Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack”

26-02-2017

Born in Hong Kong in 1906, John Churchill joined the military in 1926, but soon left to, obviously, become a professional bagpiper and represent Britain in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — two skills he would bring back with him when recalled to service as World War II broke out.

Mad Jack won his first Military Cross during the British retreat to Dunkirk. It was during the retreat that he killed his first German with a longbow , using that and two machine guns until running out of ammunition and escaping to the main British force through German lines.

After seeing decorated action raiding Nazi-held Norway, Churchill took over a Commando unit and joined in the storming of Salerno Bay in Italy wearing silver buttons, carrying bagpipes, and armed with a bow and arrow and a hilted Scottish sword called a claymore. “Churchill,” his 1996 obituary would read, “believed an assault leader should have a reputation which would at once demoralize the enemy and convince his own men that nothing was impossible.” “Any officer who goes into action without his sword,” he reportedly said, “is improperly dressed.”

Casualties were high, and in a desperate bid he launched his troops in a screaming, nighttime attack on the Nazi lines, capturing 136 of the enemy. Churchill and a comrade then charged further ahead and, using his sword and a German hostage, captured a 42-man garrison plus a mortar and crew.

On the Nazi-held Yugoslavian island of Brac, Mad Jack’s luck ran out when, as the lone unwounded man atop a hill and out of ammunition, he played “Will ye no come back again” on his pipes until a grenade knocked him unconscious and he was captured.  

Though Hitler had issued an order to kill captured commandos, Churchill was spared the Gestapo’s wrath by a German army captain who told him, “You are a soldier, as I am. I refuse to allow these civilian butchers to deal with you.” Later in the war, when the captain was captured, Churchill was able to save him from execution. 

Churchill was eventually able to escape from an Austrian prison camp, making an eight-day trek to link up with American forces. There, worried he’d missed too much of the European war, he told friends, “there are still the Nips [Japanese], aren’t there?”

 

But Mad Jack would never fight the Japanese, arriving shortly after the two atomic bombs were dropped and lamenting, “if it hadn’t been for those damned Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another 10 years.”

But the end of the Second World War would not quell Churchill’s spirit one bit: In 1945, at age 40, he qualified as a paratrooper before taking time off the following year to play an archer in the movie “Ivanhoe.” In 1948, he saw combat in Palestine during the tumultuous British handover, and while serving in Australia in the 1950s, he picked up surfing. After he retired, he took to buying, refurbishing and piloting old steam boats; motorcycle speed trials; and crafting remote-control model boats. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 89.  

 

The Lieutenant Colonel Matt Urban Story.

25-02-2017

“The Greatest Soldier in American History.” is how President Jimmy Carter, described Lt. Col. Matt Urban  on July 19, 1980, while presenting him with the Congressional Medal of Honor

   or his heroic actions during World War II. It had taken 35 years for this recognition of his venerated feats in World War II. It came after officials discovered they mistakenly had overlooked awarding the medal to Urban. Though his exploits on WWII battlefields earned him a greater number of citations than those of the legendary Audie Murphy, the award nomination his battalion commander wrote for him prior to being killed in action, never reached the headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division  in Europe. When a review of Urban’s records in 1978 revealed a copy of the proposed letter, President Jimmy Carter resolved to correct the administrative error and awarded Col. Urban the medal.

Lt. Col. Matt Urban was born on August 25, 1919, in Buffalo of Polish immigrants. He was raised at 1153 Broadway and attended Buffalo Public School #57. He entered the US Army in 1941, saw a much conflict during World War II and became the most decorated American war hero, earning virtual every combat medal including the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A 1941 graduate of Cornell University, within a week of graduation he was at Fort. Bragg, N.C . and later on the beaches of North Africa. From there he and the 60th Infantry Regiment , 9th Infantry Division moved to Sicily, France, Belgium and Germany. Typical of Urban’s service were actions on D-Day, where he landed with his men on Omaha beach . he suffered a broken leg in a landing mishap, but with his men trapped on the beach, Urban got up on top of a tank and led them in an attack on German positions and off the beach. In many subsequent encounters, Urban’s battlefield leadership skill and his uncanny ability to frustrate German plans caused the enemy to give him the nickname “the Gray Ghost.” On 2 August, Urban was wounded in the chest by shell fragments that narrowly missed his heart. He again refused to be evacuated to a hospital. On August 6, Major Max L. Wolf, the Second Battalion Commander, was killed in action near Cherbourg. France, and Urban, only 24 years old, assumed command of the battalion. Urban was wounded again on 15 August, but remained with his unit. On October 2, he was promoted to major. Lt. Col. Urban was wounded six times and six times he went back to the front lines. The seventh time he was wounded , he was shot in the throat and the bullet tore out a vocal cord. Army doctors gave Urban no hope for survival. But he recovered two years later with damaged vocal cords which left him raspy-voiced to the end of his days.

After the war, he moved to Michigan where he served as recreation director for Port Huron for seven years, then director of the Monroe Community Center for 16 years. His last job was director of the civic and recreation department of Holland, Michigan. He retired in 1989. His death on March 20, 1995 was a result of complications from a collapsed lung brought on by one of his seven war wounds.

Lt. Col. Urban received a total of 29 awards and decorations, including the Silver Star (2 OLC), Bronze Star (3 OLC) with “V” Device, Purple Heart

 (7 OLC), and NYS Conspicuous Cross with 4 Silver and 1 Gold Clusters. Lt. Col. Urban was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in March 1995.

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