Vietnam vet & 19th Special Forces Groups Dennis Kelleher talked to us about his hero growing up, his father…
“My father was one of 5 Brothers who served during WW2. Coming from a family of 6 other siblings, 3 were in the Navy and he an his older brother were in the Army. He was drafted at 23 in 1941 before the War broke out. He was chosen to attend OCS to become a Medical Officer and later as an Assistant Battalion Surgeon. He landed at Normandy with the 4th Division and his Regiment fought its way across Europe until VE Day. He was with them the entire way. As you may have noticed, he was also awarded 2 Bronze Stars for Valor and 2 Purple Hearts. He was actually wounded 3 times. He was awarded 1 Purple Heart for the wounds he received on 11-11-1944 and another for being shot through the upper arm at one time. He never accepted evacuation to the rear. His men came first always. After the War he wanted to go to medical school to become a doctor, but his injuries were such, that when came home he was quite sick and had to have a number of life threatening operations at the VA, which interfered with that goal. Regarding his receiving the Silver Star, he was actually recommended for a much higher award, but it was downgraded to the Silver Star. The Battle for Hurtgen Forest was one the bloodiest of the War, even decimating entire Divisions under the command of General Hodges, who threw one Division after the other into “the Meat Grinder”. It was not a proud moment for the Army and unfortunately cost 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of lives in a failed bid to take dams on Roer River in Germany. General Hodges, Commander of the First Army, never once visited the front and entertained his Division commanders from a mansion far to the rear of the Battle, never taking their advice and counsel. This wasn’t a good time to recognize the amount of casualties suffered by American Soldiers in the Forest, estimated range from 33,000 to over 50,000 in a few short months. The Battle ended in failure and the Army buried it in the history of WW2. As a consequence, many deserving of higher awards didn’t receive them. I am writing this as I see you are an Instructor at the Army War College and thought this might be of interest to you. My Dad’s injuries were always part of his life and took their toll as he got older, dying in 1988. As an aside, he only spoke of his time in the Hurtgen Forest and his experiences in WW2 after I returned from Vietnam. I believe he thought I might understand more about him after I experienced combat. (Wounded myself). I learned more about my Dad as I got older and recognized what made him into what he was and what I was becoming. I am a lucky man.” – Dennis Kelleher
“Awarded for actions during the World War II
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 (Medical Administrative Corps), [then Second Lieutenant] Richard D. Kelleher (ASN: 0-2048969), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, in action in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, 11 November 1944. During a tensely contested operation the evacuation of casualties proved highly difficult. Motor transportation was non-existent, and the only available foot route was bombarded by enemy mortar, artillery and rocket fire. Lieutenant Kelleher left the battalion aid station in order to contact the forward evacuation point and supervise its operation. Upon approaching his destination he was twice wounded by flying shell fragments. Although bleeding profusely, Lieutenant Kelleher refused evacuation. He administered first aid to the wounded and proceeded to organize litter teams. For the ensuing eight hours, he contacted the respective companies of the battalion under incessant bombardment and assisted in evacuating wounded. After accompanying a litter team to the battalion aid station, he finally received medical attention, but again rejected evacuation. Lieutenant Kelleher’s courage, determination and spirit of self-sacrifice contributed toward saving many lives and are in accord with the finest tradition of the military service.
General Orders: Headquarters, 4th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 52 (1945) Action Date: November 11, 1944
The Giant Killer book and page honors these unique war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