b. 02/12/1925 Hibbing, Minnesota. d. 30/12/2011 Duluth, Minnesota.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/04/1945 Untergriesheim, Germany.
Colalillo was born on December 1, 1925 in Hibbing, Minnesota to Italian parents who had immigrated to the U.S. shorty before his birth. Colalillo was the eighth of nine children. His family struggled financially through out the years mainly due to the Great Depression. He grew up in a tough neighborhood in western Duluth, Minnesota. In his teenage years, Colalillo attended Denfeld High School but dropped out before graduating in order to help support his family by working at a local bakery after the passing of his mother.
Assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 398th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division, his company was pinned downed by heavy artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany on April 7, 1945. Colalillo used a supporting tank to run forward, inspiring his comrades to do the same. His machine pistol was destroyed by shrapnel so he climbed a friendly tank and manned the exposed machinegun on the turret, destroying two enemy machineguns and killing, wounding or scattering four enemy positions. When his machinegun jammed, he used a submachine gun from the tank crew and continued to attack on foot. “By his intrepidity and inspiring courage (he) gave tremendous impetus to his company’s attack, killed or wounded 25 of the enemy in bitter fighting, and assisted a wounded soldier in reaching the American lines at great risk of his own life.” He received his medal from President Harry Truman on December 18, 1945. After the war, he worked as a coal dump laborer and longshoreman, retiring in 1987. At his death he was Minnesota’s last living CMOH recipient.
Private First Class Mike Colalillo, 2d Squad, 2d Platoon, Co. C, 1st Battalion, 398th Infantry, 100th Infantry Division was pinned down with other members of his company during an attack against strong enemy positions on 7 April 1945 in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany. Heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire made any move hazardous when he stood up, shouted to his company to follow, and ran forward in the wake of a supporting tank, firing his machine pistol. Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire. When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, he climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned an exposed machine gun on the turret of the vehicle, and, while bullets rattled around him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machine gun. Maintaining his extremely dangerous post as the tank forged ahead, he blasted three more positions, destroyed another machine gun emplacement and silenced all resistance in this area, killing at least three and wounding an undetermined number of riflemen as they fled. His machine gun eventually jammed; so he secured a submachine gun from the tank crew to continue his attack on foot. When our armored forces exhausted their ammunition and the order to withdraw was given, he remained behind to help a seriously wounded comrade over several hundred yards of open terrain rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage. By his intrepidity and inspiring courage Private First Class Colalillo gave tremendous impetus to his company’s attack, killed or wounded 25 of the enemy in bitter fighting, and assisted a wounded soldier in reaching the American lines at great risk to his own life.
BURIAL LOCATION: FOREST HILL CEMETERY, DULUTH, MINNESOTA.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.