b. 14/09/1917 Sumter, South Carolina. d. 13/07/1990 Columbia, South Carolina.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 20/11/1944 Hurtgen Forest, Germany.
Mabry was born on September 14, 1917, on his family’s farm in Stateburg. He graduated from Hillcrest High School. At first he did not want to attend college, so his father employed him as a farmwork supervisor for a year. This experience changed his mind about school, and he entered Presbyterian College on a baseball scholarship.
Graduating in 1940 with a B.A., Mabry entered the U.S. Army in July as a second lieutenant assigned to the Fourth Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1941 Mabry married Eulena Myers; they eventually had three children. Mabry served in the Fourth Division throughout the war. His first action under enemy fire was at Normandy on June 6, 1944, when he led his company in the first wave onto Utah Beach. During his first combat experience Mabry spearheaded a path through a minefield, captured or killed ten enemy soldiers, and directed a tank assault on enemy machine gun emplacements to open a path to the inland causeways. Soon after, he was one of the first from the seaborne invasion force to link up with troops of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, who dropped behind enemy lines earlier that morning. By the time he had fought his way across France he had earned promotion to battalion commander. In the fall of 1944 Mabry and his division took part in the bloody campaign to take the Huertgen Forest in western Germany. During this grueling operation of many weeks American forces made little progress at heavy cost.
On November 20, 1944, Mabry earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery in the U.S. military. Under heavy enemy fire he prepared a path through a minefield, disconnected a booby-trapped concertina obstacle, and led a successful assault against three enemy bunkers. Despite his achievements, Mabry later wrote a report critical of the American high command in the Huertgen campaign. He bluntly stated that U.S. leaders needlessly committed exhausted troops against enemy defenses without adequate intelligence or support. He received his Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman at The White House on August 23, 1945.
After World War II, Mabry chose to make a career of the army. A lieutenant colonel by the end of the war, Mabry steadily earned promotions and retired in 1975 as a major general. He attended the Command and General Staff College (1949–1950), served in Korea, and had assignments in Europe, Central America, and the United States. During the first half of 1957 he commanded the Third Training Regiment at Fort Jackson. He had two tours in Vietnam, the first in 1966 to head a team to evaluate U.S. Army combat operations, the results of which were later published in nine volumes known as the ARCOV report. His last tour was as a chief of staff to the general in charge of all U.S. Army combat units in Indochina (1969–1970). He was the second-most-decorated American serviceman of World War II. Mabry made his home in Columbia after his retirement, where he died on July 13, 1990.
He was commanding the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, in an attack through the Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany, on 20 November 1944. During the early phases of the assault, the leading elements of his battalion were halted by a minefield and immobilized by heavy hostile fire. Advancing alone into the mined area, Col. Mabry established a safe route of passage. He then moved ahead of the foremost scouts, personally leading the attack, until confronted by a booby-trapped double concertina obstacle. With the assistance of the scouts, he disconnected the explosives and cut a path through the wire. Upon moving through the opening, he observed three enemy in foxholes whom he captured at bayonet point. Driving steadily forward he paced the assault against three log bunkers which housed mutually supported automatic weapons. Racing up a slope ahead of his men, he found the initial bunker deserted, then pushed on to a second where he was suddenly confronted by nine onrushing enemy. Using the butt of his rifle, he felled one adversary and bayoneted a second, before his scouts came to his aid and assisted him in overcoming the others in hand-to-hand combat. Accompanied by the riflemen, he charged the third bunker under point-blank small-arms fire and led the way into the fortification from which he prodded six enemy at bayonet point. Following the consolidation of this area, he led his battalion across 300 yards of fire-swept terrain to seize elevated ground upon which he established a defensive position which menaced the enemy on both flanks, and provided his regiment a firm foothold on the approach to the Cologne Plain. Col. Mabry’s superlative courage, daring, and leadership in an operation of major importance exemplify the finest characteristics of the military service.
BURIAL LOCATION: HOLY CROSS EPISCOPAL CHURCH CEMETERY, STATEBURG, SOUTH CAROLINA.
NEAR LARGE FLAG POLE.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.