Thursday, February 8, 2018

Archie Gammon

Archer Thomas Gammon was born near Chatham, Virginia, on September 11, 1918.  A son of Walter and Cordie Evans Gammon, Archer was one of fifteen siblings.  The Gammons were a farming family living on Route 29.  The sons, on completing the seventh grade, worked with their father in the field and the daughters helped their mother keep house.

Life changed for Archie in 1942 when he enlisted in the U. S. Army at Roanoke.  He was assigned to Camp Lee in Price George County for basic training.  But he was not the only Gammon sibling to serve.  Brother Robert was also in the army serving as an anti-aircraft gunner in Fredericksburg.  Brother Walter joined the Navy and was slightly wounded in the Pacific theater in 1944.  Brother James was a fireman in the Coast Guard.  And sister Mildred was a member of the Women’s Army Corps.

By January 11, 1945, Archie was a Staff Sergeant serving in Company A, 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division. On that day, near Bastogne, Belgium, he destroyed a German machine gun position before beginning a one-man assault on a German tank. He killed nine Nazis before he was silenced by a shot from the tank. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  His full citation reads:

He charged 30 yards through hip-deep snow to knock out a machinegun and its 3-man crew with grenades, saving his platoon from being decimated and allowing it to continue its advance from an open field into some nearby woods. The platoon's advance through the woods had only begun when a machinegun supported by riflemen opened fire and a Tiger Royal tank sent 88mm shells screaming at the unit from the left flank. S/Sgt. Gammon, disregarding all thoughts of personal safety, rushed forward, then cut to the left, crossing the width of the platoon's skirmish line in an attempt to get within grenade range of the tank and its protecting foot troops. Intense fire was concentrated on him by riflemen and the machinegun emplaced near the tank. He charged the automatic weapon, wiped out its crew of 4 with grenades, and, with supreme daring, advanced to within 25 yards of the armored vehicle, killing 2 hostile infantrymen with rifle fire as he moved forward. The tank had started to withdraw, backing a short distance, then firing, backing some more, and then stopping to blast out another round, when the man whose single-handed relentless attack had put the ponderous machine on the defensive was struck and instantly killed by a direct hit from the Tiger Royal's heavy gun. By his intrepidity and extreme devotion to the task of driving the enemy back no matter what the odds, S/Sgt. Gammon cleared the woods of German forces, for the tank continued to withdraw, leaving open the path for the gallant squad leader's platoon.

But that was not the last of Archie Gammon.  He was among 29 Congressional medal of Honor winners to be honored with the renaming of a Navy support ship, the USNS Sgt. Archer T. Gammon.  She was a Boulder Victory-class cargo ship built at the end of the war and named for Archie in 1947.  After serving in the demilitarization after World War II, the Gammon also delivered cargo for the Korean Conflict.  She was decommissioned in 1973.

By the end of the war, the Gammon family was living at 120 Broad Street in Danville (now part of a parking lot).  Father, mother, Archie, and many of his siblings are interred at the nearby Mountain View Cemetery across the drive from the memorial to Danville’s World War II soldiers and sailors.

The Bee:  13 Jan 1943, 8 Dec 1944, 14 Feb 1946, 21 Feb 1946, 19 Nov 1947
Wikipedia (photo)