Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 - Visiting A Hero

Today I took the family to the Machpelah Cemetary in Ferndale, Michigan.

Section 6 is the Veterans' Section.

Veterans lie there who have served and died in World War 1, World War 2, Korea and Vietnam.

There was one in particular to whom I wanted to pay respect to this day.

2nd Lieutenant Raymond Zussman, Born July 23, 1917 Died September 21, 1944. A tank commander in the 756th Tank Battalion he had first earned the Purple Heart after being wounded at Monte Cassino. Declining a headquarters position after recovering from the wound and requesting a combat command, he took part in Operation Dragoon.

For his actions on September 12, 1944 at Noroy-le-Bourg, France he was awarded the Medal of honor. His citation reads:

On 12 September 1944, 2d Lt. Zussman was in command of 2 tanks operating with an infantry company in the attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy le Bourg, France. At 7 p.m., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the ensuing action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry the numerous German soldiers he had caused to surrender. He located a road block and directed his tanks to destroy it. Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and 8 surrendered. Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machinegun and small arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. The tank fire broke the resistance and 20 enemy surrendered. Going forward again alone he passed an enemy-occupied house from which Germans fired on him and threw grenades in his path. After a brief fire fight, he signaled his tank to come up and fire on the house. Eleven German soldiers were killed and 15 surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him. Under 2d Lt. Zussman's heroic and inspiring leadership, 18 enemy soldiers were killed and 92 captured.

The 756 Tank Battalion Website has an except from the book, The History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II, that fills in more details of this series of heroic acts:

Lieut. Raymond Zussman, 0-1014997, Cavalry, Company A, 756th Tank Battalion, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action involving actual combat. On 12 September 1944, at 1900 hours, Lieutenant Zussman dismounted from his command tank and proceeded on foot, armed only with a carbine and followed by a lone M-4 tank, and assaulted Nory-le-Bourg, France. Forging ahead on the tank into blazing small-arms fire, he located and neutralized an improvised roadblock which had been booby trapped. Although intense enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire from a German position only 50 yards distant ricocheted off the hull and turret of the tank, Lieutenant Zussman stood beside it, fully exposed, firing on the enemy with his carbine and directing the tank's fire. When three Germans fell dead, the remaining eight surrendered to Lieutenant Zussman, who immediately proceeded to direct the fire of the tank on another center of resistance, killing three and compelling an additional seven to surrender. Having already exhausted his carbine ammunition, he seized a Thompson submachine gun from a member of the tank crew and advanced well in front of the tank, toward a group of houses occupied by the enemy. machine-gun and small-arms fire opened up on him from another enemy strongpoint 75 yards to his right front. Disregarding bullets which kicked up the dirt at his feet, he again stood in an exposed position and directed the fire of his tank until resistance was broken and 20 Germans surrendered. Leaving the tank behind, he rushed toward and enemy strongpoint in a house, firing his submachine gun as he ran, while the Germans tried to stop him with small-arms fire and threw hand grenades in his path. After a brief fire exchange, he brought up the tank and directed its fire on the house, forcing 11 more Germans to give up. His submachine gun blazing, Lieutenant Zussman again dashed forward into rifle and automatic weapons fire to another German held house, emerging after a short exchange of fire with 15 more prisoners. As the Germans fled before his whirlwind attack accurate tank fire accounted for 11 more killed. Noting an ideal antitank position, he plunged forward alone to reconnoiter. His submachine gun fired; his voice was heard above the tumult, shouting "Hände hoch!" and in a few minutes 30 prisoners, including the crews of two AT guns, filed around the corner. As night fell, he again went forward alone, to a truck; there was a hand grenade explosion, but when the smoke cleared Lieutenant Zussman returned with another prisoner. With lightning rapidity, Lieutenant Zussman had overwhelmed one enemy position after another. Fighting against all odds and on his own volition, he had blasted his way into and through the strongly defended town ahead of the infantry, killing 17 and capturing 92 soldiers, and capturing 2 antitank guns, one 20mm flak gun, two machine guns, and two trucks.

11 days after the incredible series of actions in Noroy-le-Bourg for which Raymond Zussman was recognized with the Medal of Honor, he was killed by a German mortar shell.

We said a prayer and we each left a stone to mark our visit to a fallen hero on this day.


Old NFO said...

Thank you for doing that.

OldAFSarge said...

Thanks for visiting our fallen. Many thanks for telling us about 2LT Zussman, what a warrior!

Aaron said...

Old NFO: It was good to commemorate Memorial Day in meaningful manner and to remember a fallen hero.

OldAFSarge: Thanks, it was good to do, and he certainly was quite the heroic warrior indeed.