Staff Sergeant Carl W. Duvall
C Company, 291st Infantry Regiment, 75th Infantry Division
Carl Duvall was born in the small but bustling South Carolina town of Spartanburg in 1920. Primarily a textile mill-town, by his teenage years Duvall went through most of high school before leaving to take up a full-time position as a sales clerk with Dixie Home Stores in nearby Greer. In 1938 he married his young sweetheart and within only a few years life grew even more exciting as the city blossomed with tens of thousands of soldiers swelling the local military camp as the Second World War broke out. Duvall stayed in his position with Dixie while the war began and remained there until his time came. In March 1943 he received a draft notice from the War Department and officially joined the United States Army on the 24th of that month.
After completing basic training Duvall qualified as an infantryman and before long was transferred to the newly formed 75th Infantry Division. Only created in 1942, the division built its troop strength while the war raged overseas. Duvall joined early on, assigned to C Company of the 291st Infantry Regiment. In early 1944 he and the regiment participated in a bout of Louisiana maneuvers, traveling around the United States for many months after until he and the regiment finally departed out of Camp Shanks through the New York Port of Embarkation on October 22, 1944.
They arrived in Europe only a few weeks later, first to England and then to France in December after additional in-theater training. Right as the rest of the division reunited with the regiment the German army in the Ardennes initiated their last great counteroffensive, kicking off the Battle of the Bulge. The 75th was quickly moved to the frontline to bolster the endangered American troops. The division filled a gap near Ourthe on December 23, advancing to the Aisne and helping hold off the German onslaught. After the break of the new year, on January 5, 1945, the division went on its first offensive by launching a successful attack on Grandmenil. After several weeks the division moved back in a defensive posture, helping secure the successful pushback ending the Bulge. Already a seasoned veteran of this winter war, Duvall would soon prove his mettle and heroism in a wholly different campaign.
On February 1 the 75th moved southward to the 7th Army front in Alsace-Lorraine, crossing the Colmar Canal to fight alongside the 3rd Infantry Division and French 4th Armored Division as they began to drive through the Alsatian plain. The day after their arrival, Duvall and the 291st continued an attack between the Rhone-Rhine Canal and the Rhine River through a heavily wooded area. The German resistance was firm, however, and the attack dragged into the next day. Now February 3, the 291st pushed along the division’s left flank attempting to reach their ultimate goal of Wolfgantzen, a decent-sized city holding a notable German garrison. Around 1300 Duvall’s company attacked a wooded area to the northwest of the city, advancing three hundred yards into open ground before heavy mortar and artillery fire stopped them in their tracks. Unable to go further, darkness forced the battalion to dig in and prepare to continue their movements the next day. Upon daybreak, the attack continued against heavy resistance as Germans dug into concrete-reinforced dugouts tried desperately to drive away the American troops getting ever closer to their homeland.
By February 5 Duvall and C Company reached just beyond the limits of the city and, in conjunction with other units of the 291st, sought to simultaneously launch attacks on Wolfgantzen and Appenwihr. C Company maneuvered around to the north of the city, opposite their former day’s positions to the south where they had been hitting the German lines heavily. Managing to flank the enemy defenses, around 1300 the company cautiously moved down the canal on the left side of the city and across open fields to hit the town from its broadside. The plan was brilliant and worked perfectly, the Germans were caught completely by surprise. Although successful in operation, the battle was still fierce as the Germans had heavily fortified the southern parts of the city. It was while clearing out the surprised Germans that C Company came under heavy fire and now Staff Sergeant Duvall demonstrated his courage.
While attacking the German position Duvall led his rifle squad into the fray only to watch as his platoon leader was hit amidst a “rain of heavy fire” as they pushed against “stiff resistance” in “well entrenched and strongly fortified enemy positions. Seeing this, Duvall jumped into action, crawling across the terrain between them as the Germans attempted to take them both down for good. Despite their efforts, Duvall reached his lieutenant and began dragging him back towards cover. Even with the hail of enemy fire, he managed to do it unscathed, getting him into safety and dressing his wounds. A truly stunning and courageous act of heroism amidst extremely hazardous circumstances, Duvall was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions with the citation reading as follows:
Sergeant Duvall was serving as squad leader during the time his unit was encountering stiff resistance from well entrenched and strongly fortified enemy positions. Int he rain of heavy fire his platoon leader was hit and lay in helpless agony, in an exposed position. Seeing this, Sergeant Duvall crawled across the intervening terrain, risking his life in the face of heavy fire and pulled the officer to cover when he dressed his wounds. This heroism, displayed by Sergeant Duvall, which undoubtedly saved the life of an officer, is of high order reflecting great credit upon himself and his unit. He entered military service from Columbia, South Carolina.
By early evening the city was taken and a battle hard-fought for several days was won. With Duvall a newly christened hero, the division was able to push out the German forces before being relieved by the 28th Infantry Division on February 8. The rest of the war saw the 75th bounce around even more, filling British positions in Holland before moving back to the Rhine where they were heavily engaged during the Battle for the Ruhr. In April the division moved across the Rhine deeper into Germany, fighting back the last remnants of German resistance before the war came to a close less than a month later. Although only in combat for a little over five months, Duvall had seen an incredible share of combat yet, unfortunately, did not earn enough points to go home early, instead transferring to Camp Boston near Remis, France to oversee the troop assembly area for men coming home. It was not until January 1946 that Duvall was finally given the all-clear to go home. Arriving back in the United States on January 19, he was discharged six days later, a decorated veteran and hero of the war in Europe.