The Story of an Infantryman

Thursday, September 30, 2010

As the battle tested veterans of Company L, 142 Infantry, and 36th Division probed the outskirts of Magliano, Italy on the morning of June 14, 1944 they knew that the German soldiers facing them were strongly entrenched. The men of the 36th had met this enemy before, in Africa, on the bloody beaches of Salerno and in all the bitter battles in Italy.

Leading one of the platoons was a slim Tech Sergeant known to his men as “Blackie” was Homer L. Wise and he had served with the 36th Division since its inception. Sergeant Wise was an outstanding soldier and veteran of three years in the Army and holder of the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

As they approached the town, Wise and his platoon were pinned down by a deadly enemy cross-fire of interlocking machine guns and supporting riffle fire. Seeing the leading scout was seriously wounded. Sergeant Wise immediately jumped to his feet and ran forward through the murderous sweeping of the enemy to try and bring the wounded man to safety. Three other men followed his example, and the four of them carried the wounded man to place of safety where he could receive medical attention.

Sergeant Wise returned to his squad and led them forward to try and take the enemy machine guns by a direct attack, but soon as they moved forward, they were again forced to take cover from increased enemy fire poured on them from an orchard to their front.

Wise saw a German officer and two men moving to the side of his platoon, which was still pinned down, trying to outflank his men. Wise unhesitatingly jumped up, rushed forward and killed all three with bursts from his sub-machine gun.

Returning to his men he found them receiving disastrously effective fire and taking heavy casualties. The enemy gunners were in well protected positions that were immune to the small arms fire of L Company. Laying aside his sub-machine gun, Wise picked up a rifle and grenade launcher from one of the wounded, and yelling above the din of fire for all available rife grenades, he gathered them up and stuffed them in his jacket. He moved forward again through a hail of bullets to a position where he could fire on the entrenched enemy. His deadly fire on the enemy inflicted many casualties and forced the survivors to flee his effective fire and abandon their positions. When his stock of 15 grenades was exhausted he picked up another sub-machine gun and firing from the hip, he pursued the fleeing enemy over the fire swept terrain.

After this strong-point had fallen to his one man attack, Wise started moving his remaining men forward. Once again they received heavy fire from the front, and flanks. The fire was so intense that the men from L Company could not move their machine guns forward and again they were forced to seek cover.

Realizing that the enemy was to far away for his sub-machine gun to be effective, and 6that some action was needed to get the men moving forward again, the sergeant picked up an automatic rifle, stood up and started walking through the heavy fire toward the entrenched Germans, firing his weapon from a standing position. His shooting was so accurate it soon neutralized the enemy weapons. His courageous action so inspired his men that they charged forward and captured the remaining enemy gun positions and crews.

Again on the offensive, L Company was next confronted by an enemy held ridge, honeycombed with enemy strong points. It was decided to by-pass this strong point to continue the Company advance. The enemy on this high ground delivered an effective heavy fire and once again pinned down the now weary, battered men of L Company down. The enemy fire was so fierce that supporting tanks that had followed the company advance were forced to seek cover in a wooded area to the rear. One medium tank stayed in the open to fire its 75 millimeter cannon at the hostile emplacements, but the deadly retaliatory fire forced the tank’s crew to close their vision slits and the tanks effectiveness and firepower was lost.

Once again Sergeant Wise went into action, dashing forward as he saw that the platoon attack had bogged down, casualties were mounting, and the tank nearest him had “buttoned-down and left its machine gun unmanned. By using the hand set at the rear of the tank, he asked why this gun was not giving covering fire to his troops. Told by the tankers that this weapon was jammed and useless, Wise said “Nuts”.

He scaled to the tanks turret and in seconds reduced the jam and began firing the machine gun. The enemy coated the tank with flying lead in an attempt to knock him off the tank and silence the gun. Wise delivered 750 rounds of deadly effective fire on the enemy completely neutralizing the enemy positions on the ridge and allowing the Battalion to move forward and occupy the whole hill mass. This was a major breakthrough of the German defensive line.

