Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole and Private First Class Joe E. Mann are the only members of the Division to receive the Medal of Honor. Both Awards were posthumous… both men died within a day of each other… both had fulfilled their rendezvous with destiny
Lieutenant Colonel Cole, Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, was the first of two Screaming Eagles to win the Nation’s highest award.
As German machine-gun groups, entrenched around a stone house, held up the advance of the 101st in crossing the Medeleine River, following the parachute assault in Normandy, Col. Cole led a bayonet charge that killed or drove off all the enemy permitting the continued advance of the American Forces.
This action near Carentan on June 11, 1944 resulted in the establishment of a vital bridgehead for the Allies. On September 18, 1944, Col. Cole was killed by a sniper as he stood in a field near Best, Holland following the Allied Airborne landing, never knowing that he would rank with America’s most distinguished heroes.
Left: LTC Robert G. Cole, Right: PFC Joe E. Mann
Private First Class Mann, Co. H, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, was the second Screaming Eagle to be awarded the Medal of Honor. PFC. Mann, a member of Col. Cole’s battalion, was cited posthumously for his gallant actions during the liberation of Best, Holland in World War II.
In an action labeled simply as the “Attack on the Bridge,” PFC. Mann though wounded in both arms, lay back on a German hand grenade, absorbing its full explosive impact with his own body to save the lives of his wounded comrades. Through it costs him his life, Mann’s unselfish act earned him the Nation’s highest military award and the respect and undying gratitude of his fellow soldiers. He died on September 19, 1944, described by the men whose lives he saved as “the bravest man” they ever saw.