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Highlighting the World Wars I & II Memorabilia Collection of Dave Sleeper

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McDowell, Gerald L.


Rank: Private First Class
Serial Number: 33111559
Military Branch: 135th Infantry Reg., 34th Division
Origin: Pennsylvania
Date of Death: 1944-2-2
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
Featured: No

Gerald L. Mcdowell was born September 14, 1919. He enlisted in the Army September 23, 1941 in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. His enlistment record shows that he was single at that time, but other information shows that he left a widow in Brookville, Pennsylvania.

McDowell's group consists of his officially engraved slot brooch posthumous Purple Heart with presentation box and white outer box, officially engraved slot brooch posthumous Bronze Star with presentation box and white outer box, an original onion skin Bronze Star citation dated September 1945, and the envelope that it was mailed in to his widow.

McDowells citation reads: "Private First Class McDowell faithfully followed his Battalion Commander over rugged, mountainous terrain, refusing to be relieved, feeling that the route to his position was too dangerous and difficult to reach. When seriously wounded by an enemy sniper's bullet, PFC McDowell advised the aidman who tried to reach him, to remain behind a stone wall and he would attempt to reach him. As he was making his way toward the aidman. a mortar shell exploded beside him, killing him instantly. The aidman, however, was uninjured as he had remained behind the safety of the wall. The courage and unselfishness of PFC McDowell gained for him the respect and admiration of the entire company."

The following describes the action that cost McDowell his life, as found on Wikipedia: In January 1944, the 34th Division was back in II Corps front line battering at the Bernhardt Line defenses. After bitter fighting through the Mignano Gap, they were able to take Mount Trocchio without resistance as the German defenders withdrew to the main prepared defenses of the Gustav Line. On 24 January 1944, during the First Battle of Monte Cassino they pushed across the Rapido River into the hills behind and attacked Monastery Hill which dominated the town of Cassino. While they nearly captured the objective, in the end their attacks on the monastery and the town failed. The performance of 34 Division in the mountains is considered to rank as one of the finest feats of arms carried out by any soldiers during the war. In return they sustained losses of about 80% in the Infantry battalions. They were relieved from their positions 11–13 February 1944. Eventually, it took the combined force of five allied infantry divisions to finish what the 34th nearly accomplished on its own.

A very detailed account of the action by the 135th can be found at http://www.custermen.com/ItalyWW2/Units/Division34Pt2.htm