Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: Gerald L. Endl made ultimate sacrifice 70 years ago

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Greg Peck
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Many of my readers probably never have heard of Gerald L. Endl. So let me, through the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, share with you his story.

On July 11, 1944, Endl made the “ultimate sacrifice” while serving our country during World War II. His death while engaged in heroism earned him the Medal of Honor, America's highest military honor. His own monument in Veterans Plaza at Traxler Park in Janesville recognizes that sacrifice.

I was alerted to the 70th anniversary of his heroism by a nephew of Endl, Bob Karberg, himself a veteran who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. Karberg copied me on “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty,” a blog written by Emily Irwin for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison to mark the anniversary.

Staff Sgt. Endl earned the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

As that blog explains:

Endl was born and raised in Fort Atkinson but moved to Janesville before he joined the Army in 1941. He underwent basic training at Louisiana's Camp Livingston before being shipped in 1942 to the Pacific Theater with the 32nd Infantry Division.

He was stationed near Anamo, New Guinea, and was at the front of his platoon that fateful day when his unit encountered enemy troops. With his platoon leader and 11 others in his unit wounded, Endl, 28, took command and tried to advance to a clearing. Pinned by enemy gunfire, he realized seven men in his unit would be trapped if the platoon got pushed back.

His Medal of Honor describes what happened next:

“In the face of extremely heavy fire, he went forward alone and for a period of approximately 10 minutes engaged the enemy in a heroic close-range fight, holding them off while his men crawled forward under cover to evacuate the wounded and to withdraw. Courageously refusing to abandon four more wounded men who were lying along the trail, one by one he brought them back to safety. As he was carrying the last man in his arms, he was struck by a heavy burst of automatic fire and was killed.”

Endl was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on March 13, 1945. He is buried at Fort Atkinson's Saint Joseph Catholic Cemetery. Irwin's blog explains that this April, a new generation learned of Endl's sacrifice. A group of students in grades 4-5 from Fort Atkinson's Saint Joseph Catholic School, which Endl attended, visited the veterans museum in Madison and viewed an exhibit that includes Endl's Medal of Honor.

Endl's widow, Anna Marie, preserved many of her husband's photos and documents about his service and death. These papers are in the museum archives.

Thanks go to the museum and Emily Irwin for reminding all of us about Endl's courage and sacrifice on this 70th anniversary month, and to Bob Karberg for reaching out from Arizona to alert us, as well.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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