b. 19/11/1922 Helenville, Wisconsin. d. 24/12/1942 near Buna, New Guinea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 24/12/1942 near Buna, New Guinea.
Born in Helenville, Wisconsin, on November 19, 1922, Gruennert attended Jefferson High School in nearby Jefferson. During high school he played football and was captain of the school’s championship-winning team. At age 16, he enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard from Helenville and served in the 32nd Infantry Division.
The 32nd Division was federalized in 1940, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor the unit began training for combat. On December 24, 1942, Gruennert was fighting the Japanese in the Battle of Buna-Gona in New Guinea as a sergeant with Company L of the 127th Infantry Regiment. Near the village of Buna, he was second-in-command of a platoon tasked with advancing through Japanese positions to a beach 600 yards (550 m) ahead. When they came upon a Japanese bunker, Gruennert single-handedly attacked and silenced the enemy soldiers’ position. Although seriously wounded, he refused medical evacuation and successfully attacked a second bunker, but was killed by a sniper immediately after. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor ten months later, on October 11, 1943. At the request of his parents, his Medal of Honor was mailed to them.
Gruennert, aged 20 at his death, was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in his hometown of Helenville.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. On 24 December 1942, near Buna, New Guinea, Sgt. Gruennert was second in command of a platoon with a misssion to drive through the enemy lines to the beach 600 yards ahead. Within 150 yards of the objective, the platoon encountered two hostile pillboxes. Sgt. Gruennert advanced alone on the first and put it out of action with hand grenades and rifle fire, killing three of the enemy. Seriously wounded in the shoulder, he bandaged his wound under cover of the pillbox, refusing to withdraw to the aid station and leave his men. He then, with undiminished daring, and under extremely heavy fire, attacked the second pillbox. As he neared it he threw grenades which forced the enemy out where they were easy targets for his platoon. Before the leading elements of his platoon could reach him he was shot by enemy snipers. His inspiring valor cleared the way for his platoon which was the first to attain the beach in this successful effort to split the enemy position.
BURIAL LOCATION: EVERGREEN CEMETERY, HELENVILLE, WISCONSIN.
SECTION I, ROW 7, LOT 78.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: WISCONSIN VETERANS MUSEUM, MADISON, WISCONSIN.