This Day in History: Edward Silk's one-man attack in France
On this day in 1944, a hero launches a one-man attack on Germans who were attacking his company. Amazingly, First Lt. Edward A. Silk survived his daring run.
Silk was then commanding a weapons platoon in France. He and his men had been tasked with a mission: They were to seize high ground outside the city of Moyenmoutier.
By noon on November 23, scouts for Silk’s company were approaching some woods near the vicinity of St. Pravel. They noticed that a nearby farmhouse had an enemy sentry posted out front.
Our soldiers were soon under attack.
One squad in Silk’s company became pinned down, almost immediately. Machine-gun and automatic-weapon fire raked the area. It was coming from inside the house. Silk dispatched a light-machine gun section to take care of the enemy resistance, but it wasn’t enough.
Silk swung into action. He’d put an end to the conflict on his own.
Silk ran at least 100 yards across an open field, stopping only when he reached a low stone wall near the farmhouse. He fired into the door and windows of the farmhouse with his carbine before leaping over the wall and dashing across another 50 yards of open ground.
Bullets were raining down on him as he sprinted across these exposed spaces. Miraculously, he wasn’t hit.
As Silk reached the house, he threw a grenade through the window, taking out at least one machine gun and two gunners. He began working his way around the house, but he was soon taking fire from a nearby woodshed, too. He rushed this structure, neutralizing it with a few grenades.
By this time, Silk had run out of grenades, but he ran back to the farmhouse anyway. Would you believe that he began throwing rocks through the windows at this juncture? The scene must have been loud and confusing, because his loud demands for surrender convinced twelve Germans to comply.
Silk’s citation describes these Germans as “overcome by his relentless assault and confused by his unorthodox methods.”
Close to one year later, Silk would be presented with a Medal of Honor by President Harry S Truman. By then, as you know, World War II had come to an end.
Unfortunately, Silk wouldn’t live too long after the war. In 1955, he passed away during a surgery for a bleeding ulcer.
“It’s truly amazing the things that he did,” a leader in his community later told a reporter, wishing that more people could know about Silk and others like him.
“A Medal of Honor is a high platform,” he concluded. “I place these individuals in another class. I think we should learn about them and read about them. People should be taught about them. I’d like to see more markers about them in their hometown. People need to be proud of them.”
Cody McDevitt, How two Johnstown men earned the Medal of Honor (Daily American; Aug. 22, 2019).
Jocelyn Brumbaugh, Edward Silk Won Medal of Honor for Actions in World War II (Tribune Democrat; Apr. 18, 2016)
Medal of Honor citation (Edward A. Silk; World War II)
Medal of Honor Winner is Dead (Birmingham News; Nov. 19, 1955) (page 3)
Medal of Honor Winner, 39, Dies (Lansing State Journal; Nov. 20, 1955) (page 13)