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US Army

Citation for Silver Star, Sgt Robert I. Heller (Posthumous)

Citation for Silver Star, Sgt Robert I. Heller (Posthumous)

Sergeant Robert I. Heller, Company “D”, 393rd Infantry Regiment, on 16 December 1944 displayed conspicuous gallantry in action at the Siegfried Line, in the Ardennes, Belgium.  In the pre-dawn enemy attack, from a position which bore the brunt of the first enemy action, he directed his machine gun fire on the advancing foe, inflicting heavy casualties.  Despite intense enemy artillery, mortar, rifle and machine gun fire, he held his position in the face of repeated enemy attacks, again and again driving back the foe under his deadly fire.  By his heroic stand, in which ultimately he made the supreme sacrifice, Sergeant Heller did much to repel the first furious assaults of the concerted enemy drive, presenting an example of soldierly courage in keeping with high traditions of the military service.

 

 
Professor Stephen Ambrose, the pre-eminent U.S. WWII historian wrote "... to the north, between Monschau and Losheim, the U.S. 99th Infantry Division, newly arrived in Europe, and 2nd Infantry Division . . .  did not simply delay the German advance but stopped it along the critical point of the whole battle, Elsenborn Ridge.  The low ridge . . .  was the main objective of Sepp Dietrich's 6th Panzer (German) Army.  Elsenborn Ridge was The Little Round Top (in the U.S. Civil War at Gettysburg 1864) of the battle.  Dietrich drove his units mercilessly, but he could not take it.  In the vast literature of the Battle of the Bulge, Elsenborn Ridge always yields pride of place to the far more famous action . . .  at Bastogne.  Everyone knows about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne; almost no one knows even the names of the 99th and 2nd Infantry Divisions.  Yet it was along Elsenborn Ridge . . .  that these two ordinary infantry divisions (while) largely out of touch with their commands; outnumbered 5 to 1 and worse; outgunned and surprised; managed to stop the Germans in their main line of advance.  The Germans never did take the ridge."
 

The 'twin villages' of Rocherath and Krinkelt, Belgium, are rebuilt.  A monument to the 99th Division, "The Checkerboard," now stands in front of the church.

 

 
It is ironic and painful to our family that great grandfather Heller emigrated from Germany in 1884 in order to protect his sons from exposure to war.   Great grandson Heller (1925-1944) made the supreme sacrifice at age 19 fighting Nazi Germany almost exactly 60 years later; only about three miles from Germany.
 

Source: Marge Bullock, emails: March 31 & April 1, 2011

Received from Marge BULLOCK

at the MEMORY of

 Sgt Robert Irving Heller

"D" Company

393rd Infantry Regiment

99th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium