Charles Coolidge ’40 is one of 12 heroes featured on the cover of the United States Postal Service’s new “Forever” stamp collection, issued in commemoration of World War II Medal of Honor recipients. Of the 464 men who received the Medal of Honor in WWII, nine are still living. Three men pictured on the cover died before the set was officially unveiled on Veterans Day 2013.
President Harry S. Truman presented Technical Sergeant Coolidge the nation’s highest military award in 1945 for heroic actions during a four-day battle near Belmont-sur-Buttant, France, in October 1944 that included an inspiring standoff against a German tank.
In an oral history video posted on YouTube, Coolidge describes the last day of the battle: “The tanker raised the turret of that tank; I can still see him doing it,” he remembers. “He said, in perfect English, ‘You guys wanna give up?’ I looked him right square in the face and I said, ‘I’m sorry, Mac; you gotta come get me.’”
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website, Charles Coolidge avoided the tanker’s fire and tossed a failed bazooka aside, secured all the hand grenades he could carry and crawled forward, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. When it became apparent that the enemy would overrun the position, he courageously directed an orderly withdrawal, being the last to leave the position. The mission was considered a success.
“It’s an accomplishment, and not that I did anything,” he recounts in the video. “I was really saving my own life as well as others. But my first concern when I was a platoon sergeant was my men.”
A lifetime resident of Signal Mountain, the 92-year-old war veteran is the namesake of Coolidge Park, the center of Chattanooga’s vibrant North Shore neighborhood. He is the father of three sons, Charles, Jr. ’64, William, and John, and the grandfather of eight.