By Vince Little, The Bayonet August 31, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- In mid-June, the Maneuver Center of Excellence needed a volunteer to pick up Staff Sgt. Curtis F. Shoup's Medal of Honor in Pittsburgh and deliver it to the National Infantry Museum. Up stepped Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Hamm.
The 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment command sergeant major made the three-day trip this month, receiving the medal at the 87th Infantry Division's annual reunion banquet. He said the experience changed his entire outlook on World War II veterans and the nation's highest military honor.
"When you get to hear their stories in person -- a lot of these guys are dying off -- it's humbling," Hamm said Thursday. "It puts a lump in your throat. … It really touches you.
"I have a whole different perspective on this now, because you can't get that kind of human interaction out of a museum. Great guys -- great, great people."
Shoup served with I Company, 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, on the European front. His actions occurred Jan. 7, 1945, near Tillet, Belgium, but he was killed in the battle and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Hamm flew to Pittsburgh on Aug. 20 and spoke about the medal's significance and history the following night at the banquet. More than 200 people attended the 62nd veterans reunion for the 87th Infantry Division Legacy Association.
During the transfer ceremony, Hamm was handed the medal by World War II vet Mitch Kaidy, who fought with the division while assigned to D Company, 345th Infantry Regiment.
"What a huge honor. Who else gets to do something like this in their lifetime?" Hamm said. "For me, other than receiving the Medal of Honor myself, to be entrusted with a responsibility like that is very, very flattering."
Shoup's nephew, Curtis Arata of Tyngsboro, Mass., had been in possession of the decoration but donated it to the 87th's Legacy Association, which arranged for it to be gifted to the National Infantry Museum, along with his Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge and other service medals.
On Thursday, Hamm presented the entire package to Zachary Frank Hanner, director of the National Infantry Museum's military staff.
"More U.S. Infantry Soldiers have earned the Medal of Honor in our nation's history than any other branch of our armed forces. So we are always proud to be entrusted with a documented Medal of Honor," Hanner said. "The Medal of Honor speaks volumes on the bravery of the recipient but also on the bravery that is required of all the members of our armed forces. May our great republic always be defended by courageous patriots like Staff Sergeant Curtis F. Shoup."
Ironically, Hamm's next assignment is with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Division, at Fort Drum, N.Y. He's set to become the unit's command sergeant major in the summer of 2012.
STAFF SGT. CURTIS F. SHOUP MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Staff Sergeant Curtis F. Shoup, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company I, 346th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division.
On 7 January 1945, near Tillet, Belgium, Staff Sergeant Shoup's company attacked German troops on rising ground. Intense hostile machinegun fire pinned down and threatened to annihilate the American unit in an exposed position where frozen ground made it impossible to dig in for protection. Heavy mortar and artillery fire from enemy batteries was added to the storm of destruction falling on the Americans.
Realizing that the machinegun must be silenced at all costs, Staff Sergeant Shoup, armed with an automatic rifle, crawled to within 75 yards of the enemy emplacement. He found that his fire was ineffective from this position, and completely disregarding his own safety, stood up and grimly strode ahead into the murderous stream of bullets, firing his low-held weapon as he went.
He was hit several times and finally was knocked to the ground. But he struggled to his feet and staggered forward until close enough to hurl a grenade, wiping out the enemy machinegun nest with his dying action.
By his heroism, fearless determination, and supreme sacrifice, Staff Sergeant Shoup eliminated a hostile weapon which threatened to destroy his company and turned a desperate situation into victory.
CURTIS F. SHOUP:
Date of birth: Jan. 11, 1921
Birthplace: Napanoch, N.Y.
Date of death: Jan. 7, 1945
Burial location: Scriba, N.Y.