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Charles A. MacGillivary

Born January 17, 1917, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, MacGillivary joined the Merchant Marines at age 16. He soon emigrated to the United States, settling with a brother in Boston. After Pearl Harbor, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in January 1942. While he was still in boot camp, an officer asked if he would like to become a U.S. citizen and took him, along with two others, to a courthouse to be sworn in.

MacGillivary first fought at Normandy, landing on Omaha Beach in 1944. Afterward, he was in numerous battles throughout France before arriving at Wœlfling during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945.

When his unit was surrounded by a Waffen-SS Panzer unit, MacGillivary, knocked out four German machine gun nests, killing 36 German soldiers. He lost his arm in this action. MacGillivary told a Boston Globe reporter in 1995:

“I looked down and my left arm wasn’t there. When you get hit by a machine gun, it’s like somebody put a hot poker in you. I stuck the stump of my arm into the snow, but the warm blood melted the snow. I figured I was dying. When they rescued me, my arm had a cake of bloody ice frozen around it, sealing the wound. If it had been summer, I’d [have been] dead.”

Citation: He led a squad when his unit moved forward in darkness to meet the threat of a breakthrough by elements of the 17th German Panzer Grenadier Division. Assigned to protect the left flank, he discovered hostile troops digging in. As he reported this information, several German machineguns opened fire, stopping the American advance. Knowing the position of the enemy, Sgt. MacGillivary volunteered to knock out 1 of the guns while another company closed in from the right to assault the remaining strong points. He circled from the left through woods and snow, carefully worked his way to the emplacement and shot the 2 camouflaged gunners at a range of 3 feet as other enemy forces withdrew. Early in the afternoon of the same day, Sgt. MacGillivary was dispatched on reconnaissance and found that Company I was being opposed by about 6 machineguns reinforcing a company of fanatically fighting Germans. His unit began an attack but was pinned down by furious automatic and small arms fire. With a clear idea of where the enemy guns were placed, he voluntarily embarked on a lone combat patrol. Skillfully taking advantage of all available cover, he stalked the enemy, reached a hostile machinegun and blasted its crew with a grenade. He picked up a submachine gun from the battlefield and pressed on to within 10 yards of another machinegun, where the enemy crew discovered him and feverishly tried to swing their weapon into line to cut him down. He charged ahead, jumped into the midst of the Germans and killed them with several bursts. Without hesitation, he moved on to still another machinegun, creeping, crawling, and rushing from tree to tree, until close enough to toss a grenade into the emplacement and close with its defenders. He dispatched this crew also, but was himself seriously wounded. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, great initiative, and utter disregard for personal safety in the face of powerful enemy resistance, Sgt. MacGillivary destroyed four hostile machineguns and immeasurably helped his company to continue on its mission with minimum casualties.