2nd Lt Nathaniel Julius McConnell, son of Mrs. E. L. McConnell of Monroe, formerly of Rayville, has recently been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany during the period between December 10, 1944, and May 7, 1945. The coast artillery corps (anti – aircraft) officer had previously received the Bronze Star Medal and a battlefield commission, which elevated him from staff sergeant to the rank of second lieutenant. At that time only 15 men in his division had received such promotions.
The citation stated in part: “On one occasion when roads were congested with traffic and the enemy planes attempted to bomb the concentration, Lt. McConnell directed his column to an area where they could disperse. Disregarding his own personal safety, he returned to the road and directed two other columns to a safe area. The planes bombed the area, but his bravery and coolness at the risk of his own life saved many lives and much needed supplies. Near Germany his quick thinking and supreme courage forced the surrender of 20 heavily armed enemy. His leadership and gallantry have been notable in all actions.” Lt McConnell entered the service from Louisiana when the National Guard was mustered and has served overseas about one year. He has recently been assigned to the army of occupation.
Terming the capture of the 20 Germans “an interesting experience,” Lt. McConnell described the incident to his sister, Mrs. Prentiss Lowe, of Minden, in a recent letter:
“We were about five miles from the C. P. The situation was fluid as it always is when we dash through the country. I had to go to the C. P. and most of the route was through woods, and the woods had not been cleared out; so the jeep driver and I started I with a carbine rifle (which I later found wouldn’t fire) and he with a P. 38 Hun pistol. After going a couple of miles, we suddenly crossed a rise and came upon a cross road. We saw a bunch of guys on both sides of the road and in the woods in front hit the ground and disperse. Also I also noticed they had on helmets and, too, I observed a guy lining his rifle sights upon me as I stepped or hopped out of the jeep with the driver on my heels. I took the safety off my carbine and the driver unlimbered his 38.
We ducked behind the jeep, but on giving a closer look I knew a jeep wasn’t much against the eight or 10 bazookas I saw menacingly directed on us! “What a feeling! After some furious calculating I decided now or never! So I stood up and summoning as large and authoritative voice as I could, I waved my arms and yelled, ‘Come on out!’
At the same time I told the jeep driver (who speaks German) to tell them we weren’t going to hurt them to just come out. “Did I sweat out a couple of seconds! But they did start putting up their hands and some, still carrying their bazookas, came out all around us.” “We very gently relieved them of their guns and lined them up in front of the jeep and marched them back to where we had come from. Nineteen men and one officer.”Lt. N.J. McConnell of Rayville awarded Silver Star Sat, Aug 11, 1945 – 1 · The Richland Beacon-News (Rayville, Louisiana, United States of America) · Newspapers.com