Paul Bolden, Part 2, A Vintage Vignette
Paul Bolden, Part 2
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
June 10, 2008
The Vintage Vignette printed in the May 28th issue of the Madison Spirit told of Paul Bolden as a recipient of the Medal of Honor. That award was given for action of 23 December 1944 in Petit-Coo, Belgium. However, that was only a glimpse into his World War II exploits. This defender of liberty received the Bronze Star Medal for action of 23 November 1944. The citation “for heroic achievement in action” in Germany described Paul’s role as follows: “When his platoon was making an attack against an enemy town, enemy artillery fire in the area was so concentrated that a large number of casualties resulted, and the platoon was left with only eight men before the line of departure was reached. Despite this handicap, this courageous group, displaying individual heroism and indomitable fighting spirit, fought their way across the battlefield and successfully occupied their objective. When enemy resistance was neutralized in the area, a roadblock was established and Sergeant Bolden and his companions prevented an enemy counterattacking force of more than one hundred infantrymen supporting ten tanks from advancing, thereby enabling reinforcements to be brought up and the defenses in the area to be consolidated.”
Paul also received a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster for “heroic achievement in action on 17 November 1944, in Germany”. This action involved guiding the men of his squad through intense artillery fire at a crossroad while making an attack upon the enemy. The squad suffered no casualties due to Paul Bolden’s plan and its implementation. Paul was awarded a second Oak Leaf Cluster in 1955 for “exemplary conduct in ground combat against the armed enemy while assigned as Private First Class, 120th Infantry Regiment, on or about 1 August 1944, in the European Theater of Operations.”
Bolden received a Silver Star Medal for action of 12 August 1944 in France. That citation stated “Sergeant Bolden was serving as a squad leader with an infantry force which had been isolated by ferocious enemy attacks for a considerable period of time. Efforts to supply the group by aeroplane had not been very successful, and many of the supplies which had been dropped fell into enemy held territory. Sergeant Bolden with a companion voluntarily entered enemy territory to try to recover some of the supplies. By creeping and crawling, they advanced deep into the enemy held area before their presence was discovered. During the fire fight which ensued, Sergeant Bolden and his companion completely destroyed a machine gun nest and killed its crew. Continuing on his dangerous mission, he successfully retrieved from enemy territory sorely needed provisions for his isolated garrison and returned them safely to friendly lines.”
As if this was not enough, Paul Bolden also was awarded a Bronze Star “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in action against the enemy on 10 August 1944 in France.” This particular action was further described as occurring during the period of 6 August to 12 August, when “a battalion of an infantry unit of which Sergeant Bolden was a member was completely surrounded on Hill 314 at Mortain, France, in a determined attempt by the Germans to separate the American Forces in Brittany from those in Normandy. These troops, for the entire period, were sorely in need of water, food, and medical supplies. On 10 August 1944, American planes flew over the area and dropped supplies, but these supplies landed in back of enemy lines. Volunteers were requested to enter enemy territory in an effort to recover these vital supplies. Sergeant Bolden, with a group of his comrades, started on this mission at approximately 1600. Immediately upon entering the enemy territory, the group encountered a German tank. They instantly employed their bazooka team and promptly knocked out the tank. Their presence now discovered, the enemy, because of the excellent observation afforded, was able to subject this gallant group of men to an intense amount of small arms fire. Undaunted, they continued on their mission and were able to recover about three fourths of the supplies dropped into enemy territory. Because of the devotion and determination shown by this brave group of men, Hill 314 at Mortain, France, was able to hold out against almost insurmountable odds, and the gallantry and initiative displayed by Sergeant Bolden on this occasion were a material contribution to this successful stand.” These and his other citations and service medals testify of the extreme bravery of Madison County native Paul Bolden, who is buried in Moon Cemetery at Owens Crossroads with other Bolden family members.