SSG JOSEPH E. SCHAEFER
Company I, 18th Infantry
1st Infantry Division
24 September 1944
Early in the morning of 24 September 1944, 2 enemy companies supported by machineguns launched an attack to seize control of an important crossroads which was defended by Schaefer’s platoon. One American squad was forced back, another captured, leaving only SSG Schaefer’s men to defend the position.
Schaefer crawled from position to position, under heavy small-arms and machinegun fire, giving orders and shifting his men into better defensive positions. Enemy artillery scored hit after hit on the squad’s position.
SSG. Schaefer deployed his men to key positions and selected the most dangerous one at the door, for himself. The initial wave of enemy infantry retreated from Schaefer’s accurate and continuous fire. Again the Germans attacked with grenades and flame throwers, were thrown repelled.
SSG Schaefer regrouped his men for a final assault. The Germans approached from opposite directions. One force drove at the house from the front, while a second group advanced stealthily along a hedgerow. Seeing the German’s tactics SSG. Schaefer fired at the enemy killing or wounding all 6 of the first assault.
He dashed to the hedgerow and poured deadly accurate shots into the second group, killing 5, wounding 2 others, and forcing the enemy to withdraw. He searched the area near their stronghold capturing 10 prisoners.
On his orders, the rest of his company had begun a counterattack; he moved forward remaining in the lead, crawling and running in the face of heavy fire, he overtook the enemy liberating an American squad captured earlier in the battle.
Over the course of the battle, Schaefer Single-handed and armed only with his rifle, killed between 15 and 20 Germans, wounded at least as many more, and took 10 prisoners. SSG Schaefer’s indomitable courage and his determination to hold his position at all costs were responsible for stopping an enemy break-through.