In a previous blog, I wrote about how rewarding it is when a veteran I’m interviewing mentions someone in particular, and I can find a record of that person. That made me think of the story I did in 2007 on World War II vet Charlie Kowalchuk.
Charlie, who grew up in Northampton County, and other soldiers in the 275th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division were coming down a ridge toward a road in Philippsbourg, France, near Germany’s Saar region. German tanks were coming up the road, firing at American tanks in the town. The Americans were retreating.
“We saw this little cluster of guys standing in the middle of the road,” Charlie said. “In front of them was a guy on his knees firing a machine gun. He was a scout for the artillery. He was busy shooting all over, strafing the German tanks and soldiers. He gave our guys enough time to back out of there.”
The scout Charlie had seen breaking up the German attack was George B. Turner, 45 years old, a native of Longview, Texas, who had moved to California. The private first class in the 499th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 14th Armored Division, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions Jan. 3, 1945.
Turner died in 1963 in Encino, Calif. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
There was no shortage of bravery in this campaign. A day earlier, Charlie earned a Silver Star. His citation reads: “For gallantry in action near Philippsbourg, France, on 2 Jan 1945. When his company was temporarily halted by low, grazing fire from an enemy machine gun. Sgt. Kowalchuk rose from a protected position and dashed 50 yards across open ground through a hail of hostile machine gun fire to a weeded area where he crawled another 50 yards to an advantageous position, only 10 yards from the enemy gun. Raising himself up and disregarding the stream of fire directed at him, he hurled a grenade into the enemy position, destroying the gun and its entire crew. His courage and devotion to duty enabled his company to complete its mission.”
Charlie also had a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He died in 2009 after a battle with cancer. You can read his story at http://www.mcall.com/news/all-a1_5kowalchuk.6023108nov11,0,2354636.story