Letters from War – Sergeant Irvin Schwartz receives the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge

This is part of our “Letters from War” series documenting the World War II letters of Irvin Schwartz of Pine Grove, PA. The letters were all published in the West Schuylkill Press-Herald between 1943 and 1945. 

Read the previous letter here


In May 1945, the West Schuylkill Press-Herald ran the story that their former employee and long-time war correspondent Irvin Schwartz had received the Distinguished Service Cross for his gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

Here’s the story they shared on May 25, 1945:

S/Sgt. Schwartz Gets DSC Medal

Army’s Second Highest Award

The United States Army’s second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, has been awarded to Staff Sergeant Irvin R. Schwartz, son of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Schwartz, of Pleasant Valley. The young hero is a former reporter for the PRESS-HERALD.

Only the Congressional Medal of Honor outranks the Distinguished Service Cross.

The medal was pinned on Sgt. Schwartz by Major General Andrews, commander of the First Infantry Division, in the presence of hundreds of war correspondents, photographers, army officers, and enlisted men, and a dinner in his honor was given later in the day by his Company and Regimental officers.

The dinner was attended also by United States War Photographer Bill Kreuger of New York City.

Sgt. Schwartz received the coveted DSC for “extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy on December 21, 1944 in Belgium.”

When Major General Andrews pinned the medal on his tunic, the said, “Sergeant Schwartz, this is a mighty fine thing. You know, it’s brave men like you that have put the Germans where they are, and have licked the best they could show us. And you know that at time it was a hell of a lot. It’s men like you that make me feel extra proud of my own Division of men, and I feel proud to have the opportunity of pinning this highly distinguished medal on you.”

Schwartz DSC - Boran Photo
Sergeant Irvin Schwartz receives the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 (Photograph courtesy of Penny Boran)

The citation accompanying the award reads as follows:

“Staff Sergeant Irvin R. Schwartz (then Corporal), 33624661, 26th Infantry, United States Army.

For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy on 21 December 1944 in Belgium. As his anti-tank gun position was fired upon by advancing hostile infantrymen, Staff Sergeant Schwartz first his rifle and killed three Germans at close range. Unable to effect a penetration, the enemy summoned four tanks which levelled intense cannon and machine gun fire upon him.

Staff Sergeant Schwartz fired his anti-tank gun at the lead vehicle, setting it ablaze. As the remaining tanks and foot soldiers pushed forward, he knocked out the second tank less than ten yards away. A shell from another tank destroyed his weapon, but Staff Sergeant Schwartz organized his remaining crew members as riflemen and assisted in repelling the enemy thrust. Entered military service from Pennsylvania.

Signed

Courtney H. Hodges,

Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

Commanding.”

Schwartz Tank Social
A 1945 newspaper headline showing one of the tanks destroyed by Irvin Schwartz in December 1944

In writing to his parents about receiving the DSC, Schwartz said he was taken by complete surprise when he was ordered to leave the front lines and return to headquarters to receive the award. He said that in the action for which he was cited he felt that he “was only doing his duty,” and of course, in the heat of the battle was oblivious to the dangers to which he exposed himself, but when the encounter was over, and the results taken, there was jubilation and celebration in his quarters.

He said he believes his picture was taken “a million times” and that he was congratulated by someone from every state in the United States, from privates in the Army, to top-ranking Generals.

Irvin Schwartz DSC Full - Boran Photo
Sergeant Irvin Schwartz after receiving the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 (Photograph courtesy of Penny Boran)

Sgt. Schwartz also has the Purple Heart for wounds received at Roth, Germany, February 27, 1945; the Bronze Star for military achievement in operations against the enemy; the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge; two Presidential Unit Citations; European Theatre of War ribbon; Good Conduct Medal, and various Battle Stars.

At the dinner in his honor, he was seated at the head of the table, and high-ranking officers paid tribute to him for his bravery and resourcefulness in turning back the enemy attack. Following the dinner he returned to the front lines.

After DSC - Boran Photo
A photograph showing Sergeant Irvin Schwartz (walking left) with his unit around the time he received the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945. (Photograph courtesy of Penny Boran)

The original Citation Certificate was received by mail by his parents.

Sgt. Schwartz is a graduate of Pine Grove High School, class of 19942. He entered the Army on May 7, 1943, was trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and went overseas in November 1943. Prior to entering the service he was employed by the Fox-Knapp Manufacturing Company. He has two brothers, Donald and Curtis, at home, both still attending school.

An avid student of history and geography, he has availed himself of every opportunity, since his arrival on foreign soil, to visit as many places of interest in England, France, Holland, and Germany.  


Featured Image: Sergeant Irvin Schwartz after receiving the Distinguished Service Cross (Photograph Courtesy of Penny Boran) 

This is part of a series titled: “Letters from War.” Read more of the letters written by Irvin Schwartz during World War II


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