JOHNSTON, WILLIAM J.
Rank and organization: Private First Class,
U.S. Army, Company G, 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near
Padiglione, Italy, 1719 February 1944. Entered service at: Colchester, Conn. Birth:
Trenton, N.J. G.O. No: 73, 6 September 1944.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of
duty in action against the enemy. On 17 February 1944, near Padiglione, Italy, he observed
and fired upon an attacking force of approximately 80 Germans, causing at least 25
casualties and forcing withdrawal of the remainder. All that day he manned his gun without
relief, subject to mortar, artillery, and sniper fire. Two Germans individually worked so
close to his position that his machinegun was ineffective, whereupon he killed 1 with his
pistol, the second with a rifle taken from another soldier. When a rifleman protecting his
gun position was killed by a sniper, he immediately moved the body and relocated the
machinegun in that spot in order to obtain a better field of fire. He volunteered to cover
the platoon's withdrawal and was the last man to leave that night. In his new position he
maintained an all-night vigil, the next day causing 7 German casualties. On the afternoon
of the 18th, the organization on the left flank having been forced to withdraw, he again
covered the withdrawal of his own organization. Shortly thereafter, he was seriously
wounded over the heart, and a passing soldier saw him trying to crawl up the embankment.
The soldier aided him to resume his position behind the machinegun which was soon heard in
action for about 10 minutes. Though reported killed, Pfc. Johnston was seen returning to
the American lines on the morning of 19 February slowly and painfully working his way back
from his overrun position through enemy lines. He gave valuable information of new enemy
dispositions. His heroic determination to destroy the enemy and his disregard of his own
safety aided immeasurably in halting a strong enemy attack, caused an enormous amount of
enemy casualties, and so inspired his fellow soldiers that they fought for and held a
vitally important position against greatly superior forces.