Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Pvt. Kelly’s sprint of a lifetime earned him two Medals of Honor in WWI- he victoriously ran straight into enemy’s pill box.

Sam Dickson

World wars do not lack in stories of individuals whose bravery exceeded everyone’s expectations. Today, we honor the memory of Pvt. John Kelly, a Chicago teenager who victoriously ran straight into enemy’s pill box.

Private John Joseph Kelly was only 19 when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. It was 1917, and WWI was entering its decisive phase. In February next year, his 78th Company regiment safely arrived in St. Nazaire, France carried by the USS Henderson transport ship. Kelly fought at Château-Thierry, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont and the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and engaged in the march to the Rhine River, as well as in the occupation of the Coblenz Bridgehead.

Pvt. Kelly wearing his medal with pride. Source

Pvt. Kelly wearing his medal with pride. Source

His most notable act occurred in October 1918, during the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge. The US Army fought alongside the French, against the Germans. The French needed fresh and energetic reinforcement on the Western front after months of unsuccessful attempts to push away the enemy.

John Kelly was the prototype of the vigor needed for the operation to succeed. As the US Navy states, Pvt. Kelly ‘ran through our own barrage one hundred yards in advance of the front line and attacked an enemy machine-gun nest, killing the gunner with a grenade, shooting another member of the crew with his pistol and returned through the barrage with eight prisoners.’

Portrait of Pvt. Kelly wearing all of his medals. Source

Portrait of Pvt. Kelly wearing all of his medals. Source

This heroic sprint of a lifetime made him one of only 19 soldiers who received two Medals of Honor, both from the Army and the Navy, for ‘conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity’. After almost a month of struggle, the battle finally resulted in the expulsion of the Imperial German Army from the Champagne Region. Kelly was honorably discharged on 14 August 1919, as an ‘excellent’ soldier.

Among other honors, Pvt. Kelly received the French Croix de guerre with Bronze Star, Croix de guerre with Palm, the Médaille militaire, the Italian Croce al Merito di Guerra and the Montenegrin Silver Medal for bravery. He died in 1957, in his hometown of Chicago, as the last surviving of the 19 two-time Medal of Honor recipients.