This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we'll highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.
Imagine that the ship carrying you to the D-Day invasion landing is sinking. You make it to Normandy’s shores, just to get injured days later in the fighting. Then, after you return to the battlefield a month later, you’re injured again with shrapnel right below your right eye.
And those events were just the lead-up to what earned you the Medal of Honor.
It sounds intense, and it was – but that was life on the front lines for Army Tech. Sgt. Forrest Everhart during World War II.
Everhart grew up in Bainbridge, Ohio, and joined the National Guard in 1940, shortly before his infantry division was called to active duty in preparation for World War II. Everhart spent a few years on duty in the U.S. and was able to get married before he was shipped off to England on April 5, 1944, in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
Part of Everhart’s 19th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach on June 6, but his unit, the 359th Infantry Regiment, was stuck on the ship Susan B. Anthony right off the coast, which hit a mine in the English Channel and sunk. Luckily, he and his fellow troops were rescued by nearby transport ships and delivered to the shore, where they joined in the fighting.
Everhart was injured by shrapnel during the first few days after the invasion, and again in August. But it wouldn’t be until the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 1944, when he faced his greatest challenge.
Everhart was commanding a platoon in northeastern France when German tanks and infantry forces cut through his unit’s left flank, threatening to overrun that side’s only remaining machine gunner.
The tech sergeant immediately jumped into action, running 400 yards – the equivalent of four football fields – through the woods, dodging artillery and mortar shells to get to that position. He directed the machine gunner to fire toward the Germans, who were swarming toward them. Everhart then charged , tossing grenades and killing 30 men before the rest of the enemy decided to withdraw.
But they weren’t finished – and neither was Everhart -- who ran back through the woods, all the way to his unit’s right flank. This time, he killed 20 more Germans before they chose to retreat.
Everhart’s actions inspired his troops to keep going and not fall back, which was key to the unit repelling the counterattack and keeping the Germans from crossing over an important bridge in the area. For this, he was presented the Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 23, 1945.
Everhart was discharged from the Army after the war and reunited with his wife and son. When they returned to Ohio, a parade was held in his honor.
He spent the next 37 years working in his home state for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He and his wife went on to have five more children.
On Aug. 30, 1986, Everhart died at the age of 64 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with other military heroes, where his contributions will never be forgotten.