BY DUANE ALLEN VACHON, PH.D. William Gordon Windrich was born May 14, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Herman and Marguerite Windrich. He attended school within the Hammond, Indiana public schools until enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps 6 June 1938. At the time of his enlistment he was only 17 years of age.
Windrich as a young adult, was very talented and had a interest in taxidermy, poetry, photography and painting of his own prints. He built a crystal radio, liked to do stunts on the family pony and participated in and enjoyed all sports. Windrich attended public schools in Hammond, Indiana. He was ordered to active duty in November 1940. During World War II, he spent 20 months overseas in the South Pacific as a machine gunner and saw action on Tarawa. Discharged in November 1945, he reenlisted in the regular Marine Corps the following February.
During WW2, Windrich served with numerous Marine contingencies. He was attached to Headquarters, 5th Defense Battalion from 2 October, 1942 to 10 October, 1943 during the Japanese bombing raids on Funanfuti Atoll, Ellice Islands. He served with Headquarters, 2nd Marine Battalion, AAARTY Group, and the 5th Amphibious Corps, 2nd Marine Division from 21 November, 1943 to 1 April, 1944. This duty was during the bloody invasion of Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands and the subsequent Japanese bombings thereafter.
From 1 May , 1946 to 26 August, 1946 Sergeant Windrich participated in operation “Crossroads”, the atomic bomb tests ‘Able’ and ‘Baker’ at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, while attached with the Joint Task Force One on board the USS Mt. McKinley. From November 1946 to February 1949, he was a member of the Marine garrison in China, as a military policeman, going to Peiping, Tientsin, Tsingtao and Shanghai. From September 1947 to April 1948 he was stationed on Guam. He left from Tsingtao, China on 27 January 1949 while attached to the First Marine Division, FMF, FMF West Pac for San Diego, Calif. At the onset of the war in Korea he shipped overseas as a military policeman with the First Marine Brigade. He transferred to Item Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division during the Wonson-Hungnam-Chosin Campaign, North Korea on 2 November 1950. Windrich gallantly gave his life for our country exactly one month after joining Item Company.
At the outbreak of fighting in Korea Windrich was on military police duty at Camp Pendleton, California. He went overseas with the 1st Marine Brigade and was among the first Marines to see action in Korea. He participated in the Inchon landing and in the capture of Seoul. It was during the Chosin Reservoir campaign, as the 1st Marine Division regrouped for its famous breakout to the sea, that he met his heroic death. His body was returned to the United States for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Windrich was killed in action the morning of 2 December 1950, near Yudam-ni, North Korea, following a savage night battle. He had refused to be evacuated even after being wounded twice, once when a grenade fragment ripped through his helmet. Although later felled by another wound in the leg, he was not put out of action but was still directing his men in setting up defensive positions when he succumbed to his wounds and the bitter cold.
Medal of Honor
STAFF SERGEANT WILLIAM G. WINDRICH
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Platoon Sergeant of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Yudam-ni, Korea, the night of 1 December 1950. Promptly organizing a squad of men when the enemy launched a sudden, vicious counterattack against the forward elements of his company’s position, rendering it untenable, Staff Sergeant WINDRICH, armed with a carbine, spearheaded the assault to the top of the knoll immediately confronting the overwhelming force and, under shattering hostile automatic weapons, mortar and grenade fire, directed effective fire to hold back the attackers and cover the withdrawal of our troops to commanding ground. With seven of his men struck down during the furious action and he, himself, wounded in the head by a bursting grenade, he made his way to his company’s position and, organizing a small group of volunteers, returned with them to evacuate the wounded and dying from the frozen hillside, staunchly refusing medical attention himself. Immediately redeploying the remainder of his troops, Staff Sergeant WINDRICH placed them on the left flank of the defensive sector before the enemy again attacked in force. Wounded in the leg during the bitter fight that followed, he bravely fought on with his men, shouting words of encouragement and directing their fire until the attack was repelled. Refusing evacuation although unable to stand, he still continued to direct his platoon in setting up defensive positions until, weakened by the bitter cold, excessive loss of blood and severe pain, he lapsed into unconsciousness and died. His valiant leadership, fortitude and courageous fighting spirit against tremendous odds served to inspire others to heroic endeavor in holding the objective and reflect the highest credit upon Staff Sergeant WINDRICH and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN
Military decorations and awards
|Medal of Honor||Purple Heart Medal with one gold 5/16 inch star||Combat Action Ribbon|
|Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one bronze service star||American Defense Service Medal|
|Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze campaign star||World War II Victory Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal||Korean Service Medal with three bronze service stars|
|Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation||United Nations Service Medal|
On Veterans Day, November 11, 1985 was proclaimed William G. Windrich Day by the cities of Hammond and East Chicago, Indiana. By direction of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, (General Paul X. Kelly) Major General C. “Dean” Sangalis was appointed as his representive and guest speaker. Also in attendance were S/SGT Windrich’s daughter Alita (Bonnie), his Grandson Mark, Alita’s Step-father Major John A. Goehring, USMC Ret., as were Windrich’s sister Virginia and her husband Ted, as well as three who served with “Windy” in 1940. On October 29, 1994, a street and a park was named in his honor in Hammond, Indiana.
Windrich is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Plot: Section 31, Lot 4856, Map grid AA/35.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.
Author: Duane Vachon
Duane A. Vachon PhD has been a licensed clinical psychologist for over thirty years. He belongs to the order of Secular Franciscans and is a life member of the Guild of Pastoral Psychology. After living almost 40 years as an expatriate, he now writes from his home in Hawaii. He has several books published and has written hundreds of articles on social justice and spiritual issues. His Doctoral thesis on ethics has set the standard at many universities. Reach Dr. Vachon at firstname.lastname@example.org
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