By Retired Col. John Riley
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Nov. 21, 2018) — While there are many facilities and streets on Fort Leonard Wood named for notable Army officers, the Army has also memorialized its enlisted heroes around post as well. Perhaps the most prominent is Staff Sgt. Archer Gammon for whom Gammon Field is named. Every year, Gammon Field is host to physical training formations, military ceremonies and community events.
However, few stop to think about the man behind the name.
Gammon was a platoon sergeant in the 9th Armored Infantry Regiment, 6th Armor Division. In early January 1945, Gammon single-handedly destroyed two enemy machine gun positions with grenades while running through hip-deep snow near Bastogne, Belgium. With his platoon under fire from a German King Tiger tank and supporting infantry grenadiers, Gammon rushed forward of his platoon and killed two of the enemy riflemen, forcing the tank to begin its withdrawal. Gammon was killed moments later by a direct hit from the retreating Tiger tank’s 88mm main gun, but his platoon was able to regroup and force the continued withdrawal of the enemy unit. Gammon was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, which saved his platoon and forced an enemy retreat.
Gammon is just one of many enlisted Soldiers honored around the fort. In the northeast section of the cantonment area, many of the street names also serve to memorialize such heroes, many of whom are native sons of Missouri.
Here are just a few examples:
Hatler Street: M. Waldo Hatler was born in Bolivar, Missouri, and was living in Neosho, Missouri, when he entered service with the 89th Division during World War I. Sgt. Hatler received the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat in the Meuse-Argonne campaign in 1918. Swimming across the Meuse River, Hatler was able to penetrate enemy lines to gather intelligence about the enemy’s positions, which were of great value to the allies.
Peden Place: Forrest Peden was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, and served in the 3rd Infantry Division as an Artillery Forward Observer. When the company he was supporting came under attack by an enemy battalion near Biesheim, France, in February 1945, Technician 5 Peden engaged in hand-to-hand combat, rendered first aid to fellow Soldiers, then ran 800 yards under fire to get tank support for his unit. Peden was killed while directing the tanks into the engagement. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions, which allowed the reinforcements to reach his comrades and drove off the enemy assault force.
Parrish Street: Technician 4 Lavern Parrish also received the Medal of Honor posthumously for actions in World War II. A native of Knox City, Missouri, Parrish was serving with the 25th Infantry division in Luzon, Philippine Islands, in January 1945, when his company was attacked by a large Japanese force. Under constant hostile fire, Parrish — a medic — made repeated crossings of an open field to recover wounded comrades. In all, Parrish personally recovered four wounded men from the field and treated 37 casualties in his unit before being mortally wounded himself by enemy mortar fire which was deliberately targeted at him.
(Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the May 23, 2013, edition of the GUIDON.)