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In the history of the Virginia National Guard, two Soldiers have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions; one in World War I, the other in World War II. Here are their stories.
SGT. EARLE D. GREGORY
Served in: World War I
Sgt. Earle D. Gregory was born in Clayville, Virginia, before his family moved to Chase City, Virginia. Gregory attended Fork Union Military Academy from 1912-1915 before joining Company E, 2nd Regiment, Virginia Volunteers.
He deployed to France with the 116th Infantry, 29th Division, and joined in combat with the enemy near Bois-de-Consenvoye, France on Oct. 8, 1918. According to historical accounts, Gregory single-handedly charged a German machine gun position which had his unit pinned down. Yelling “I will get them,” Gregory used his rifle and a mortar shell, which he used as a grenade, to capture the machine gun and take three prisoners. He then pressed onward, capturing a howitzer and an additional 19 prisoners. For these actions, Gregory was awarded the Medal of Honor.
He was the only Virginian to receive the award during World War I.
Several days after his heroic actions, Gregory was wounded by a mortar shell. After several months of treatment, Gregory was discharged in April 1919.
Later in 1919, Gregory enrolled in Virginia Polytechnic Institute, today better known as Virginia Tech. He served in the school’s Corps of Cadets, and was eventually elected to president of the student body.
Today, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ drill team is officially named the “Gregory Guard” in his honor.
Gregory died in 1972 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is buried.
Medal of Honor citation:
For extraordinary heroism on 8 October 1918, while serving with Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry, 29th Division, in action at Bois-de-Consenvoye, France. With the remark “I will get them,” Sergeant Gregory seized a rifle and a trench-mortar shell, which he used as a hand grenade, left his detachment of the trench-mortar platoon, and advancing ahead of the infantry, captured a machinegun and three of the enemy. Advancing still farther from the machinegun nest, he captured a 7.5-centimeter mountain howitzer and, entering a dugout in the immediate vicinity, single-handedly captured 19 of the enemy.
TECH SGT. FRANK D. PEREGORY
Served in: World War II
Technical Sgt. Frank D. Peregroy was born in Esmont, Virginia, in Albemarle County. In 1931, Peregory, only 15 years old, joined the 116th Infantry Regiment of the Virginia National Guard. His unit was mobilized into federal service in 1941. He was part of the assault at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Two days after the landing, Peregory’s unit came under heavy machine gun fire at Grandcamp-Maisy. Peregory took matters into his own hands, fighting his way up a hill to the entrenched German machine gun. There, he single-handedly killed eight Germans and forced more than 30 to surrender.
For his actions, Peregory received the Medal of Honor, the only Virginia Guardsman to receive the honor during World War II.
Peregory was killed in action just six days after his heroic efforts. He is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
Peregory had earlier received the Soldier’s Medal shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, for saving a fellow Soldier from drowning while patrolling a beach in North Carolina.
A building complex at Fort Pickett is named in Peregory’s honor, as is Army Reserve Center in Charlottesville. The road leading to the Virginia National Guard armory in Charlottesville is named Peregory Lane.
On 8 June 1944, the 3rd Battalion of the 116th Infantry was advancing on the strongly held German defenses at Grandcamp-Maisy, France, when the leading elements were suddenly halted by decimating machine gun fire from a firmly entrenched enemy force on the high ground overlooking the town. After numerous attempts to neutralize the enemy position by supporting artillery and tank fire had proved ineffective, T/Sgt. Peregory, on his own initiative, advanced up the hill under withering fire, and worked his way to the crest where he discovered an entrenchment leading to the main enemy fortifications 200 yards away. Without hesitating, he leaped into the trench and moved toward the emplacement. Encountering a squad of enemy riflemen, he fearlessly attacked them with hand grenades and bayonet, killed 8 and forced 3 to surrender. Continuing along the trench, he single-handedly forced the surrender of 32 more riflemen, captured the machine gunners, and opened the way for the leading elements of the battalion to advance and secure its objective. The extraordinary gallantry and aggressiveness displayed by T/Sgt. Peregory are exemplary of the highest tradition of the armed forces.