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First Name: James

Last Name: Reese

Birthplace: Chester, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Chester, PA
Middle Name: William

Date of Birth: 1920

Date of Death: 05 August 1943

Rank: Private

Years Served: 1941 - 1943
James William Reese

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


James William Reese

Private, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Private James William Reese (1920 - 5 August 1943) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the Sicily campaign in World War II.

James William Reese joined the Army from his birth city of Chester, PA. On 5 August 1943, he was serving as a Private in the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. At Mt. Vassillio, Sicily, that day, Reese led his mortar squad in a defense against an enemy counterattack. When the hostile fire intensified, he ordered his squad to fall back while he manned the weapon alone. After expending all the mortar ammunition, he continued in the fight with his rifle until being killed. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

Place and date: At Mt. Vassillio, Sicily, 5 August 1943.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action involving actual conflict with the enemy. When the enemy launched a counterattack which threatened the position of his company, Pvt. Reese, as the acting squad leader of a 60-mm. mortar squad, displaying superior leadership on his own initiative, maneuvered his squad forward to a favorable position, from which, by skillfully directing the fire of his weapon, he caused many casualties in the enemy ranks, and aided materially in repulsing the counterattack. When the enemy fire became so severe as to make his position untenable, he ordered the other members of his squad to withdraw to a safer position, but declined to seek safety for himself. So as to bring more effective fire upon the enemy, Pvt. Reese, without assistance, moved his mortar to a new position and attacked an enemy machinegun nest. He had only 3 rounds of ammunition but secured a direct hit with his last round, completely destroying the nest and killing the occupants. Ammunition being exhausted, he abandoned the mortar, seized a rifle and continued to advance, moving into an exposed position overlooking the enemy. Despite a heavy concentration of machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire, the heaviest experienced by his unit throughout the entire Sicilian campaign, he remained at this position and continued to inflict casualties upon the enemy until he was killed. His bravery, coupled with his gallant and unswerving determination to close with the enemy, regardless of consequences and obstacles which he faced, are a priceless inspiration to our armed forces.

Death and Burial

Private James William Reese was killed in action on 5 August 1943. He is buried at Chester Rural Cemetery in Chester, PA, in Soldiers Circle, Row 2.

Honoree ID: 1611   Created by: MHOH




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