When the 30th Infantry Regiment hit the beach at Anzio in January 1944, one of those to go ashore as a quartermaster-turned-infantryman, was the First Cook assigned to India Company – Spc. Eric G. Gibson.
In the months before, Gibson worked out a deal with his company officer that whenever the company went into battle, he could serve as a rifleman in one of the infantry squads and go out on patrol.
But as soon as B-rations were available, he had to return to his regular duties in the kitchen. Under this arrangement, Gibson wound up leading a pack train across several miles of rugged mountainous terrain in Sicily.
Later he served as the company’s number one scout, locating several enemy positions, and managed to kill one German soldier and wounded another in succeeding firefights. He continued with his dual missions – as company cook and number one scout – and repeatedly distinguished himself in combat along the Italian coastline, after the battle of Anzio.
Then on Jan. 28, 1944, Gibson joined the ranks of the immortal. Around noon, near the village of Isola Bella, Italy, Co. I came under withering enemy attack.
Gibson, with a tiny squad of replacements rushed out to secure the unit’s right flank – and in so doing, destroyed four enemy positions, killing five and capturing two Germans. He then went out a full 50 meters in front of the squad, and running, leaping, dodging automatic weapons fire, he single-handedly knocked out another position with his machine-pistol.
He continued moving toward other bunkers, firing a submachine gun with almost every step forward, as enemy artillery began to zero in on his position.
Nonstop automatic weapons rounds passed within inches of his body, yet he never paused in his forward movement. He crawled much of the last 125 meters right through a concentrated artillery and small arms barrage, and dropped two hand grenades into a German machinegun emplacement – killing two more and wounding another. And was in one final face-to-face engagement when an enemy round finally cut him down.
For his conspicuous gallantry and personal courage under fire, Gibson was awarded the Medal of Honor – one of 33 Quartermasters to receive that high honor.
─ Information culled from the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum Web site. Focus on the Fort is a biweekly feature highlighting Fort Lee and Quartermaster history.