Sergeant Wise was awarded our Nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor for this action. The original citation signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt says in conclusion: “The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where an escape seemed miraculous, demonstrated a courage unfathomable and his exceeding gallantry and insuperable devotion to duty was a source of admiration to all those who witnessed his intrepid acts, and the memory of it will perpetually inspire our fighting men.

Eight days after this action Sgt. Wise was wounded in action near Grosseto, Italy and was sent to the rear. After hospitalization, Wise rejoined his unit and was with it when they made the invasion of Southern France on August 15, 1944. The day after the landing Sergeant Wise was leading a patrol of six men and came upon an enemy motor pool. Wise concealed his men, walked into the enemy encampment and demanded it surrender. The ruse worked and the seven man patrol captured the motor pool with all of its valuable equipment and 32 enemy soldiers. Wise was awarded the Bronze Star for this action.

Wise continued to serve in a front line unit, receiving another Bronze Star and two additional clusters to his Purple Heart for his second and third wounds. He constantly led patrols behind enemy lines, and when the division was notified to remove him from combat duty to receive the Medal of Honor, Wise was behind enemy lines and presumed missing in action.

On November 28, 1944, in a ceremony near Epinal, France, as Lt. General Alexander M. Patch, the Army Commander hung the light blue ribbon with white stars holding the metal around his neck, the general said, “I wish we had an Army full of soldiers like you”.

Published by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Homer L. Wise Chapter #1932,

Darien, CT August 1991

Major Everett S. Simpson and Homer L. Wise

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Maj. Everett S. Simpson
The following is quote of Major (later Major General) Everett S. Simpson describing the action, published in T-Patch to Victory, 36th Infantry Division France-Germany-Austria, by Colonel Vincent M. Lockhart, published in 1981.

"The regiment was attacking the mountainous area near the town of Tendon, and we were assigned Hill 827 as our objective.The Tendon-LeTholy road was our line of departure. We assumed we were in safe territory, but I did have the sense enough to send out patrols to the flank and front.

"Every patrol that came in reported Germans to our flank and front. I didn't believe the two flank patrols, because their leaders hadn't been with us long, but the patrol to the front was led by Sergeant Homer Wise, who had been awarded the Medal of Honor in Italy, and I knew he knew what he was talking about.

"Major, those woods are full of Germans,' he said. I immediately ordered the attack and we hadn't been going ten minutes until I was wounded. Mortars hit all around us, and my right arm was shattered, and I had shell fragments in my back. My radio operator was killed. I was succeeded by Lt. Col A. Ward Gillette, who commanded the battalion until I came back in January.

"This was about 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. When I started back, shock set in, and I passed out."

For his action Major Everett S. Simpson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Evrett Simpson and his battalion crossed the wood toward “GĂ©rasat” where there’s a few houses close to the Small Waterfall of Tendon to try to cross the road in the slope that bring to the top of the Hill 827. Here’s a few foxholes at the bottom of the slope.

View of the Town of Tendon, France. Tendon was the scene of a major battle between American and German troops in September 1944.

Photos courtesy of Sylvie and Herve Claudon, Tendon, France.

Sculpting a Hero

Sculpting a Hero
Written by Janis Gibson Redding CT Pilot
Thursday, 17 June 2010 14:00

Janice Mauro with her sculpture of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise, Medal of Honor winner. —Photo by Janis Gibson.

Redding artist and sculptor Janice Mauro has recently worked on a commissioned project that has a rare subject.

“During World War II, 16 million men and women served. Only 464 received the Medal of Honor, of whom 266 received it posthumously. That statistic alone compels us to honor this hero,” said James Vlasto of Stamford at the September 2008 launch of a $150,000 fund-raising drive to erect a bronze statue of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise (1917-1974). Sgt. Wise, who was raised in Baton Rouge. La., but married Stamford native Madolyn DiSesa and settled in that city after the war, was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Magliano, Italy, on June 14, 1944.

