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June 6, 1944: Richard Kersting ‘42

Richard Kersting Comp.jpgOn the seventy-fourth anniversary of the Day of Days, let’s give thanks to a Dartmouth man who died in the Battle of Normandy. Richard Kersting ‘42 landed on D+3, and before he was killed by a landmine on July 26, 1944, he performed an act of heroism that was sufficient for General Mark Clark to nominate him for the Medal of Honor.

In addition to being educated as a combat engineer, Kersting also underwent Ranger training — you might call him a liberal arts soldier. And beyond that background, he played football at the College, where he said that he assimilated important lessons from head coach Earl (Red) Blaik, “Coach Blaik taught us to think while in motion, never leave an opening for the opponent, keep an eye on the ball and cash in on the other guy’s mistakes.” And that’s just what Kersting did in Normandy during a small battle where a combination of bluff, daring, good shooting, and no little luck led him to receive the Distinguished Service Cross (I can’t find any information on what happened to his Medal of Honor nomination). Here is his citation:

For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy on 11 July 1944, in France. Second Lieutenant Kersting and the men with him, while proceeding on foot in advance of a tank, encountered about 40 enemy soldiers. A running fight developed with the Germans resisting from house to house. Second Lieutenant Kersting led his men in an assault in which 10 of the enemy were killed and the remaining Germans took cover in one of the houses. Then, while covered by the fire of the other soldiers and the tank, Second Lieutenant Kersting though exposed to enemy fire, fearlessly made his way to the door of the house, kicked it in and called to the Germans to surrender. Led by their officer the Germans laid down their arms, came out of the house and surrendered. As the last of these soldiers left the building, Second Lieutenant Kersting observed the muzzle of a rifle protruding from another door in the same building. He pinned himself to the wall as a shot was fired at him and then killed the enemy soldier who had fired the shot. The aggressive leadership and personal bravery displayed by Second Lieutenant Kersting reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.

Kersting graduated from McGuffey High School in Oxford, Ohio in June, 1937, before he was 16 years of age. He had been class president for three years, president of the Glee Club, and he had worked on the school paper and the yearbook. He competed in football, basketball and track. Before coming to Dartmouth, he had briefly attended both Ohio State University and Miami University. Kersting left Dartmouth just months prior to graduation to enlist on April 24, 1942 as a private in the U.S. Army. He had planned to return to Dartmouth after his military service to continue his pre-med studies.

Addendum: Richard Kerstin lies buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. Plot: H Row: 5 Grave: 29.

Addendum: This description comes from a carefully researched profile of Richard Kersting’s short life and military service written by Ted Bracken ‘65. It is part of a series by Bracken concerning Dartmouth men who died in Normandy in June and July of 1944. He assembled the portraits as background for the Class of 1965’s journey to Normandy in June, 2016. The trip was planned and led by Professor Tom Long ‘65 of George Washington University, whose course on the Normandy invasion Bracken audited in the first half of 2016. The trip had logistical support from the Alumni Travel Office (special thanks to Robin Albing T’81), and research was conducted in the months prior to the June 4-12, 2016 trip in Rauner Library, and the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Addendum: Ted Bracken writes in:

As with the other four Dartmouth lads interred at Colleville-sur-Mer, a DUSA “challenge coin” has been placed reverently in the soil in front of his grave marker.

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