RIP Mike Colalillo, MOH, WWII

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RIP Mike Colalillo, MOH, WWII

We've lost another hero....

Mike Colalillo, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for an extraordinary machine gun assault on German soldiers toward the end of World War II that inflicted 25 enemy casualties, died Dec. 30 at a nursing facility in Duluth, Minn. He was 86.

He had congestive heart failure, said his son, Al Colalillo.

I'll come back to the Washington Post story in a minute, but his actual citation is pretty awesome reading:


He was pinned down with other members of his company during an attack against strong enemy positions in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany. Heavy artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire made any move hazardous when he stood up, shouted to the company to follow, and ran forward in the wake of a supporting tank, firing his machine pistol. Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire. When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, he climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned an exposed machinegun on the turret of the vehicle, and, while bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machinegun. Maintaining his extremely dangerous post as the tank forged ahead, he blasted 3 more positions, destroyed another machinegun emplacement and silenced all resistance in his area, killing at least 3 and wounding an undetermined number of riflemen as they fled. His machinegun eventually jammed; so he secured a submachinegun from the tank crew to continue his attack on foot. When our armored forces exhausted their ammunition and the order to withdraw was given, he remained behind to help a seriously wounded comrade over several hundred yards of open terrain rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage. By his intrepidity and inspiring courage Pfc. Colalillo gave tremendous impetus to his company's attack, killed or wounded 25 of the enemy in bitter fighting, and assisted a wounded soldier in reaching the American lines at great risk of his own life.



A little more about Mike, and his life away from the field of battle:


A few weeks later, he was approached by two military police officers who escorted him to a nearby headquarters. He recalled later that he thought he was under arrest. He was informed that the tank’s commander had nominated him for the Medal of Honor, which he received in December 1945 at a White House ceremony.

Mr. Colalillo said his boyhood friends in Minnesota were surprised by the award and told him, “How could a little twerp like you get the Medal of Honor?”

Michael Colalillo was born Dec. 1, 1925, in Hibbing, Minn., and grew up in West Duluth. His parents were Italian immigrants and had nine children.

After his mother died, he dropped out of school at 16 to support the family. He worked in a bakery where he said he “did everything from cleaning pans to putting jelly in the Bismarcks,” a type of pastry.

After his military service, Mr. Colalillo worked for an ironworks and was seriously injured on the job when one of his arms got caught in a conveyor belt. He never fully recovered. He later was a foreman at a warehouse near the Duluth harbor and retired in the late 1980s.

His wife of 61 years, Lina Nissila Colalillo, died in 2007. Their daughter Joanne Colalillo died in 2001.


RIP Sir.


Posted in the burner | 16 comments
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Thank You!! and God Bless!! RIP!

Thanks for your service and earning the MOH. You are truly a hero. God Bless you and may you RIP. AIr Force Vet 1967-1971.

Because of selfless men like this, Americans still enjoy freedoms that go unnoticed and unthanked by many who take freedom for granted. I salute you, Pfc. Cloalillo and admire your valor and service to this great country. "For those who fight, freedom has a certain ring that the protected will never know."

Americans like Mike are what made this country great!

We have all forgotten what gave us our Liberties and Freedom, It was Men like PFC Cloalillo and many others who stepped up to adversity to give us these. I salute you my friend and may the good lord give you peace and comfort.

Dear Mike;
Thanks for your service. I feel honored to say my goodbye to you. I hope that you join up with your wife & daughter in the heaven that I just know that you are in. I pray that you & yours find peace that you so rightfully deserve. Thank you so very much it's hero's like that we feel so honored to be near. Rest in Peace, Mike.

Thanks and glory to those like Pfc. Colalillo. I am forever proud to be an American because of the actions of men and women, in and out of the military, performing selflessly for their family and country. May God lift Pfc. Colalillo up and say to him, "In you, I am happy. Welcome home." This is my prayer.

Well done! Where do we find such men as these, and what have we done to deserve them?
This is true courage.

Your Bravery and Heroism will never be forgotten!!! God Bless You My Veteran Brother!!

God Bless You Mike,,This current generation will never know what you've done for them and this generation will NEVER produce the tenacity and guts you showed,,because they are spoiled, over weight and downright lazy to think of ever defending this great nation,,what a pity it is to watch this...

Job well done. Thank you and welcone home brother.

He is part of the reason we won that war. R.I.P my brother American.


I, too, was born in Hibbing, MN and lived in Duluth and knew very well of PFC Colalillo's heroism. Even as a veteran I cannot imagine the bravery and competence of this man in such extraordinary circumstances. Mike, we will never forget you.

Everyone who puts on a uniform and takes the oath is a hero. Less than 1% of America's youth today have taken a stand for freedom. Medal of Honor recipients are received by those where someone lived long enough to tell their story. Mike's physical stature may have been small, like Audie Murphy, but like Murphy, inside was the heart and courage of a lion. Mike, like others who have come before him are the real superheroes, not the jerks in pro sports, or the Hollywood crowd our media portrays as superstars and heroes. None hold a candle to those who keep us free. Rest in peace brother!

My son and I salute you PFC Colalillo. We are both Air Force veterans who served in different wars, but nothing like you went through. I am a Vietnam vet who eventually served for 26 yrs. before retiring. My son has been to Iraq/Afganistan for seven (7) tours and luckily has survived them all. He has been in for 20 yrs and will probably retire sometime this year. My family knows what you did for us and our nation and we thank you for it. Rest in peace Mike!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.