“Joseph L. Rappazini is a persuasive guy, and he got guts, too”

The 14th of June for the men of the 9th Infantry Division was for sure a hard day. For the men of the 60th Infantry Regiment, it’ll be their first day in combat in Europe. Some of them are veterans of the campaigns of Northern Africa and Sicily, and a good numbers of them are just fresh from Basic Training.

The mission of the division is to cut the Cotentin Peninsula in reaching the western coast, this to divide the German forces and isolate Cherbourg fortress and its occupants for their lines of supply.

The 60th Infantry Regiment should be the one which will start that attack west. They assembled the day before near Picauville around 16h in preparation to move into the line on the 14th of June to take up the attack.

The 60th Infantry Regiment’s objective of the day is the village of Orglandes

The objective of the day is the village of Orglandes. At 05h, June 14th, the Regiment moved ou to attack for its first engagement since the end of the Sicily campaign in August 1943. The movement was in column of battalion, in order of 3rd, 1st and 2nd, and the line of departure was crossed at 10h as ordered.

The assaulting troop soon came under sniper fire from the hedgerows on both sides of the road on which they were moving at the line of departure, and some mortar and artillery fire was also felling in the area. Not far away from this area, some elements of the 90th Infantry Division were encountered and were later passed.

Movement of the regiment was slow, and in the afternoon, the 2nd Battalion, in reserve, was committed, passing through the line of the 1st Battalion and taking over part of the zone of the 3rd Battalion. The battalions moved on both sides of the covered trail to the junction of the trail and the main road, at which point they took up deployed positions in the fields bordering the highway to Orglandes.

In the 3rd Battalion sector, K Company encountered nearly 100 Germans in a field. Lieutenant Joseph L. Rappazini is on the lead with his platoon, and ordered his men to hold fire. He then stood up and walked his way towards the Germans, showing he had no weapon in his hands. The Jerries were too amazed to shoot.

1st Lieutenant Joseph L. Rappazini

Rappazini asked if anyone spoke English and one German stepped forward. They both sat down with the group beneath a hedgerow and through the interepreter discussed. Rappazini explained how futile it was to fight, as they’re almost encircled and outnumbered. He told them how the Americans were running up prisoners all along the line and just sending them to the rear without hardly any guards.

One lieutenant, he said, had swung over the hedgerow by grabbing the limb of a tree in trying to keep up with the fast progress of the advancing tanks and landed in the midst of Germans. All surrendered. This group should do likewise.

The German officers were angry, but the menstarted to argue. The argument went on for more than two and a half hour when at some point, Rappazini give them 15 minutes to decide. The Germans took a vote: 84 of them agreed to surrender and the others disappeared into the woods.

Lieutenant Rappazini marched the prisoners out and then rejoined his platoon to continue the fight. The actual tanks he talked about were not there, they only arrived later that night to support the regiment.

États-Unis - Troupes d'élite - WW2 Silver Star Medal - Complet en ...
Joseph L. Rappazini was awarded the Silver Star Medal for Bravery

First Lieutenant Joseph L. Rappazini was awarded the Silver Star for Bravery, but he actually saved a lot of lives that day, not only his own outfit’s, but also 84 German’s.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Joseph L. Rappazini (ASN: 0-1305988), United States Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy while serving with the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, in France. While in a forward position with his anti-tank platoon in the vicinity of Barneville, France, on 14 June 1944, Lieutenant Rappazini observed a company of the enemy, armed with mortars, machine guns and machine pistols, approaching his unit’s positions. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, he placed his noncommissioned officers in charge of the platoon with instructions to warn the Command Post while he moved forward in an attempt to persuade the enemy to surrender. Reaching the enemy forces, he was disarmed and questioned. In the meantime, the forward Command Post had been notified of the situation and heavy weapons fire was ordered to be brought to bear on enemy forces. Thoroughly convincing the enemy officers they were outnumbered and surrounded, Lieutenant Rappazini took three officers and eighty-one enlisted men as prisoners. Lieutenant Rappazini’s actions were a credit to himself and to the Armed Forces of the United States.

Silver Star Citation – GENERAL ORDERS: Headquarters, 9th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 96 (November 9, 1944)