This Day in History: Curtis F. Shoup’s inspirational bravery

On this day in 1945, an Army staff sergeant is killed in an action that would ultimately earn him the Medal of Honor. Curtis F. Shoup was just days away from his 24th birthday at the time of his death.

Shoup died while serving with an old friend from high school.

“Although he hated war,” Lt. Robert J. Watson later wrote, “Curtis proved to be a fine soldier.” That day in 1945 made a deep impression on Watson. “Those who saw it all,” he concluded, “will never forget [Shoup’s] incredible, unselfish act.”

Indeed, Shoup’s bravery inspired the men with him to fight even harder.

Early January 1945 found Shoup with part of the 87th Infantry Division in Tillet, Belgium. It was really cold!! In fact, the ground was frozen so hard that Americans could not penetrate the ground in order to dig defenses. Thus, on January 7, Shoup’s company found itself in an exposed area with no good way to defend itself.

The Germans were firing relentlessly. Shoup knew that their machine guns had to be taken out, and he decided to act.

“[C]ompletely disregarding his own safety,” his Medal of Honor citation relates, “[he] 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.”

But Shoup still didn’t stop! He’d taken out one machine gun nest, but there was still another. “Although mortally wounded,” Watson relates, “[Shoup] was actually attempting to destroy the second machine gun when a sniper took his life.”

The men in Shoup’s company were inspired by what they’d seen and they fought all the harder. They continued on, fighting house-to-house until they had finally taken Tillet.

Brave. Selfless. Heroic. What an AMERICAN thing to do.