OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., (9/23/09) -- The late Lt. Col. Ernest Childers, a Native American and 45th Infantry Division veteran, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Italy during World War II, will be honored with the dedication of a statue on Sept. 25 here at the 45th Infantry Division Museum.
Childers was born in Broken Arrow, Okla., on Feb. 1, 1918, and was raised on a farm that was part of his father's original Creek tribal allotment. He was the middle of five children all of whom his mother raised after Childersâ€™ father died.
In 1937, after graduating from the Chilocco Indian School, Childers enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and was mobilized with the 45th Infantry Division for service in Europe during World War II.
Childers, who held the rank of first sergeant, distinguished himself during combat operations in Sicily and received a battlefield commission to the rank of second lieutenant.
On Sept. 22, 1943, Childers organized a group of eight soldiers to help clear a route for the divisionâ€™s advance. In the pre-dawn mist, Childers came under fire and fell into a shell crater and broke his ankle.
Childers tried to crawl to an aide station, but it was destroyed by enemy fire before he made it.
"I crawled back and told my men to lay down a base of fire over me. You see, I had to crawl because of my broken ankle. I was crawling up a slope of a hill. I came up behind one of the German machine gun nests that had us pinned down," said Childers.
As the Germans were turning their machine guns toward Childers, he shot them dead.
From the first German position, Childers could see a second position within throwing distance. He picked up several rocks and threw them into the second German position. "I assume they thought it was a hand grenade, because nobody throws rocks," he said.
When the Germans scrambled out of the hole, Childers shot one of them and another U.S. soldier killed the other.
After securing the German machine gun positions, Childers single-handedly captured an enemy mortar observer at a house further up the hill.
As he moved up the hill, Childers trained his M1 Carbine on a German soldier that was walking toward him. Childers could not shoot the enemy soldier, because he was out of ammunition.
"My body was wet with sweat since the German was fully armed, and I was holding an empty rifle on him. That German was the only surviving German in the entire action of that day," said Childers.
Childers was sent to north Africa to recover from his wounds and then saw action during the Battle of Anzio where he was wounded again. While recovering in Naples, Childers was summoned by Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers, commander of U. S. forces in the Mediterranean theater.
On April 13, 1944, after arriving at Deversâ€™ headquarters, Childers learned that he had been selected as a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on Sept. 22, 1943. The Medal of Honor was presented to Childers that afternoon.
Childers spent the remainder of the war in Europe before returning to Oklahoma in 1945. He retired from the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1965 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Childers and his wife of 59 years, Yolanda Chadwell Childers, had three children, Elaine, Donna and Ernie. Childers remained active in Coweta until his death in March of 2005 at the age of 87.
The statue of Childers, which will stand in front of the 45th Infantry Division Museum, was commissioned by the Muskogee (Creek) Nation and created by Oklahoma artist Sandra Van Zandt.
In 2008, Van Zandt created another statue of Childers which stands at the entryway of the Veterans Administration Building in Tulsa.