In his story for “900 Words” and Ninety Over Ninety, Harold describes incredible acts of heroism and bravery during the Battle for Metz, with the humility of a soldier who was just “doing his job”.
Silver Star - September 1944
I have never written down a description of the events of the two days of intense fighting and heavy losses on the crossing of the Moselle River south of Metz. The next five days required extreme tenacity to hold this very important bridgehead. IHS
Finding out in December of 1944 that I had been awarded a Silver Star was really quite a surprise. When the battalion Executive Officer told me about the award, I said “What for?” For one thing there were so few people left in the Company after the Moselle River crossing in September at Arnaville that I was surprised to learn that anybody had enough details that could be used to ask for a citation. I also felt that I had done what I was trained to do in a commitment to do what I could for the effort to defeat the enemy while giving extreme attention to caring for the men in my command. It was actually that concern for the men who were left that day after the river crossing that led me to do what turned out to be very fortuitous for the success of the bridgehead.
Imagine the difficulty of getting a pontoon bridge across a river about the size of the Oostanaula at a point where vehicles could get to it and get up the other side after getting across. During the night of Sep 9 and early hours of the 10th, after learning that our Company, (“C” of the 10th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division), was to try to establish a bridgehead on the high ground on the east side of the Moselle, we moved down to the marshy edge of the river. Captain Davis called for me to crawl up to where he was located near the pontoon bridge which the Engineers had built. He said that he felt this would be the toughest test we had had and that he felt that at that moment my 2nd platoon would be most likely to succeed in getting up the hill in the face of the enemy fire we expected. He explained that two other attempts had been made just north of where we were and those attempts had been repulsed.
It’s hard for me to describe this situation and even repeat what was actually an apology for the fact that during the two months since I had been in the Company he had been wary of my ability to effectively lead an infantry unit, given my youth, Southern drawl, and inexperience in that division. It was actually a last testament as he encouraged me and talked about how important the capture of Metz was to the 3rd Army. This crossing a few miles south of Metz would eventually (soon, we hoped) facilitate the encircling of the city. I led my platoon across the bridge and we started up the hill before dawn and soon encountered heavy rifle and machine gun fire.
To omit many of the details, we formed by afternoon a rather sparse line of defense and a couple of other companies joined us and added to our thin line. During the day Captain Davis was killed and Lt. Dille assumed command. We were ordered to get our company organized and proceed through the walls of the village of Arry and move the two hundred or so yards to the exit from the town. Immediately as our forward people moved into the town they were attacked and Lt. Dille was killed and Lt. Cupelli was wounded and evacuated. I gathered a few people I could find and moved to what we thought would be some protection outside and below the town walls and the remaining officer besides me joined our group of unorganized and frightened soldiers.
At dawn I was able to find and count 43 survivors from approximately 165 of our company. I led them – without the remaining officer – back up the hill to some trees just below the crest. Battalion officers were at a loss to figure where they might use us so we spent a night under a lot of fire from, as it turned out, Fort Driant, from where the Germans could observe our position. The next morning at dawn I found several more had been killed and wounded. Among those I found dead was the remarkable Private “Bug eye” Brown, a kid with a sense of humor that kept us going even in the most difficult of times. The only time I remember actually shedding some tears in combat was as I stood by the shallow foxhole where he lay and calling the battalion commander and telling him we must be used somewhere, that it was ridiculous for us to be annihilated simply waiting.
The battalion commander suggested that I reconnoiter and see if we might be placed on the top of the hill along the defense line. He said that he didn’t know who was left or where they were. I did as he suggested and found that there was a gap between units that would require about the number of people I had left. I placed my folks there along with two machine gun crews on the right and left for crossfire purposes and was able to get ammunition to them. Apparently German patrols had ventured very close to our defense line and had discovered the gap before I got my folks there from the reverse side of the hill. The first night that exact area was struck by a counterattack which we turned back by inflicting an enormous number of German casualties. I thought, however, that our P-47* pilots who flew over the scene exaggerated in their description of what they saw! Actually, for the next seven days the enemy tried probing attacks and I was afraid to go to sleep during that entire time because I was the only officer and several of the platoon and squad leaders had been lost as well. These few actions, dictated by necessity and by an intense desire to make the bridgehead succeed made it possible to hang on, finally, to the east side of the Moselle. I was honored by a “Gallantry in Action” award though it never occurred to me that as many details of my actions were known. Nor did it occur to me that I’d be honored with any such award. I’ve wished many times that Capt. Davis might have known that we held on against tremendous odds.
*I had asked for air support as soon as we discovered that four tanks could be seen with turrets and guns barely visible beyond a small hill. After we had had a few locator shots from the 88mm weapons and a couple of guys had debris wounds from trees being hit, there appeared two P47’s circling from behind us to drop 500# bombs. After about the second attempt one of the planes hit and disabled one of the enemy tanks. That crew exited in a hurry and I could hear the engines as they cranked up and began a slow retreat. The pilot of the successful hit made another circle and at treetop height gave me a salute. And I’ve saluted him in absentia many times!
The official Citation, received from the Department of the Army in 1949, follows:
S I L V E R S T A R
Isaac H. Storey, 0 513 520, First Lieutenant
C I T A T I O N
For gallantry in action on 11 September 1944 in the vicinity of ***. Under a relentless barrage of enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire, the enemy forces attempted three strong counterattacks which were completely repulsed on each attempt. The enemy’s repeated offensives proved costly to our forces both in officers and enlisted personnel. Lieutenant STOREY, the lone remaining officer in the company, with utter disregard for personal safety, efficiently and skillfully succeeded in organizing the remaining men in the company and aggressively led them to the battalion perimeter which had been pierced by the fierce enemy counterattack. Lieutenant STOREY at all times completely exposed to the intense enemy fire personally went from group to group encouraging his men and spurring them on to greater efforts. Due to the daring and courageous actions of Lieutenant STOREY the company was reorganized and contributed greatly to the establishment of a bridgehead across the ***. Lieutenant STOREY’S bravery and deep devotion to duty, his intrepidity and skillful leadership reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with highest traditions of the military service.
Isaac "Harold" Storey
Harold Storey was born in Chattooga County, Georgia on September 21, 1922 and is married to Rena Mebane Storey. Together they raised two children, Rena Henderson and Hal Storey. They are the proud grandparents of four and reside in Rome, Georgia. Harold attained his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Georgia and is retired as CEO of S. I. Storey Lumber Company, Inc.
During World War II, he earned the rank of Captain, and was awarded four major battle ribbons in the European theater, Purple Heart, the Silver Star for “Gallantry in Action” for bravery during the Battle for Metz, France (Fifth Infantry Division, Patton’s Third Army) and the French Legion of Honour Award.
Mr. Storey receiving the French Legion of Honor Award.