It was the morning of Dec. 16, 1944 when the Germans wounded Vernon McGarity, sending him to an aid station during one of history's most famous counteroffensives: The Battle of the Bulge.
But McGarity would not have it, and refused medical evacuation. Rather, he received treatment for his injuries and immediately returned to the front and his men, refusing to leave them.
"The fury of the enemy's great Western Front offensive swirled about the position held by T/Sgt. McGarity's small force," his citation reads, "but so tenaciously did these men fight on orders to stand firm at all costs that they could not be dislodged despite murderous enemy fire and the breakdown of their communications."
As the day wore on, and the fighting bore down, McGarity rescued one of his friends who suffered wounds from Germany's attack. Throughout the night, McGarity led his squad to hold off the Germans from infiltrating their position.
As the morning slowly rose, the Germans pressed even harder, attacking with tanks and infantry. Yet McGarity dodged their heavy fire to stop the Germans' lead tank using a rocket launcher. Support from his small squad drove the Germans back, forcing three tanks to withdraw. As another comrade fell wounded, McGarity leapt to his rescue too, braving enemy fire.
Yet their ammunition began to run low. But McGarity remembered an old ammunition hole nearby and once again, dodged hostile fire to replenish his unit's supply. Unrelenting, however, the Germans managed to plant a machine gun behind the squad's position—blocking their only escape.
Seeing firsthand the trap set by the enemy, McGarity plowed toward the machine gun, braving steady fire, and killed or wounded every gunner using his rifle. He also prevented the Germans from re-manning the gun.
Only when McGarity's last round had been fired were the German forces able to advance and officially capture McGarity and his squad. However, their extraordinary stand delayed the enemy, allowing the time needed for the Allies to send in reserves. In the end, the Allies' defensive shattered the Germans' striking power.