Skip to comments.63 Years Later, Medal-Winner Tells His Story
Posted on 11/03/2007 6:36:59 PM PDT by girlangler
Saturday, November 3, 2007
63 Years Later, Medal-Winner Tells His Story
Sun Photo by Bill Jones
Delbert Fellers, 85, poses with the medals he won for his World War II military service. Among the medals is the Silver Star medal he received for silencing a Japanese machine gun that was pouring deadly fire on his unit on Angaur Island in September 1944.
By: By BILL JONES/Staff Writer Source: The Greeneville Sun 11-03-2007
Sixty-three years ago, Delbert L. Fellers, of Greene County, was a reluctant warrior who had been drafted into the U.S. Army for service in World War II.
I sure didnt volunteer, said Fellers, who, at 85, is one of Greene Countys few surviving Silver Star medal-winners from WWII.
But like World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York before him, Fellers was able to perform an extraordinary feat when he saw his fellow soldiers being killed and wounded by machine gun fire in September 1944.
A photo of his World War II unit still dominates the living room of his Curtis Street home.
Fellers won the Silver Star for his heroic actions when his platoon came under fire from a Japanese machine gun on tiny Angaur Island in the Pacific Oceans Palau chain on Sept. 28, 1944.
The citation for the Silver Star, one of the nations highest military medals, notes that Fellers received the medal for gallantry in action against the Japanese on that day.
U.S. Army regulations say the Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The required gallantry, while of a lesser degree than that required for the Distinguished Service Cross, must nevertheless have been performed with marked distinction.
Six decades later, Fellers still gets emotional about the events for which he was awarded the medal. That was the day we got the machine gun, Fellers said, with his voice breaking, during an interview on Thursday.
He recalled that his unit came under fire from a Japanese machine gun that was in place atop a hill and was firing down on his fellow soldiers.
A newspaper article from 1944 notes that Fellers received the medal from Maj. Gen. Paul J. Mueller, commander of the U.S. Armys 81st Wildcat Division.
Fellers, according to his military records, was serving in F Company of the 81st Divisions 322nd Infantry Regiment in September 1944.
The citation that accompanied the Silver Star medal he received notes that on Sept. 28, 1944, Fellers was assistant squad leader in a unit that was advancing on enemy positions when a Japanese machine gun opened fire from a heavily-fortified position.
Among the casualties of the machine gun fire, according to the article, was Sgt. Fellers platoon leader.
With total disregard for his personal safety, Sgt. Fellers, with three companions, cut across open terrain in the face of enemy grenade and rifle fire and succeeded in killing the Japanese gun crew, the citation said.
Asked what had motivated him to lead an attack on the machine gun, Fellers said, It was either them or us.
He noted that he and his three companions were able, by crawling, to get near enough to the machine gun to shoot dead its crew and then disable the machine gun so that it could not be used if recaptured by the Japanese.
A newspaper article about Fellers being awarded the medal later noted that the 81st Division had invaded Angaur Island on Sept. 17, 1944.
Fellers recalled this week that, because he was a good marksman, he had been assigned to be one of his units snipers and had been issued a bolt-action 1903 Springfield rifle equipped with a telescopic sight.
I was good with a rifle, he said. I had learned to shoot with a little .22 rifle as a kid at an old tobacco barn. I could shoot a hole in a board and put the next shot in the same hole.
But when he left California for an unknown destination in the Pacific Ocean in 1944, Fellers recalled, he didnt think he would ever see home again. There were just too many odds against it (returning home), he recalled.
Stepping off a landing craft into chin-deep water off Angaur Island on Sept. 17, 1944, did little to improve his outlook for the future, Fellers recalled on Thursday.
There were shells falling all around, he remembered. You had to get off the beach as fast as you could.
The rest of the island, and its Japanese defenders, proved just as dangerous, Fellers said.
After surviving the attack on the machine gun, Fellers suffered a shrapnel wound to his back several days later when a round from a Japanese knee mortar exploded near him.
He noted that the Japanese soldiers were experts with a small, hand-held mortar that they braced against their knees to lob high-explosive shells in a high arc onto American troops.
After he was wounded, Fellers recalled, medics removed the metal shrapnel from his back and sent him right back to duty.
Once the fighting on Angaur Island was over, Fellers said, his unit was loaded back aboard a U.S. Navy ship and sent about 400 miles to another island we had to take.
Fellers also recalled how he learned he was being sent home at the wars end.
A fellow came to me and told me the colonel wanted to see me, he recalled. I thought, What have I done now? but I went to see him.
He gave me a Japanese flag and my papers to go home.
