b. 03/03/1919 Salt Lake City, Utah. d. 11/05/1986 Bloomington, Indiana.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 31/07/1943 near Gagliano, Sicily.
Kisters was born in Salt Lake City, Utah to a family that had worked in the fur trade for generations; his family moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 1937, where his father opened a fur shop. Kisters worked for his father and then opened his own fur shop in Vincennes, Indiana, operating it for several years before he was drafted in January 1941. He was assigned to a reconnaissance unit training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
By 1942 Kisters’ unit, formerly attached to the 1st Cavalry, had become an independent unit, the 91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. At the end of 1942 they were sent to Casablanca to join the Tunisian campaign. On May 7, 1943 Kisters, now a staff sergeant, surprised and killed the crew of a German 88 mm artillery gun, earning a Distinguished Service Cross.
By July 31, 1943 Kisters’ unit was attached to the 2nd Armored Division, then involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily. On that day, near Gagliano, Sicily, he and an officer captured an enemy machine gun position. Kisters then went forward alone and, although wounded in both legs and his right arm on his approach, single-handedly captured a second machine gun emplacement. He was subsequently promoted to second lieutenant and, on February 18, 1944, was awarded his Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor at The White House from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the first American soldier to be awarded both during World War II. He was featured in war bond drives and the Monroe County Airport was named Kisters Field in his honor.
Kisters was sent back to the U.S. and spent months recovering from his injuries. After his recovery he taught reconnaissance at Fort Riley, Kansas and reached the rank of first lieutenant. After the war he reopened his fur shop and became a successful businessman.
On 31 July 1943, near Gagliano, Sicily, a detachment of one officer and nine enlisted men, including Sgt. Kisters, advancing ahead of the leading elements of U.S. troops to fill a large crater in the only available vehicle route through Gagliano, was taken under fire by two enemy machine guns. Sgt. Kisters and the officer, unaided and in the face of intense small-arms fire, advanced on the nearest machine-gun emplacement and succeeded in capturing the gun and its crew of four. Although the greater part of the remaining small-arms fire was now directed on the captured machine-gun position, Sgt. Kisters voluntarily advanced alone toward the second gun emplacement. While creeping forward, he was struck five times by enemy bullets, receiving wounds in both legs and his right arm. Despite the wounds, he continued to advance on the enemy, and captured the second machine gun after killing three of its crew and forcing the fourth member to flee. The courage of this soldier and his unhesitating willingness to sacrifice his life, if necessary, served as an inspiration to the command.
BURIAL LOCATION: ROSE HILL CEMETERY, BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA.
SECTION G, LOT 74.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.