BY DUANE ALLEN VACHON, PH.D. The Greek philosopher Thucydides once said, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Thomas Wigle born on May 18, 1909 at Indianapolis, Indiana. Wigle is one of those who Thucydides was speaking about. For relaxation from his music studies, Lieutenant Wigle always liked to shoot on a rifle range. He never hunted game. He hated war but after spending three days in the nation’s capital viewing historic documents, monuments and buildings, just before he went overseas, he wrote to a friend here, “I’ve decided that this government is worth fighting for.”
This weekend many of us will gather to honor our heroes, not just Wigle but all who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Today we remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and we gather to say thank you for their sacrifices. Thinking of the heroes that we honor in this column and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served.
The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.
Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them, us, so much.
Wigle joined the Army from Detroit, Michigan, and by September 14, 1944 was serving as a second lieutenant in Company K, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division. On that day, in Monte Frassino, Italy, Wigle assumed command of a platoon and led an assault on a heavily fortified German position. He single-handedly attacked three German-held houses before being wounded. He died of his wounds two days later and, on February 7, 1945, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Serving in World War II was no easy task, yet 2nd Lieutenant Thomas W. Wigle gave his all and volunteered to command when leadership was desperately needed. On September 16, 1944 his platoon was attempting to invade a heavily fortified position on an Italian hillside. There were three terraced stone walls to scale to reach the enemy. Wigle led his men up the rocky slope through intense fire and reached the first stone wall. He was boosted to the top of the wall and perched upon it in full view of the enemy. A firefight ensued and meanwhile, his men helped each other up and over. Wigle and his platoon successfully negotiated the second wall using the same method.
Three houses used as an enemy stronghold came into view after Wigle scaled the third wall. Giving an order for cover, he made a dash through a shower of gunfire to reach the nearest house. Firing his carbine as he entered, he drove the enemy out of the back door and onto the second house. Following closely on the heels of the foe, he drove them from this house into the third where they took refuge in the cellar. When his men rejoined him, they found him mortally wounded on the cellar stairs which he had started to descend to force the surrender of the enemy. His heroic action resulted in the capture of 36 German soldiers and the seizure of the strongpoint.
Lieutenant Wigle succumbed to his wounds two days after his Medal of Honor action.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company K, 135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division. Place and date: Monte Frassino, Italy, 14 September 1944. Entered service at: Detroit, Mich. G.O. No.: 8, 7 February 1945
Second Lieutenant Wigle’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in the vicinity of Monte Frassino, Italy. The 3d Platoon, in attempting to seize a strongly fortified hill position protected by 3 parallel high terraced stone walls, was twice thrown back by the withering crossfire. 2d Lt. Wigle, acting company executive, observing that the platoon was without an officer, volunteered to command it on the next attack. Leading his men up the bare, rocky slopes through intense and concentrated fire, he succeeded in reaching the first of the stone walls. Having himself boosted to the top and perching there in full view of the enemy, he drew and returned their fire while his men helped each other up and over. Following the same method, he successfully negotiated the second. Upon reaching the top of the third wall, he faced 3 houses which were the key point of the enemy defense. Ordering his men to cover him, he made a dash through a hail of machine-pistol fire to reach the nearest house. Firing his carbine as he entered, he drove the enemy before him out of the back door and into the second house. Following closely on the heels of the foe, he drove them from this house into the third where they took refuge in the cellar. When his men rejoined him, they found him mortally wounded on the cellar stairs which he had started to descend to force the surrender of the enemy. His heroic action resulted in the capture of 36 German soldiers and the seizure of the strongpoint.
//Franklin D. Roosevelt// President
The medal was conferred on Lieutenant Wigle’s widow, Mrs. Margaret Henry Wigle, February 16 in Detroit Michigan. Diana Wigle’s the two-year-old daughter of Lt. and Mrs. Wigle, was with her mother in the federal courtroom where Major General Russell B. Reynolds made the presentation.
Second Lieutenant Wigle is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Plot: Section 34 Lot 3307
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