As the battle tested veterans of Company L, 142 Infantry, and 36th Division probed the outskirts of Magliano, Italy on the morning of June 14, 1944 they knew that the German soldiers facing them were strongly entrenched. The men of the 36th had met this enemy before, in Africa, on the bloody beaches of Salerno and in all the bitter battles in Italy.
Leading one of the platoons was a slim Tech Sergeant known to his men as "Blackie" was Homer L. Wise and he had served with the 36th Division since its inception. Sergeant Wise was an outstanding soldier and veteran of three years in the Army and holder of the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
As they approached the town, Wise and his platoon were pinned down by a deadly enemy cross-fire of interlocking machine guns and supporting riffle fire. Seeing the leading scout was seriously wounded. Sergeant Wise immediately jumped to his feet and ran forward through the murderous sweeping of the enemy to try and bring the wounded man to safety. Three other men followed his example, and the four of them carried the wounded man to place of safety where he could receive medical attention.
Sergeant Wise returned to his squad and led them forward to try and take the enemy machine guns by a direct attack, but soon as they moved forward, they were again forced to take cover from increased enemy fire poured on them from an orchard to their front.
Wise saw a German officer and two men moving to the side of his platoon, which was still pinned down, trying to outflank his men. Wise unhesitatingly jumped up, rushed forward and killed all three with bursts from his sub-machine gun.
Returning to his men he found them receiving disastrously effective fire and taking heavy casualties. The enemy gunners were in well protected positions that were immune to the small arms fire of L Company. Laying aside his sub-machine gun, Wise picked up a rifle and grenade launcher from one of the wounded, and yelling above the din of fire for all available rife grenades, he gathered them up and stuffed them in his jacket. He moved forward again through a hail of bullets to a position where he could fire on the entrenched enemy. His deadly fire on the enemy inflicted many casualties and forced the survivors to flee his effective fire and abandon their positions. When his stock of 15 grenades was exhausted he picked up another sub-machine gun and firing from the hip, he pursued the fleeing enemy over the fire swept terrain.
After this strong-point had fallen to his one man attack, Wise started moving his remaining men forward. Once again they received heavy fire from the front, and flanks. The fire was so intense that the men from L Company could not move their machine guns forward and again they were forced to seek cover.
Realizing that the enemy was to far away for his sub-machine gun to be effective, and 6that some action was needed to get the men moving forward again, the sergeant picked up an automatic rifle, stood up and started walking through the heavy fire toward the entrenched Germans, firing his weapon from a standing position. His shooting was so accurate it soon neutralized the enemy weapons. His courageous action so inspired his men that they charged forward and captured the remaining enemy gun positions and crews.
Again on the offensive, L Company was next confronted by an enemy held ridge, honeycombed with enemy strong points. It was decided to by-pass this strong point to continue the Company advance. The enemy on this high ground delivered an effective heavy fire and once again pinned down the now weary, battered men of L Company down. The enemy fire was so fierce that supporting tanks that had followed the company advance were forced to seek cover in a wooded area to the rear. One medium tank stayed in the open to fire its 75 millimeter cannon at the hostile emplacements, but the deadly retaliatory fire forced the tank's crew to close their vision slits and the tanks effectiveness and firepower was lost.
Once again Sergeant Wise went into action, dashing forward as he saw that the platoon attack had bogged down, casualties were mounting, and the tank nearest him had "buttoned-down and left its machine gun unmanned. By using the hand set at the rear of the tank, he asked why this gun was not giving covering fire to his troops. Told by the tankers that this weapon was jammed and useless, Wise said "Nuts".
He scaled to the tanks turret and in seconds reduced the jam and began firing the machine gun. The enemy coated the tank with flying lead in an attempt to knock him off the tank and silence the gun. Wise delivered 750 rounds of deadly effective fire on the enemy completely neutralizing the enemy positions on the ridge and allowing the Battalion to move forward and occupy the whole hill mass. This was a major breakthrough of the German defensive line.
Sergeant Wise was awarded our Nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor for this action. The original citation signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt says in conclusion: "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where an escape seemed miraculous, demonstrated a courage unfathomable and his exceeding gallantry and insuperable devotion to duty was a source of admiration to all those who witnessed his intrepid acts, and the memory of it will perpetually inspire our fighting men.
Eight days after this action Sgt. Wise was wounded in action near Grosseto, Italy and was sent to the rear. After hospitalization, Wise rejoined his unit and was with it when they made the invasion of Southern France on August 15, 1944. The day after the landing Sergeant Wise was leading a patrol of six men and came upon an enemy motor pool. Wise concealed his men, walked into the enemy encampment and demanded it surrender. The ruse worked and the seven man patrol captured the motor pool with all of its valuable equipment and 32 enemy soldiers. Wise was awarded the Bronze Star for this action.
Wise continued to serve in a front line unit, receiving another Bronze Star and two additional clusters to his Purple Heart for his second and third wounds. He constantly led patrols behind enemy lines, and when the division was notified to remove him from combat duty to receive the Medal of Honor, Wise was behind enemy lines and presumed missing in action.
On November 28, 1944, in a ceremony near Epinal, France, as Lt. General Alexander M. Patch, the Army Commander hung the light blue ribbon with white stars holding the metal around his neck, the general said, "I wish we had an Army full of soldiers like you".
Published by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Homer L. Wise Chapter #1932, Darien, CT August 1991.
Photo caption: A rare photograph of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise wearing the Medal of Honor. The photograph was taken between November 28,1944 and July 25,1945