BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. – The obituary for Dale Eldon Christensen in the Manning, Iowa, newspaper article in 1944, said Christensen became a “One Man Army” engaged in combat with the Japanese while they held most of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island.
Christensen was fighting against who greatly outnumbered him. As the Americans planned offensive operations to take the eastern side of New Guinea, the Japanese attacked the allied lines in a dense jungle area along the Driniumor River. On July 10th, the Japanese broke through American lines guarding the river and a month long battle ensued. A successful American counterattack finally succeeded, and the Japanese penetration was rebuffed. Soldiers had to move through thick, reeking jungle with twisted and knotted thick-rooted mangrove trees in murky swamps. Hence, Christensen’s efforts are all the more heroic.
World War II Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Dale Eldon Christensen was born in Cameron Township, Iowa. He served as a Second Lieutenant in Troop E, 112th Cavalry Regiment, US Army. It was at the Driniumor River in New Guinea where he distinguished himself in heavy fighting which occurred there against Japanese forces. On July 16, 1944, his platoon was engaged in a fire fight with a effectively placed enemy machinegun. After ordering his men to remain under cover, he moved forward and put the gun out of action with hand grenades. Three days later on July 19 he and his platoon were pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Telling his men to remain under cover, he moved forward on his own to find the best position from which to attack. He located five enemy machineguns.
After destroying one with hand grenades, he rejoined his platoon and then led his men in a successful assault, driving the enemy from their positions with a loss of four mortars, 10 machineguns and many dead. Two weeks later near Afua, Dutch Guinea, he was killed in action leading his platoon in an attack on an enemy machinegun position. He was the first Iowan in WW II to be awarded the Medal of Honor. 2nd Lt. Christensen was killed in action about 2 yards from his objective while leading his platoon in an attack on an enemy machinegun position. His leadership, intrepidity, and repeatedly demonstrated gallantry in action at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, exemplify the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Christensen’s medal was presented posthumously by Major General William M. Grimes, commandant of the Fort Riley Cavalry School in Kansas to his parents and family. Grimes placed the medal around the neck of Christensen’s father, Chris. The Medal of Honor is on display in the Audubon County Courthouse.
Medal of Honor citation
Second Lieutenant Christensen’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty along the Driniumor River, New Guinea, from 16-July 19, 1944. 2d Lt. Christensen repeatedly distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in the continuous heavy fighting which occurred in this area from 16-July 19,. On July 16, his platoon engaged in a savage fire fight in which much damage was caused by 1 enemy machinegun effectively placed. 2d Lt. Christensen ordered his men to remain under cover, crept forward under fire, and at a range of 15 yards put the gun out of action with hand grenades. Again, on July 19, while attacking an enemy position strong in mortars and machineguns, his platoon was pinned to the ground by intense fire. Ordering his men to remain under cover, he crept forward alone to locate definitely the enemy automatic weapons and the best direction from which to attack. Although his rifle was struck by enemy fire and knocked from his hands he continued his reconnaissance, located 5 enemy machineguns, destroyed 1 with hand grenades, and rejoined his platoon. He then led his men to the point selected for launching the attack and, calling encouragement, led the charge. This assault was successful and the enemy was driven from the positions with a loss of 4 mortars and 10 machineguns and leaving many dead on.
Second Lieutenant Christensen is buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Manila City, Philippines Plot: A-12-200.