Sergeant Joseph Farinholt firing his 57mm anti tank gun before leaving to warn his headquarters of the Germany attack.
A painting by Larry Selman for the National Guard Bureau Heritage Series
1944Bourheim, Germany - Technical Sergeant Joseph A. Farinholt, a Guardsman from Baltimore, MD, was a member of the anti-tank platoon of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 175th Infantry (MD), 29th Infantry Division (DC, MD, VA) when he earned a fourth Silver Star on this day by single-handedly destroying a German tank and other actions despite being severely wounded. Farinholt joined the 175th in August 1940 and was mobilized with the 29th Division when it entered active duty in February 1941. His regiment landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 (one day after D-Day), and immediately entered into combat operations. During the next five and half months Farinholt fought in every engagement involving the 29th as it moved across France and into Germany. Along the way, for various acts of valor in combat he was awarded three Silver Stars for bravery including: risking his life to get close enough to use a bazooka to destroy an enemy tank; exposing himself to incoming fire to rescue at least four injured men, moving them to safety; and leading a nighttime sortie behind enemy lines to retrieve equipment abandoned when their position was overrun earlier that day. On this date the 175th Infantry was spread thin around the outer perimeter of the town of Bourheim, which they had captured three days earlier. For the fourth time in those three days, a German armored column would attempt to break through this front to recapture the town, a key to their defense of the strategic city of Julich on the Roer River. The enemy attack opened with such an intense artillery barrage that the 29th Division's After Action Report cites as it as ".the worst suffered by the division during the war." Then the German infantry and their supporting tanks pushed forward. Men in the outlaying areas fell back toward the town and it looked as though the enemy might finally break through. However, Farinholt, the ranking member of his 3-gun, 57mm towed anti-tank gun section, quickly went into action. His crew, after firing several rounds at the enemy, all became casualties when an German shell hit a tree near their position. Farinholt loaded and fired an additional round, striking the tread of the lead Tiger tank, disabling it. However, the tank returned fire with armor-piercing machine gun shells, hitting the 57mm gun at least 20 times, wounding Farinholt in multiple areas of his body, most seriously in his right leg and foot. Despite his wounds he managed to climb into a jeep and drive to the battalion headquarters to alert its leaders of the direction and strength of the German attack. Because of his wound he could not use the clutch and brake pedals so he hit the building the headquarters was housed in. Immediately a medic started to apply first aid but Farinholt refused until he was able to report to the battalion commander. Once he made his report, he finally allowed himself to receive medical treatment. Unknown to him at this time, due to the rate and accuracy of fire from his platoon, the Germans advance was stalled for almost an hour and then diverted to another sector, buying more time for the 29th Division to move troops and summon air support to successfully stop the attack. The Germans never recaptured Bourheim. For his bravery and determination to alert headquarters of impending danger, Farinholt was awarded his fourth Silver Star for his actions at Bourheim, thus becoming the only enlisted man in World War II to earn four Silver Stars. His wounds were so severe that he was returned home, and though he lived nearly 60 more years, he never fully recovered from his injuries.