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Posted on Aug 11, 2006 in Front Page Features, War College

17th Airborne Division Medals of Honor

By Steve Wright

Private George J Peters G Company 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment

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George Peters was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, from where he enlisted in the Army. He volunteered for the Airborne and was posted to the 507th PIR. Surviving the Ardennes, he prepared for Operation Varsity.

On that day, as Stryker’s aircraft was still approaching the dropping point, the 507th jumped from their C-47 Dakotas. Peters’ company landed on the correct zone, and he and ten others ‘hit dirt’ at its northern edge.

They were some 75 yards from a German machinegun, whose crew was supported by riflemen. The eleven troopers came under heavy, direct fire, and were immediately pinned down. They struggled to get out of their parachutes, whilst finding themselves separated from their equipment bundles.

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His citation picks up the story:

Peters stood up without orders and began a one-man charge against the hostile emplacement armed only with a rifle and grenades. His single-handed assault immediately drew the enemy fire away from his comrades. He had run halfway to his objective, pitting rifle fire against that of the machinegun, when he was struck and knocked to the ground by a burst. Heroically, he regained his feet and struggled onward. Once more he was torn by bullets, and this time he was unable to rise. With gallant devotion to his self-imposed mission, he crawled directly into the fire that had mortally wounded him until close enough to hurl grenades which knocked out the machinegun, killed 2 of its operators, and drove protecting riflemen from their positions into the safety of a woods.

His fellow troopers were able to reach their equipment and joined in the taking of the wood, before heading for Diersfordt.

George Peters was interred in Grave 8, Row 17 in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten and the George J Peters Elementary School, in Cranston, stands as a memorial to him.

Technical Sergeant Clinton M Hedrick, I Company 194th Glider Infantry Regiment

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Clinton Hedrick was born on 1 May 1918 in Cherry Grove West Virginia. He volunteered for the glider infantry, eventually ending up in the Third Battalion of the 194th GIR.

Following the landings and river crossing on 24 March, the advance into Germany began two days later. On the outskirts of Lembeck, some twenty miles from Wesel, the leading elements of the 17th, which included Hedrick’s company, were pinned down by intense automatic weapons fire from strongly defended positions. Hedrick’s citation continues:

Each time, T/Sgt. Hedrick fearlessly charged through heavy fire, shooting his automatic rifle from his hip. His courageous action so inspired his men that they reduced the enemy positions in rapid succession. When 6 of the enemy attempted a surprise, flanking movement, he quickly turned and killed the entire party with a burst of fire. Later, the enemy withdrew across a moat into Lembeck Castle. T/Sgt. Hedrick, with utter disregard for his own safety, plunged across the drawbridge alone in pursuit. When a German soldier, with hands upraised, declared the garrison wished to surrender, he entered the castle yard with 4 of his men to accept the capitulation. The group moved through a sally port, and was met by fire from a German self-propelled gun. Although mortally wounded, T/Sgt. Hedrick fired at the enemy gun and covered the withdrawal of his comrades. He died while being evacuated after the castle was taken.

Hedrick’s body was repatriated and interred in the North Fork Cemetery, Riverton, West Virginia and the town’s Community Center bears his name.

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2 Comments

  1. My girlfriends grandfather who is still alive served in the 17th airborne and was a jumpmaster during operation varsity we would like to find out more info on him we have a really cool letter talking about his experience that he had wrote back to his wife in 1945 his name is 1st LT. William Harley Clark ASN 0-529997 Thank You

  2. Please contact us at the email above. The Scions organization, founded by 17th veterans is for the descendants and family members of 17th veterans. We hope we can help you learn more about the 17th and help us to honor the troopers.
    Ed Siergiej Jr., Sec/Tres, Scions of the 17th Airborne, Inc.

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