When the ship left the next morning, there was five or six inches of snow on the deck. I got home just before Christmas 1945, he said, noting that his homecoming marked the first time he ever saw his daughter, Barbara Fellers Taylor, who had been born while he was in the Army.
He said that his wife, the late Margaret Fellers, had been kept busy writing letters during the war. She had three brothers and me all in the service at the same time.
Margaret, his wife, died several years ago. Since then, Fellers, who is now ill, has lived alone at his Curtis Street home.
He noted that his son, David, later spent 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, including service in the Middle East in the early 1990s in Operation Desert Storm.
The Vanity post about him is at:
His local newspaper finally got around to publishing a story about my buddy, and I thought you'd all enjoy it.
Bump for a true American hero.
Great story. Thanks. I see the “knee mortar” legend lives on.
Bump for Del Fellers, a real hero and thanks for the ping.
Tell your fishing buddy ‘thank you’ from all of us.
Tell Mr. Fellers thank you for helping to secure the life I’ve already enjoyed.
And, thank you, for the post...without which many of us would never have known of this great man.
Give him a hug for me.
Nice story. *BUMP*
God bless 'em all.
Del Fellers, a true American hero. Please give him my regards and a big hearty “thank you” for his service.
Because of his deeds and sacrifices, I have enjoyed a prosperous life in the post war era.
Please excuse this segue, but Mr. Fellers is a true Silver Star hero, not like that no good SOB traitorous Senator from Massachusetts.
thank your friend for his service to our country.
I bet it didn't. Prayers for your friend, a true hero.
Pinging a few friends!
Dang Blurry Screen! Got any Screen Wipes?
No kidding — he sounds like a real class act! Where would our country be without him and guys like him?
Canteen Ping — messed it up the first time.
Weat of the Rockies speaking Japanese and the rest German perhaps.
Probably the truth. Thank God those guys went, even when they didn’t think they’d come home. We are so spoiled today.
Well,... some of us anyway....
I’ll be sending you an E-mail regarding this subject soon.
Thanks for the ping.
They don't actually fire those off their knees, do they?
Manchester writes of them in 'Goodbye Darkness', his memories of WW2 in the Pacific. At first, our troops thought they were ball-mortars when they saw the Japs employ them... mainly due to the fanaticism of the enemy.
Bump for the Proud Ol Sarg.
to read later
Great story, wonderful hero! Thanks! (Makes me all the angrier that Kerry weasled his medals and got away with it.) Well, not quite...God was watching and someday Kerry will have some explaining to do.
Great story. God Bless him!
Won??? It's not a contest. They were EARNED.
Bought the book Lone Survivor last night.
How anyone could support a blackheart (no pun intended) like Obama defies my comprehension.
Nope. They are a small mortar which fired hand grenades with a small propellant charge attached to the bottom. They have a curved baseplate which is meant to be placed on the ground, but looks like it would fit against the curve of the thigh of a kneenimg man. Many US soldiers assumed this was the correct firing position, supposedly resulting in many broken legs when they tried captured mortars. I’ve seen one in a museum, and they are pretty simple.
Our Hero/Vets of WW II are passing from the scene. We need to hear their stories so that we can pay proper respects to them for what they and their comrades, who didn’t make it to today, have given us. Even those who did not face combat have stories that must be heard, after all had they not done their jobs the combat veterans would not have been able to do what they did.
Thank you all for your kind words about Delbert. He truly is a wonderful man, has never sought any recognition for his sacrifice.
I’m printing out your comments to give to him on my next visit.
I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have spent lots of hours fishing with him. He used to not talk much about his experiences, but little by little he told me his story while we’d be fishing. He has cancer, and is growing weaker every day. The past year or so he has talked more about his experiences. I have a copy of the citation he received with his Silver Star. He also has a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
He told me they were on one of the islands and saw some “headhunters.” To hear and see these things was really something for a little country boy who’d never been more than 40 miles from his hometown.
Just read your great vanity post
My prayers for this grand old veteran who was also yr fishing buddy
“Thanks. I see the knee mortar legend lives on.
They don’t actually fire those off their knees, do they?”
Not more than once. Just a mistaken nickname. It gets you a broken thigh. The base plate is meant to be placed on the ground.
Thanks for letting us get to know of him.
Thanks, both of you.
I talked to Delbert today, he was feeling better than he has in a while, and has received lots of cards from folks after the story ran in the newspaper.
An update for all of you who commented on WWII hero Delbert Fellers.
He died last night (Memorial Day) at 9.p.m., will be buried with full military honors Thursday.
Prayers for Mr. Fellers and you.
Thank you so much. Delbert is in Heaven right now with his “sweetest little mountain girl,” my Mom’s cousin Margaret.
Delbert was an avid bass angler, so I am sure God will let him catch a few trophy bass there.