b. 07/01/1917 Charlottetown, Canada. d. 24/06/2000 Brockton, Massachusetts.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01/01/1945 near Woelfling, France.
He was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada on January 7, 1917 to Cardigan Scot Roland MacGillivary and Minnie Quinn, he attended Queens Square School in Charlottetown and joined the Merchant Marines at age 16. Shortly thereafter, MacGillivary emigrated to the United States, to live with his older brother in Boston, Massachusetts. When living with his brother, he learned about the Army and considered joining it. After hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, he decided the right thing to do was to volunteer for the U.S. Army. In January 1942, he joined the Army as a private soldier and was assigned to the European Theatre of Operations. MacGillivary’s first wartime action came during the Battle of Normandy, landing on Omaha Beach in 1944. From Omaha Beach MacGillivary would be involved in numerous liberation conflicts throughout France, before reaching Wolfling during the Battle of the Bulge.
When his unit was surrounded on 01-01-1945 by the 17th German Panzer Grenadier Division, under SS Oberführer Georg Bochmann a Waffen-SS Panzer unit in Wolfling, France, MacGillivary, then 27, picked up a machine gun and knocked out four German machine gun nests, killing 36 German soldiers. He lost his left arm in this action.
Interestingly the unit he fought to win his decoration, was given the title Götz von Berlichingen after a 15th century German knight who lost his right hand. MacGillivary told a Boston Globereporter in 1995: “I looked down and my left arm wasn’t there. When you get hit by a machine gun, it’s like somebody put a hot poker in you. I stuck the stump of my arm into the snow, but the warm blood melted the snow. I figured I was dying. When they rescued me, my arm had a cake of bloody ice frozen around it, sealing the wound. If it had been summer, I’d dead.” On August 25, 1945 MacGillivary personally received a Medal of Honor for his efforts from President Harry Truman at The White House.
After the war MacGillivary returned home to Boston where for a short time he worked as a special agent for Boston’s Treasury Department. He joined the United States Customs Service in 1950 starting as a warehouse officer, but soon became an agent for the United States Customs Office of Investigations, conducting special investigations. His daughter Charlene Corea remembered him as being particularly busy in the winter inspecting Christmas trees that entered the United States from Canada. He retired from the Customs Service in 1975. Sergeant Charles A. MacGillivary was enrolled as a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts the third oldest chartered military organization in the world on April 6, 1992. He was the seventh member to receive the Medal of Honor.
MacGillivary was a resident of Braintree, Massachusetts from 1957 until his death at age 83 on Saturday June 24 2000 in the VA Hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts. Rev. Philip Salois, who had himself received a Silver Star in the Vietnam War performed the funeral. Then Governor of Massachusetts Paul Cellucci was in attendance at MacGillivary’s funeral. He is buried beside his wife, Esther, in Section 48 of Arlington National Cemetery.
He led a squad when his unit moved forward in darkness to meet the threat of a breakthrough by elements of the 17th German Panzer Grenadier Division. Assigned to protect the left flank, he discovered hostile troops digging in. As he reported this information, several German machine guns opened fire, stopping the American advance. Knowing the position of the enemy, Sgt. MacGillivary volunteered to knock out one of the guns while another company closed in from the right to assault the remaining strongpoints. He circled from the left through woods and snow, carefully worked his way to the emplacement, and shot the two camouflaged gunners at a range of three feet as other enemy forces withdrew. Early in the afternoon of the same day, Sgt. MacGillivary was dispatched on reconnaissance and found that Company I was being opposed by about six machine guns reinforcing a company of fanatically fighting Germans. His unit began to attack but was pinned down by furious automatic and small-arms fire. With a clear idea of where the enemy guns were placed, he voluntarily embarked on a lone combat patrol. Skillfully taking advantage of all available cover, he stalked the enemy, reached a hostile machine gun, and blasted its crew with a grenade. He picked up a submachine gun from the battlefield and pressed on to within 10 yards of another machine gun, where the enemy crew discovered him and feverishly tried to swing their weapon into line to cut him down. He charged ahead, jumped into the midst of the Germans, and killed them with several bursts. Without hesitation, he moved on to still another machine gun, creeping, crawling, and rushing from tree to tree, until close enough to toss a grenade into the emplacement and close with its defenders. He dispatched this crew also, but was himself seriously wounded. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, great initiative, and utter disregard for personal safety in the face of powerful enemy resistance, Sgt. MacGillivary destroyed four hostile machine guns and immeasurably helped his company to continue on its mission with minimum casualties.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 48, GRAVE 568.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.