Major Michael B. Kauffman

“Black Mike”

Early years and education

Myer Kauffman was born 4 August 1913 in Newcastle, England. He and his family left Great-Britain for Canada the same year. His family settled down in Vermont, USA, and his mother died when she gave birth when he was 8. His father then decided to leave him in a host family in New York City, with his sister and two brothers. He saw his father only once after that. He was a good student at school, but had several jobs aside school to be able to pay his studies at the University of Wyoming, the cheapest of the country. He registered at the university with the name of Michael Bernard Kauffman, leaving his former first name and jewish religion. Bernard was the name of his host family. He volunteered the ROTC and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 1938. He was then affected to the 38th Infantry before joining the 60th Infantry Regiment in 1940 in Fort Bragg, where he married Margaret « Peggy » Shallenberger, a 2nd Lieutenant Nurse.

Kauffman in 1941 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina (© Courtesy of Kauffman family)
Michael and Peggy (© Courtesy of Kauffman family)

North African Campaign

In 1942, he landed in French Morocco as G-4 of the Sub-Task Force Goalpost, commanded by General Truscott. Soon, he took over the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry. Within this battalion, he had made its reputation as an exceptional leader, and received the nickname of “Black Mike”, regarding his thick moustache he used to have on operations. During the battles, he was continuously chewing big cigars that his wife sent him. He was wounded during the fight in Maknassy (Tunisia) and his battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for his exemplary defense during the German attack at Djebel Dardys (Northern Tunisia). When the Ninth went back to England, his native country, he tried to find members of his family, but could not find anything.

In 1943, « Black Mike » received his first Silver Star from General Eddy himself. He told to his guys who laugh at the size difference that « the important is not the height of the helmets, but what’s in it! » (© Courtesy of Kauffman family)
A fellow officer recalls about “Black Mike”

Normandy and his wound

During the battle of Normandy, his battalion showed again bravery and courage. On 12 July 1944, he got his arm severely wounded near Tribehou, during the counter-attack of the Panzerlehr Division. He was evacuated and his war stopped for medical reasons. He went back to USA and became instructor at the Infantry School. Under his command, 2/60th Infantry was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation twice (Tunisia, Normandy), and within the 5 Medal of Honor recipients of the Ninth Division, three of them were part of his battalion, during his command (Sergeant Nelson (Tunisia), Lieutenant Butts (Normandy) and Major Urban (Normandy and Belgium).

Major Michael Kauffman facing camera after 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry had taken out two tanks. (© Courtesy of Monty McDaniel)
Mike next to the German panel of Jobourg at the end of the battle of Cherbourg (© Courtesy of Kauffman family)

After the War

“Black Mike” joined the Army Reserve in 1947, commanding the 383rd Infantry (96th Infantry Division) then its Divarty. He took command of the division in 1962 as Major General, then received the command of the 124th US Army Reserve Command, and directed some inspections during the Vietnam War. He finally retired in 1973 and became director of the Military Museum of Fort Douglas. Kauffman passed away on 7 May 1994, while visiting a daughter in Anchorage, Alaska. He as awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor and two Purple Hearts.  Kauffman was buried with full military honors at the Fort Douglas Military Cemetery.

Back to the States, after two wounds (© Courtesy of Kauffman family)

I would like to thank the son of General Kauffman who helped me to correct information of this article, and allowed me to use the pictures of his father. May his father’s actions never be forgotten.