James M. Logan Is Dead at 78; Winner of the Medal of Honor

 

 

By Richard Goldstein,, October 14, 1999

 

James M. Logan, who won the Medal of Honor as an Army sergeant in World War II by single-handedly capturing a German machine-gun position in the first hours of the landing at Salerno, Italy, died on Saturday, October 9, 1999, at a hospital in Longview, Tex. He was 78.

The cause was cancer, said the Rader Funeral Home in the nearby town of Kilgore, where he lived.

Before dawn on Sept. 9, 1943, American soldiers entered the German-occupied European continent for the first time. The United States 36th Infantry Division, untested in battle, joined American and British commandos and two British divisions in the Fifth Army's Operation Avalanche. They went ashore around the Gulf of Salerno, hoping to capture nearby German outposts, then seize the port at Naples, 50 miles to the north, and join with the British Eighth Army for a drive on Rome.

Sgt. James Marion Logan, a Texan with the 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Division -- originally a Texas National Guard division -- was in the first wave of the beach assault.

The Italian Government had surrendered to the Allies the day before, but German tanks and machine-gunners occupying high ground raked the invading Americans with heavy fire. Nonetheless, by 7 A.M., three and a half hours after the invasion began, the 36th Division had moved 800 yards inland.

Sergeant Logan was advancing on flat terrain when the Germans counterattacked from a four-foot-high rock wall 200 yards farther inland. Exposing himself to fire from a machine gun along the wall that sprayed the ground close by, showering him with flying dirt and stones, he killed three Germans as they came through a gap in the wall, then headed for the machine-gun position.

As he dashed across the open ground, the Germans blazed away. But he got to the wall, then crawled along its base until he reached the machine gun. He jumped up, shot two Germans manning it, hurdled the wall and seized the gun. He swung it around and fired on fleeing German soldiers, then captured an officer and a private trying to sneak away.

Later in the morning, Sergeant Logan went after a sniper hidden in a house 150 yards from his company. He withstood heavy fire, shot the lock off the door, kicked it in and shot the sniper.

Sergeant Logan received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony outside Naples on June 6, 1944, D-Day. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's highest medal for bravery next to the Medal of Honor.

Logan, a native of McNeil, Tex., was discharged from the Army in May 1945 and spent three decades working for Exxon.

He is survived by a son, Paul, of Dallas, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

On Memorial Day 1997, in a ceremony at the Texas Capitol in Austin, he received the state's first Legislative Medal of Honor, for bravery in combat.

"You remember the people who died close to you," he said then.

 


MEDAL OF HONOR

 

LOGAN, JAMES M.

 

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, 36th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Salerno, Italy, 9 September 1943.

Entered service at: Luling, Texas

Birth: McNeil, Texas

G.O. No.: 54, 5 July 1944.

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action involving actual conflict on 9 September 1943 in the vicinity of Salerno, Italy. As a rifleman of an infantry company, Sgt. Logan landed with the first wave of the assault echelon on the beaches of the Gulf of Salerno, and after his company had advanced 800 yards inland and taken positions along the forward bank of an irrigation canal, the enemy began a serious counterattack from positions along a rock wall which ran parallel with the canal about 200 yards further inland. Voluntarily exposing himself to the fire of a machinegun located along the rock wall, which sprayed the ground so close to him that he was splattered with dirt and rock splinters from the impact of the bullets, Sgt. Logan killed the first 3 Germans as they came through a gap in the wall. He then attacked the machinegun. As he dashed across the 200 yards of exposed terrain a withering stream of fire followed his advance. Reaching the wall, he crawled along the base, within easy reach of the enemy crouched along the opposite side, until he reached the gun. Jumping up, he shot the 2 gunners down, hurdled the wall, and seized the gun. Swinging it around, he immediately opened fire on the enemy with the remaining ammunition, raking their flight and inflicting further casualties on them as they fled. After smashing the machinegun over the rocks, Sgt. Logan captured an enemy officer and private who were attempting to sneak away. Later in the morning, Sgt. Loan went after a sniper hidden in a house about 150 yards from the company. Again the intrepid Sgt. ran a gauntlet of fire to reach his objective. Shooting the lock off the door, Sgt. Loan kicked it in and shot the sniper who had just reached the bottom of the stairs. The conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity which characterized Sgt. Logan's exploits proved a constant inspiration to all the men of his company, and aided materially in insuring the success of the beachhead at Salerno.


 

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© 1999 by Neil Mishalov