Staff Sergeant Donald "Don" Swackhammer
US Army, WWII, Purple Heart, Silver Star
Remembering - Staff Sergeant Donald Swackhammer - Newspaper Dedications
The following two newspaper articles highlight the WWII heroic actions of SSgt Donald Swackhammer of Benezette. Another local hero we should not forget.
Bennett's Valley Branch has produced a number of war heroes. Recently the Valley feted four of its sons who were home after a long stretch of overseas duty. The men are Tech Sgt Joe Wolfe, Sgt Winfield Bloom, Pfc Robert Burke, and Staff Sgt. Don Swackhammer.
They all have a story but the only complete one we have is that of Swackhammer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Swackhammer of Benezette which follows.
S Sgt Swackhammer who enlisted in the Army before Pearl Harbor, is a member of the Fighting First Division and has been overseas for the past 22 months. He was awarded the Silver Star and the French Citation for saving his entire platoon by destroying a tank with a bazooka and capturing 18 Germans single handed. He is the wearer of the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster for injuries received in the Normandy invasion. In addition to this invasion he participated in the Sicily invasion and took part in major battles in North Africa, France, Belgium, and Germany.
Hammond General Hospital, Modesto, Calif. Jan 25
For gallantry in the vicinity of Montaigu, France on July 31 1944, Staff Sergeant Donald M Swackhammer was cited for the Silver Star Medal by order of Major General Clarence S Huebner, Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division.
S Sgt. Swackhammer, son of Mr. and Mrs. David Swackhammer of Benezette and a graduate of Emporium High School was in the contingent of war-wounded soldiers arriving at Hammond General Hospital recently for specialized treatment.
Single-handed the Pennsylvanian awaited the approach of a monstrous Mark V tank, second largest of the armored German ground vehicles- waited until the rumbling machine that bristled with heavy artillery was hardly more than six feet in front of him.
At point blank range Swackhammer fired his bazooka at the “bogey” traction and the giant vehicle was captured.
Twenty-five yards behind Sergeant Swackhammer was his platoon of infantrymen lying in wait. Failure would have been disastrous for all since the Mark V was equipped with a heavy millimeter gun as well as machine guns of heavy caliber.
In the action S Sgt Swackhammer was wounded by fragments of shell casing that rebounded from the tank.
“I had to fire at close range or else risk the chance of missing. And that’s something you can’t afford to do against one of those babies.” Swackhammer explained. He was back in action in ten days.
On September 18 Swackhammer was approaching Aachen when a burst of German shrapnel got him and this time his wounds necessitated his return to America.
The Benezette youth enlisted at St Marys March 26, 1941 prior to Pearl Harbor. He participated in the Tunisian- African campaigns and in the invasion of Sicily. He was among those who invaded Normandy on D-Day.
In addition to his numerous ribbons and the Silver Star, Sgt Swackhammer is entitled to wear the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Lest We Forget….