battle.

Quick to act when a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Sgt. Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had yielded his own chance of survival that his comrades might live to carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. (www.homeofheroes.com)

Charles L. McGaha
Rank and Organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company G, 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Place and Date Near Lupao, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 7 February 1945. Entered Service at: Cosby, Tenn. Birth: Cosby, Tenn. G.O. No.: 30, 2 April 1946.

Citation:
He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. His platoon and 1 other from Company G were pinned down in a roadside ditch by heavy fire from five Japanese tanks supported by 10 machine guns and a platoon of riflemen. When one of his men fell wounded 40 yards away, he unhesitatingly crossed the road under a hail of bullets and moved the man 75 yards to safety. Although he had suffered a deep arm wound, he returned to his post. Finding the platoon leader seriously wounded, he assumed command and rallied his men.

Once more he braved the enemy fire to go to the aid of a litter party removing another wounded soldier. A shell exploded in their midst, wounding him in the shoulder and killing two of the party. He picked up the remaining man, carried him to -cover-, and then moved out in front deliberately to draw the enemy fire while the American forces, thus protected, withdrew to safety. When the last man had gained the new position, he rejoined his command and there collapsed from loss of blood and exhaustion. M/Sgt. McGaha set an example of courage and leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the service. (www.homeofheroes.com)

Vernon McGarity
Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company L, 393d Infantry, 99th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Krinkelt, Belgium, 16 December 1944. Entered service at: Model, Tenn. Born: 1 December 1921, Right, Tenn. G.O. No.: 6, 11 January 1946.

Citation: He was painfully wounded in an artillery barrage that preceded the powerful counteroffensive launched by the Germans near Krinkelt, Belgium, on the morning of 16 December 1944. He made his way to an aid station, received treatment, and then refused to be evacuated, choosing to return to his hard-pressed men instead. The fury of the enemy's great Western Front offensive swirled about the position held by T/Sgt. McGarity's small force, but so tenaciously did these men fight on orders to stand firm at all costs that they could not be dislodged despite murderous enemy fire and the breakdown of their communications. During the day the heroic squad leader rescued one of his friends who had been wounded in a forward position, and throughout the night he exhorted his comrades to repulse the enemy's attempts at infiltration.

When morning came and the Germans attacked with tanks and infantry, he braved heavy fire to run to an advantageous position where he im mobilized the enemy's lead tank with a round from a rocket launcher. Fire from his squad drove the attacking infantrymen back, and three supporting tanks withdrew. He rescued, under heavy fire, another wounded American, and then directed devastating fire on a light cannon which had been brought up by the hostile troops to clear resistance from the area. When ammunition began to run low, T/Sgt. McGarity, remembering an old ammunition hole about 100 yards distant in the general direction of the enemy, braved a concentration of hostile fire to replenish his unit's supply.

By circuitous route the enemy managed to emplace a machinegun to the rear and flank of the squad's position, cutting off the only escape route. Unhesitatingly, the gallant soldier took it upon himself to destroy this menace single-handedly. He left -cover-, and while under steady fire from the enemy, killed or wounded all the hostile gunners with deadly accurate rifle fire and prevented all attempts to re-man the gun. Only when the squad's last round had been fired was the enemy able to advance and capture the intrepid leader and his men. The extraordinary bravery and extreme devotion to duty of T/Sgt. McGarity supported a remarkable delaying action which provided the time necessary for assembling reserves and forming a line against which the German striking power was shattered. (www.homeofheroes.com)

Troy McGill
Rank and Organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Troop G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Place and Date Los Negros Islands, Admiralty Group, 4 March 1944. Entered Service at: Ada, Okla. Birth: Knoxville, Tenn. G.O. No.: 74, 11 September 1944.

Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy at Los Negros Island, Admiralty Group, on 4 March 1944. In the early morning hours Sgt. McGill, with a squad of eight men, occupied a revetment which bore the brunt of a furious attack by approximately 200 drink-crazed enemy troops. Although -cover-ed by crossfire from machineguns on the right and left flank he could receive no support from the remainder of our troops stationed at his rear. All members of the squad were killed or wounded except Sgt. McGill and another man, whom he ordered to return to the next revetment.

Courageously resolved to hold his position at all cost, he fired his weapon until it ceased to function. Then, with the enemy only five yards away, he charged from his foxhole in the face of certain death and clubbed the enemy with his rifle in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed. At dawn 105 enemy dead were found around his position. Sgt. McGill's intrepid stand was an inspiration to his comrades and a decisive factor in the defeat of a fanatical enemy. (www.homeofheroes.com)

John H. Willis
Rank and Organization: Pharmacist's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 10 June 1921, Columbia, Tenn. Accredited To: Tennessee.

Citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Platoon Corpsman serving with the 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during operations against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 28 February 1945. Constantly imperiled by artillery and mortar fire from strong and mutually supporting pillboxes and caves studding Hill 362 in the enemy's cross-island defenses, Willis resolutely administered first aid to the many marines wounded during the furious close-in fighting until he himself was struck by shrapnel and was ordered back to the battle-aid station.

Without waiting for official medical release, he quickly returned to his company and, during a savage hand-to-hand enemy counterattack, daringly advanced to the extreme frontlines under mortar and sniper fire to aid a marine lying wounded in a shell hole. Completely unmindful of his own danger as the Japanese intensified their attack, Willis calmly continued to administer blood plasma to his patient, promptly returning the first hostile grenade which landed in the shell-hole while he was working and hurling back seven more in quick succession before the ninth one exploded in his hand and instantly killed him.

By his great personal valor in saving others at the sacrifice of his own life, he inspired his companions, although terrifically outnumbered, to launch a fiercely determined attack and repulse the enemy force. His exceptional fortitude and courage in the performance of duty reflect the highest credit upon Willis and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. (www.homeofheroes.com)



Picture Credits:
  • A photograph of Lt. General Frank Andrews, who helped build the U.S. Air Force to its World War II strength.  National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
  • Maj. Gen. Clifton Cates (center) visits the command post of the 24th Marines in the Pacific theater.  Department of Defense
  • A photograph of Gen. Clifton Cates and President Harry Truman that has been autographed by Truman.  It was probably taken in 1948 when Cates was Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.Tennessee State Museum Collection
  • Pop-up photograph of Maj. Gen. Clifton Cates. U.S.M.C.  U.S. Department of Defense
  • Pop-up photograph of Elbert Kinser, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Pop-up photograph of Troy McGill, courtesy of Wesley McGill, Tennessee State Museum Collection
  • Pop-up photograph of John Willis, U.S. Navy


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