Who was Melvin E. Biddle?

Introduction

Melvin Earl “Bud” Biddle (28 November 1923 to 16 December 2010) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration – the Medal of Honour – for his actions in World War II.

Melvin E. Biddle, Medal of Honour recipient.

Early Life

Biddle was born on 28 November 1923, in Daleville, Indiana, to Owen J. and Blanche Olive (Bowen) Biddle. He had two brothers, Ralph and Lee, and three sisters, Marie, Carolyn, and Eileen. A lifelong resident of the area, Biddle attended elementary school in Daleville and graduated from Anderson High School in nearby Anderson, Indiana. He worked for Delco Remy in Anderson until being drafted into the US Army in January 1943.

Military Service

By 23 December 1944, Biddle was serving in Europe as a private first class in Company B of the 1st Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment. On that day and the following day during the Battle of the Bulge, near Soy, Belgium (now a deelgemeente of Érezée), he reconnoitred the German lines alone, killed three enemy snipers, and silenced four hostile machine gun emplacements. A week later, he was wounded in the neck by shrapnel which just missed his jugular vein. After recovering in England for several weeks, he headed back to his unit and on the way learned through an article in Stars and Stripes that he would be awarded the Medal of Honour.

For his actions during the battle near Soy, Biddle was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House on 30 October 1945, by President Harry Truman. When presenting the medal to Biddle, Truman whispered “People don’t believe me when I tell them that I’d rather have one of these than be President.”

Biddle was later promoted to corporal. In addition to the Medal of Honour, he also received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Later Years and Personal Life

On 01 December 1946, Biddle married his childhood sweetheart, Leona Elsie Allen. The couple had two daughters, Elissa and Marsha.

After leaving the military, Biddle returned to Indiana and worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He helped distribute loans and benefits to veterans for 26 years until his retirement. He also served on the Anderson City Council.

Biddle rarely spoke of his Medal of Honour action. He gave occasional interviews and appeared at events honouring veterans but preferred to lead a more private life. He was an avid golfer and a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Biddle died of congestive heart failure on 16 December 2010, at Saint John’s Medical Centre in Anderson following a sudden illness. Aged 87 at his death, he was buried in Anderson’s Memorial Park Cemetery on 20 December. Biddle’s family requested that his funeral be free of military observances for their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. His death date was the 66th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, in which he earned the Medal of Honour, and he was Indiana’s last surviving Medal of Honour recipient from World War II.

Medal of Honour Citation

Biddle’s official Medal of Honour citation reads:

He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy near Soy, Belgium, on 23 and 24 December 1944. Serving as lead scout during an attack to relieve the enemy-encircled town of Hotton, he aggressively penetrated a densely wooded area, advanced 400 yards until he came within range of intense enemy rifle fire, and within 20 yards of enemy positions killed 3 snipers with unerring marksmanship. Courageously continuing his advance an additional 200 yards, he discovered a hostile machine-gun position and dispatched its 2 occupants. He then located the approximate position of a well-concealed enemy machine-gun nest, and crawling forward threw hand grenades which killed two Germans and fatally wounded a third. After signaling his company to advance, he entered a determined line of enemy defense, coolly and deliberately shifted his position, and shot 3 more enemy soldiers. Undaunted by enemy fire, he crawled within 20 yards of a machine-gun nest, tossed his last hand grenade into the position, and after the explosion charged the emplacement firing his rifle. When night fell, he scouted enemy positions alone for several hours and returned with valuable information which enabled our attacking infantry and armor to knock out 2 enemy tanks. At daybreak he again led the advance and, when flanking elements were pinned down by enemy fire, without hesitation made his way toward a hostile machine-gun position and from a distance of 50 yards killed the crew and 2 supporting riflemen. The remainder of the enemy, finding themselves without automatic weapon support, fled panic stricken. Pfc. Biddle’s intrepid courage and superb daring during his 20-hour action enabled his battalion to break the enemy grasp on Hotton with a minimum of casualties.

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