Appendix 2: Biography of Herschel F. Briles
Herschel Floyd Briles (February 7, 1914 – July 17, 1994) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.
Briles joined the Army from Fort Des Moines, Iowa on his 27th birthday, and by November 20, 1944 was serving as a Staff Sergeant in Company C, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion. On that day, near Scherpenseel, Germany, he left cover to rescue the wounded crew of a burning tank destroyer and extinguish the vehicle's flames. The next day, he single-handedly forced the surrender of fifty-five German soldiers and again left cover to reach a burning tank destroyer, rescue its crew, and put out the flames. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor ten months later, on September 10, 1945.
Briles reached the rank of first sergeant before leaving the Army in June 1945.
Death and burial
He died at age 80 and was buried in Waveland Cemetery, Prairie City, Iowa.
Medal of Honor citation
Briles' official Medal of Honor citation reads:
He was leading a platoon of destroyers across an exposed slope near Scherpenseel, Germany, on 20 November 1944, when they came under heavy enemy artillery fire. A direct hit was scored on 1 of the vehicles, killing 1 man, seriously wounding 2 others, and setting the destroyer afire. With a comrade, S/Sgt. Briles left the cover of his own armor and raced across ground raked by artillery and small-arms fire to the rescue of the men in the shattered destroyer. Without hesitation, he lowered himself into the burning turret, removed the wounded and then extinguished the fire. From a position he assumed the next morning, he observed hostile infantrymen advancing. With his machinegun, he poured such deadly fire into the enemy ranks that an entire pocket of 55 Germans surrendered, clearing the way for a junction between American units which had been held up for 2 days. Later that day, when another of his destroyers was hit by a concealed enemy tank, he again left protection to give assistance. With the help of another soldier, he evacuated two wounded under heavy fire and, returning to the burning vehicle, braved death from exploding ammunition to put out the flames. By his heroic initiative and complete disregard for personal safety, S/Sgt. Briles was largely responsible for causing heavy enemy casualties, forcing the surrender of 55 Germans, making possible the salvage of our vehicles, and saving the lives of wounded comrades.
Addendum by CRG:
As a Medal of Honor winner, Pete was allowed to have any of his male children attend one of the Service Academies. He and his wife Wilma did have three sons: Jim; Jerry; and Randy who was the youngest. There were no daughters and at that time women were not allowed into any of the Service Academies. Only Randy elected to be admitted to a Service Academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy. Randy and I had several conversations while he was a freshman at the Coast Guard Academy, and I was an upper classman at West Point. He seemed unhappy and isolated. Randy did not graduate from that academy and chose to pursue another career path.
I did meet Pete at the Medal of Honor Winner’s dinner in 1984 during President Reagan’s inaugural festivities in Washington, DC. I was present to provide medical support for the event as I was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Fortunately for all, my services were not needed.