Ms. Mauro has been commissioned to create the statue, which will be erected in the Homer L. Wise Memorial Park at Bedford and Chester Streets in Stamford.

“I was very honored to be selected to create this statue of Homer,” said Ms. Mauro, “and even more so as I got to know more about the man.” One of the most decorated infantrymen of World War II, Sgt. Wise also received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and 11 other decorations.

Creating maquettes (small samples) made of wax, Ms. Mauro presented the committee with a choice of three poses for the statute: standing, seated on bench or portrait bust. The standing pose was selected. She then created a 30-inch-high version, which can be seen on the website, that gave detail to gesture and attitude. She is now completing the 6-foot, 5-inch version from which the bronze statue will be cast using the lost wax method.

Any sculpture in bronze is a complicated endeavor. “It takes an army of people to take a statue from concept to finished product,” she said. “My job is to to design it to show Homer’s character, his inner strenth, in his face, in his pose and gestures... he stands solidily, sholders back, head to the side, his brows are knitted.

“If you look at Michelangelo’s David,” she continued, “he’s looking at Goliath and wondering if he would survive; Homer was faced with a huge thing, and he made it. In creating a war piece, you want to show conern in his face that we would learn something.

“The emotion in his face is a large part of the stature; all figurative sculture must have that. His feet are firmly planted, his head turning, what is going to happen next? What is the future? I want to show that through his gestures and expression,” she said.

To help achieve the effect she was looking for, Ms. Mauro’s husband, local wine expert Francois Saudeau, posed for her, moving under her direction to get the stance, posture, head turn and other gestures just right. A friend who’s a uniform collector loaned her a piece from his collection so she would be accurate in the details of Homer’s jacket.

Sculpting a Hero

Preliminary studies for the statue of Sgt. Wise. —Photo by Janis Gibson

She is creating the statue in her home studio, called Goodwood Studio, which was constructed from a falling-down porch with 12 broken windows that was converted into a two-story art space when she and her husband moved to Redding eight years ago. Upstairs is a cathedral ceilinged display space for her finished work, while downstairs is the concrete-floored working studio.
In addition to her bronze work, Ms. Mauro is a sculptor in traditional materials, including clay, terra cotta and wax, and enjoys carving, but prefers wood to the physical demands of stone. She also draws and occasionally paints, but scupture is her first love.

Ms. Mauro has modeled heads for Nickelodeon’s Rug Rats and has done puppet, hand and mask modeling for productions by Julie Taymor, including The Lion King, Juan Darien, Fool’s Fire and Transposed Heads. She has also modeled marionettes for Eva Le Gallienne’s Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland and served as studio adjunct for New York artist Richard McDermott Miller (1912-2004) for 30 years.

“I learned everything from Richard,” she said. “I was a bronze chaser, patina person — applying the color chemically — green, black, brown. Homer will be chestnut brown; color is important.”

She noted that there are many other people involved in a statue’s creation other than the sculptor. The foundry, which does the physical casting, “is crucial,” as is the work of the bronze chaser who removes the mold marks and makes sure the piece is as perfect as possible; she will be doing much of that work herself. The statue has to be mounted and installed on site, which is designed by a landscape architect. It should be ready in September, but the 501(c)(3) committee is still doing fund-raising. For more information about Sgt. Wise and the project to honor him, visit

Ms. Mauro, who also teaches sculpture at the Silvermine Arts Guild in New Canaan and at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, N.J., will be a participant in the 21st Annual New Jersey Small Works Show at Mikhail Zakin Gallery, 561 Piermont Road, Demarest, June 19 to July 16. A 2007 sculptor in residence at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina, a National Historic Landmark, she is presenting a workshop there this week. Her sculpture, The Source, entered the Brookgreen collection in 2008. For more information on Ms. Mauro’s work,

Copyright 2011 The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc.