Monday, May 25, 2009

In Honor of Memorial Day

Below is the Medal of Honor citation for First Lieutenant John J. Tominac, won during WW2 action in France. I've read many of the MOH citations from our various wars,and among numerous amazing feats of courage, this one is my particular favorite. If most people saw Lt. Tominac's actions portrayed in a movie, they'd think it was a wildly unrealistic Hollywood production, and couldn't possibly be true. Who jumps onto a burning abandoned tank rolling downhill, and effectively uses a machinegun to force the enemy -- including an armored vehicle -- to withdraw, and then jumps off before the tank blows up? Lt. Tominac, that's who. And that's only one part of the citation. 
in an attack on Saulx de Vesoul, France 1st Lt. Tominac charged alone over 50 yards of exposed terrain onto an enemy roadblock to dispatch a 3-man crew of German machine gunners with a single burst from his Thompson machinegun after smashing the enemy outpost, he led 1 of his squads in the annihilation of a second hostile group defended by mortar, machinegun automatic pistol, rifle and grenade fire, killing about 30 of the enemy. Reaching the suburbs of the town, he advanced 50 yards ahead of his men to reconnoiter a third enemy position which commanded the road with a 77-mm. SP gun supported by infantry elements. The SP gun opened fire on his supporting tank, setting it afire with a direct hit. A fragment from the same shell painfully wounded 1st Lt. Tominac in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. As the crew abandoned the M-4 tank, which was rolling down hill toward the enemy, 1st Lt. Tominac picked himself up and jumped onto the hull of the burning vehicle. Despite withering enemy machinegun, mortar, pistol, and sniper fire, which was ricocheting off the hull and turret of the M-4, 1st Lt. Tominac climbed to the turret and gripped the 50-caliber antiaircraft machinegun. Plainly silhouetted against the sky, painfully wounded, and with the tank burning beneath his feet, he directed bursts of machinegun fire on the roadblock, the SP gun, and the supporting German infantrymen, and forced the enemy to withdraw from his prepared position. Jumping off the tank before it exploded, 1st Lt. Tominac refused evacuation despite his painful wound. Calling upon a sergeant to extract the shell fragments from his shoulder with a pocketknife, he continued to direct the assault, led his squad in a hand grenade attack against a fortified position occupied by 32 of the enemy armed with machineguns, machine pistols, and rifles, and compelled them to surrender. His outstanding heroism and exemplary leadership resulted in the destruction of 4 successive enemy defensive positions, surrender of a vital sector of the city Saulx de Vesoul, and the death or capture of at least 60 of the enemy.
Unlike many Medal of Honor winners, John Tominac not only survived that particular action, but he survived the war. He remained in the army and went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a full colonel. He died in 1998, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.