LTC Robert George Cole
This Medal of Honor recipient, was born at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on March 19, 1915. He entered service at San Antonio and attended the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in the fabled class of 1939. Commissioned a lieutenant in the infantry, in March 1941 he received his jump wings. Quickly rising through the ranks until by 1943 he commanded the 3rd Battalion of the 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment. June 1944 found LTC Cole with the 101st Airborne in England awaiting the Invasion of France. On the night of June 5th LTC Cole parachuted into France with his unit as part of the D-Day invasion force. By the evening of June 6, LTC Cole had assembled a force of 250 men. They were initially placed in regimental reserve, but were soon called back into combat. LTC Cole and his men were ordered to attack four bridges along the highway from LaCroix Pan to Carentan. Despite a gallant effort, the entire unit became pinned down by intense enemy rifle, machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire. After an hour of the devastating fire from well-prepared and heavily fortified German positions, which had inflicted numerous casualties they were no closer to achieving their objective.
By the dawn on 11 June, with the enemy still contesting any attempt at taking the bridges LTC Cole called in heavy artillery on the enemy strongpoint. When this did not appear to dislodge the well-entrenched Germans, LTC Cole took a desperate measure to overwhelm the enemy by ordering his men to fill their weapons with ammo and to fix bayonets. At 06:15 LTC Cole blew his whistle to launch the bayonet assault. Personally leading the assault from in front of his troops LTC Cole charged on and led the remnants of his unit across the bullet-swept ground and into the enemy position. This dramatic attack succeeded at last in overrunning the German stronghold. The attack though had not been without a price. The 3rd battalion paid dearly with only132 men remaining from the original force. One company was actually reduced to only 12 men. After the battle the causeway became known as "Purple Heart Lane".
Lt. Colonel Robert G. Cole was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day. It was a medal that he would not live to receive. Three months later, on September 18, 1944 a sniper killed twenty-nine year old LTC Cole during "Operation Market Garden" while taking the bridge at Best, Holland. His mother, Mrs. Clara H. Cole, received his posthumous Medal of Honor while his wife and twenty-nine-month-old son looked on. He is buried in the American Battlefields Monuments Commission Cemetery in the Netherlands.
Cole Junior & Senior High School at Fort Sam Houston is named in his honor.
The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
COLE, ROBERT G.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, 101st Airborne Division.
Place and date: Near Carentan, France, 11 June 1944.
Entered service at: San Antonio, Tex. Birth: Fort Sam Houston, Tex.
G.O. No.: 79, 4 October 1944.
For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty on 11 June 1944, in France. Lt. Col. Cole was personally leading his battalion in forcing the last 4 bridges on the road to Carentan when his entire unit was suddenly pinned to the ground by intense and withering enemy rifle, machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire placed upon them from well-prepared and heavily fortified positions within 150 yards of the foremost elements. After the devastating and unceasing enemy fire had for over 1 hour prevented any move and inflicted numerous casualties, Lt. Col. Cole, observing this almost hopeless situation, courageously issued orders to assault the enemy positions with fixed bayonets. With utter disregard for his own safety and completely ignoring the enemy fire, he rose to his feet in front of his battalion and with drawn pistol shouted to his men to follow him in the assault. Catching up a fallen man's rifle and bayonet, he charged on and led the remnants of his battalion across the bullet-swept open ground and into the enemy position. His heroic and valiant action in so inspiring his men resulted in the complete establishment of our bridgehead across the Douve River. The cool fearlessness, personal bravery, and outstanding leadership displayed by Lt. Col. Cole reflect great credit upon himself and are worthy of the highest praise in the military service