The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, PVT Gilbert Clinton Knodel, 19030031, who died in the service of his country on January 10th, 1943 in Guadalcanal. The cause of death was listed as KIA. At the time of his death Gilbert was 21 years of age. He was from Hughes County, South Dakota.
The decorations earned by PVT Gilbert Clinton Knodel include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
South Dakota, USA
Plot: ADDNA 5 9 2
Gilbert Clinton Knodel was born to Emanuel and Jennie Mae (Miller) Knodel on January 7, 1922, in Kaylor, Hutchinson County, South Dakota. A few years later the Knodel family moved to Holabird and then later settled in Pierre. Gilbert was educated in Pierre schools, stopping just short of graduation. Gilberts brother Orval, remembers that Gilbert liked to play intramural basketball and sandlot baseball; he also enjoyed swimming, often in the Missouri River. As a hobby, Gilbert raised pigeons and cared for the family dog and pony. Orval says that "Gilbert was small of stature but strong and fearless."
In 1940 Gilbert served the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Black Hills area of South Dakota and traveled to Seattle, Washington, where he enlisted in the Army on July 11, 1940.
On January 10, 1943, Army Private Gilbert Clinton Knodel died of wounds he received while fighting heroically at Guadalcanal. The Commander, Robert B. McClure, sent a letter, which read in part:
By this time you have. no doubt, received official notification that your son Gilbert was killed in action on January 10, 1943. I am writing this letter to offer you the sincere sympathy of myself and the officers and men of your son's regiment and to do what little I can to soften your grief.
Your son was killed in brave performance of duty against the enemy. I assure you that you can be proud in the knowledge that his actions were willing, loyal, and courageous in making the noblest sacrifice a man can give -- his life for his country. For his act of unselfish bravery, I have recommended that he be awarded a citation for extraordinary heroism in combat.
Pfc. Gilbert Knodel was posthumously awarded medals for merit and courage. The Order of the Purple Heart was awarded to servicemen wounded in action. The reverse side of the medal bears the words FOR MILITARY MERIT and Gilbert Clinton Knodel's name. His other award was the Distinguished Service Cross, awarded for exceptional heroism in battle. The circumstances were as follows:
Private Knodel volunteered to accompany a patrol whose mission was to eliminate an enemy stronghold situated in some dense under-growth. The patrol was halted by enemy machine gun fire as the men attempted to descend a steep slope bordering the gulch in which the enemy emplacement was located. Private Knodel volunteered to proceed alone in an attempt to reach the objective. Driven back by heavy fire in the first two attempts, he tried to approach the stronghold from a different direction and in doing this he was wounded in the stomach. Although mortally wounded he crawled forward until he was within five yards of the position and destroyed the enemy emplacement with hand grenades. Private Knodel's actions enabled the patrol to advance and accomplish its mission.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Gilbert C. Knodel (19030031), Private, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in action against enemy forces on 11 January 1943. Private Knodels intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, General Orders No. 74 (1943)
Home Town: Hughes County, South Dakota
A SPECIAL MISSIONi
Gifu Strong Point, Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands, 11 January 1943
Pvt. Marler was a brave soldier, volunteering for dangerous missions when most of the other men would not. Pfc. Edward F. Galvin recalled one such mission during the Battle of Gifu Strong Point. Capt. James L. Dalton II, the Regimental S-2 (Intelligence), came down from Headquarters in a jeep and drove into the company area on the morning of 11 January around 0800. The men were called together and Dalton explained that he needed two men to help him carry out "a special mission," with no explanation given. Four men stepped forward: Galvin; Galvin's best friend, Pfc. James J. McGee; Pfc. Thomas Jackson; and Marler. Dalton chose Galvin, walked past McGee and Jackson, and then chose Marler. Galvin, McGee, and Marler were all from the 1st Platoon.
Dalton instructed Galvin and Marler to bring their rifles and a couple of bandoleers of ammunition. When they were ready, he led them to his jeep where he pulled out three "rag bags" with approximately 20 hand grenades in each bag and gave one bag to each man. Dalton carried a just 45-calibre pistol in a side holster.
Dalton then led Galvin and Marler over a circuitous, two-and-a-half to three-mile route through the thick jungle that took them to the far side of the Japanese position. On the way, he told the two volunteers that there were three wounded men from his intelligence unit who were trapped in a ravine under the covering fire of a Japanese machine-gun nest. He explained that he had sent the men into the ravine on a reconnaissance mission on the previous day and that it was his intention to get them out.
After several hours, the three men reached a position at the top of the ravine overlooking the Japanese machine-gun nest. Dalton told Galvin and Marler to remain at this position with the three bags of hand grenades while he crawled into the jungle and down into the ravine to find the three wounded men. Whenever they heard machine-gun fire, they were to throw a couple of grenades in the direction of the machine gun emplacement to distract the gunners or interrupt their fire.
Dalton left and for the next couple of hours Galvin and Marler heard nothing but periodic bursts of machine-gun fire. They could not see the machine-gun nest, but threw grenades in the direction of the machine-gun fire as best they could. As their pile of grenades began to dwindle, Galvin and Marler began to wonder whether Dalton would ever make it back. The periodic machine-gun fire was their only assurance that he was still alive.
Galvin and Marler had approximately 12 grenades left when Dalton came crawling out of the jungle. He told them the wounded men would soon die and that there was nothing more that could be done for them. The three men left the same way they came and returned to the G Company position about 1800.ii
Galvin remembered Marler as a "very cool soldier" who conducted himself well throughout the mission. Galvin recalled that the 35th Regiment later used the same ravine to divide the Japanese forces at Gifu Strong Point and link up with its sister regiment, the 161st Regiment. During the fighting that followed, G Company was often enveloped, with Japanese forces attacking from both sides.
Dalton was later promoted to Colonel and given command of the 161st Regiment. After a time, he was promoted to Brigadier General and elevated to Assistant Commander of the 25th Division. He was killed by a Japanese sniper at the Battle of Balete Pass in the Philippines on 16 May 1945. McGee was killed in the Battle of Lupao in the Philippines on 6 February 1945.