The machine gun assault 63 years ago on the 3rd Infantry Division’s 30th Infantry, Company K had stopped the troops’ advance and left five soldiers dead when Pfc. Patrick L. Kessler made a rash decision.
The 21-year-old deserted his position, raced through 50 yards of whizzing bullets, ordered three soldiers to act as a base of fire and snuck within a few yards of the enemy, then plunged headfirst into the chain of automatic fire.
Just six feet away from the adversary’s post, Kessler stood and killed both the gunner and his assistant before jumping into the gunner’s position and capturing a third enemy.
After turning his prisoner over to another Company K soldier, Kessler crawled 35 yards to the side of a fallen comrade, took his gun and ammunition and continued toward the enemy strongpoint 125 yards in the distance.
The infantryman crawled 75 yards through a minefield and direct fire from two machine guns to come within 50 yards of his foes.
He began firing on the gunners from a ditch, but left his cover and in a slow walk, advanced on the enemy while firing from the hip.
Kessler captured 13 more enemy and, under sniper fire, marched them to be the rear.
For these heroics near Ponte Rotto, Italy, on May 23, 1944, the Middletown, Ohio, native was named a Medal of Honor winner on Jan. 4, 1945.
The dog-faced soldier is set to receive another honor Wednesday.
The Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools and Department of Defense Dependent Schools, Cuba, is holding a special dedication ceremony for the renaming of Fort Stewart Elementary School, which will now be called the Patrick L. Kessler Elementary School.
The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on Fort Stewart at the school’s site.
According to South Carolina/Fort Stewart District-DoDDS Cuba Superintendent Dr. Joseph Guiendon, everyone involved with the school, including parents, students and teachers, are happy about the name change.
“We’re very proud to have our newest school named after 3rd Infantry Division soldier and Medal of Honor recipient Private First Class Patrick L. Kessler,” he said in a released statement.
The school, which opened its doors in August 2005, was comprised of temporary modular buildings and given the provisional name Fort Stewart Elementary School.
The need for the new school came in the wake of Fort Stewart officials’ vision of making the base the highest quality environment for soldiers to live and raise a family.
Fort Stewart partnered with the Residential Community Initiative to build the Liberty Woods housing area, which brought more families onto the and created the need for an additional school.
As the school’s actual building neared completion earlier this year, officials decided it needed a name makeover and Kessler’s name was chosen.
A number of local and national dignitaries are scheduled to attend the dedication ceremony, but the namesake himself will not be in attendance.
Kessler was killed in combat on May 25, 1944, just two days after the actions that earned him the MOH. His sister-in-law, Virginia Kessler and nephew, Robert Kessler, will represent him Wednesday. A surviving sister, Gladys Carseas, is unable to attend.