ROBERT GEORGE COLE (1915 ~ 1944). Medal of Honor Recipient Robert G. Cole was born at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to Colonel Clarence F. Cole, an Army doctor, and Clara H. Cole on March 19, 1915. He graduated from high school in San Antonio in 1933 and joined the Army on July 1, 1934. On June 26, 1935, he was honorably discharged because he was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Cole graduated with the class of 1939 and returned home to marry Allie Mae Wilson. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant to the 15th Infantry at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1939, and stayed there until his transfer to the 501st Parachute Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1941. Rapidly advancing through the ranks at Fort Benning, he was a Lieutenant Colonel with the 3rd Battalion of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment by June 6, 1944, the time of his unit's first combat jump.
Cole himself had the distinction of being the first to jump from the leading plane on D-Day. Once on the ground, Cole organized a unit from the confused and scattered soldiers and advanced on his objective, a battery near Utah beach. However, when he discovered his objective already destroyed, he split his group in two to secure exits from the beachhead. The next objective was to link the forces that had landed at different beaches.
Cole was ordered to secure the causeway which ran above the marshes near Carentan, France on June 10. His unit advanced slowly under heavy fire from the dense hedgerows, until they were no longer able to advance. On the morning of June 11, Cole was ordered to continue the attack, but his unit was still pinned down by enemy fire. He noticed that the enemy defense was centered around a farmhouse. When artillery fire had little effect on the German defenses, Cole ordered a bayonet charge, which he personally led. The charge was successful, and for his courage in leading it, Cole was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first member of an airborne unit to receive the honor.
On September 18, 1944, Cole was mortally wounded by a sniper in Best, Holland, before he could receive his medal. He left behind his wife and son, Bruce, and was buried at the American Battlefields Monument Commission Cemetery in Margraten, Holland.
The junior and senior high schools of the Fort Sam Houston School District are named in his honor.
Bibliography: "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas," Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas. The Airborne Assault: Utah Beach to Cherbourg, U.S. Army, http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/BOOKS/WWII/utah/utah2.htm, September 25, 2003. San Antonio Express-News: June 5, 1994. Fort Sam Houston Museum, http://www.cs.amedd.army.mil/rlbc/cole.htm, September 16, 2003.