DVIDS – News – ‘One Man Army’ was 134th Infantry Regiment’s only WWII Medal of Honor recipient


Article by Staff Sgt. Sherri Maberry, 105th Military History Team, Nebraska National Guard.

Junior Staff Sergeant James Spurrier was born in Castlewood, Virginia on December 14, 1922, as James Ira Spurrier, Jr. to Ira and Ruby Spurrier. When Spurrier enlisted in the army on September 25, 1940, he filled out the paperwork incorrectly and was therefore known as “Junior” Spurrier throughout his military career. Spurrier had three sisters, Lyla Lee, Edith and Hope, as well as two brothers, George, who served with the 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division and was killed in action in France on July 28, 1944, and Joe, who was too young at the time of World War II to enlist.

Staff Sergeant Spurrier volunteered for overseas service and joined the 134th Infantry in France on July 19, 1944, replacing the regiment after Saint-Lô. Spurrier, however, is best known for his awarding of the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, the two highest and most prestigious awards given to military personnel, still today. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on September 16, 1944 and the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 13, 1944.
The Medal of Honor may be awarded to Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen to recognize them for distinguished acts of bravery. It is the oldest continuously issued combat decoration by the United States Armed Forces. The Medal of Honor is presented by the President on behalf of and on behalf of Congress, which is why it is often, incorrectly, referred to as the “Congress Medal of Honor”. The President, since 1980, has personally decorated nearly all Medal of Honor recipients or, in the case of posthumous awards, next of kin. There are two separate protocols for awarding the medal. The first, and most common, is appointment and approval by the service member’s chain of command. However, the second method is nomination by a member of Congress. On July 25, 1963, Public Law 88-77 was enacted which set criteria for the award of the Medal of Honor, namely requiring that the serviceman had “conspicuously distinguished himself by bravery and fearlessness in risking his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Bravery also had to occur in one of three circumstances: first, the serviceman had to be engaged in action against an enemy of the United States, second, it must be engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or third, it must be while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States United are not a warring party.Although this public law came into effect after Spurrier was awarded the Medal of Honor, by those standards, Spurrier would still have received his award.

On the morning of September 16, 1944, Spurrier and his unit, Co. G, 134th Infantry, were on the attack to take a well-fortified hill south of Lay Saint-Christophe in France. Climbing onto a tank destroyer, Spurrier used the attached 50 caliber machine gun to suppress enemy fire and draw them back into a dugout. Spurrier then jumped out of the tank destroyer, moved to cover, threw several hand grenades inside, and effectively took out the enemy. Then he jumped on the destroyer and continued to a second fortified position and cleared it in the same way. He reached the top of the hill, retained this precarious position and managed to take 22 prisoners according to the Distinguished Service Cross citation. This led to Spurrier having a reputation as a “one man army”.

Spurrier’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
S/Sgt. Junior J. Spurrier, while serving in the United States Army, in action involving actual conflict with an enemy, distinguished himself by bravery and fearlessness at the risk of his life beyond the ‘call of Duty. At 2:00 p.m. on November 13, 1944, Company G, 134 Infantry, as part of the 2nd Bn. action, launched an attack on the enemy; its objective being the capture and holding of the village of Achain, France. The attack involved the battalion traversing 1,500 meters of open ground, 700 meters of which came under direct enemy small arms fire, in addition to concentrations of artillery and mortar fire. Approaching the outskirts of the village, Company G, entered from the east, but S/Sgt. Spurrier, attached to Company HQ, Company G, moving alone, entered the village from the west. The streets were filled with Germans; S/Sgt. Spurrier moved and with his M-1 killed 5 enemies, causing the others who had been taken by surprise to withdraw. S/Sgt. Spurrier then single-handedly began clearing the buildings, alternately using his M-1, a BAR, hand grenades, and American and German bazookas. He reduced 1 German strong point by killing 3 enemies with his BAR and destroyed the building by setting it on fire, using both American and German bazookas. From the enemy strongpoint he captured 1 captain, the garrison commander, 1 lieutenant and 14 men. Handing over the prisoners to his company, he advanced and reduced another strong point, killing its 2 occupants, while thus engaged he found 4 Germans firing from a building opposite. S/Sgt. Spurrier was out of ammunition, but he saw a German impact grenade in the street; he picked up the grenade, threw it at the window where he had seen the 4 Germans and their firing ceased. Moving away from the street, he walked into a large building and from its roof began firing at the nearby enemy. The Company had now captured and occupied 2/3 of the village. At 4:30 p.m., outposts were installed in the occupied 2/3d’s section and S/Sgt Spurrier was put in charge of them. As night fell, he made his way along the lines in an attempt to check his outposts. While doing so, he heard 4 Germans talking in a barn; this barn contained, in addition to hay, a quantity of oil. S/Sgt. Spurrier crept up to the barn, set the hay and oil on fire, pushing the 4 Germans into the open, where they surrendered to him. Handing over his prisoners to company personnel, he continued his inspection.
Approaching one of the posts, he noticed a figure crawling towards the sentry. He challenged the character and when he received no response, he shot and killed him. It turned out to be another German. At 0900 on 14 November 44, the Co., as part of the Bn. the action advanced against the enemy occupying the remaining third of the city, successfully routing them. During this advance, S/Sgt. Spurrier rode down the street on a motorcycle, shooting the fleeing Germans with an M-1 rifle. S/Sgt. Spurrier is aptly called a “one-man army”; his proficiency and skill with all types of weapons; his agility and his almost unbelievable ability to cover great distances in a minimum of time; its devastating effect on the enemy, saw it kill at least 25 Germans in addition to capturing 18 German enlisted men and 2 officers. There is no doubt that this enlisted man played a major role in the capture of the village. [End of citation]

On June 19, 1945, Spurrier was discharged from the army. After attempting to play professional baseball, Spurrier re-enlisted in the Army in 1947, but received a general discharge in 1951 after deserting his post in Korea. Spurrier struggled to adjust to civilian life, more than likely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He turned to alcohol and had numerous run-ins with the law, which earned him three prison sentences, including one for attempted murder. After his last stint in prison, Spurrier got sober and opened a radio/television repair shop. He retired to a cabin in Tennessee where he died on February 25, 1984, at the age of 61.

Spurrier’s awards were thought to have been lost, but they were found in a safe in November 2011. The Medal of Honor and some of his other awards were given to his two surviving sisters, (Lyla) Lee and Hope, at a ceremony held in December. 2, 2011.

Spurrier was the only soldier to receive the Medal of Honor who served in the 134th Infantry Regiment, one of 473 to receive one during World War II, and one of only 3,511 since its inception in 1862. In 1990, Congress designated March 25, each year, as “National Medal of Honor Day”. Today we honor Staff Sergeant Junior J. Spurrier for his actions that day that led to his own Medal of Honor.

Date taken: 24.03.2022
Date posted: 24.03.2022 11:29
Story ID: 417087
Location: we

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