published Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Chattanooga WWII Medal of Honor recipient Charles Coolidge to appear in set of stamps

IF YOU GO

• What: A special stamp dedication ceremony honoring Charles Coolidge.

• When: Wednesday, Nov. 13, at noon

• Where: The Crest Center of the Signal Crest United Methodist Church, 1005 Ridgeway Ave., Signal Mountain

  • photo
    Nine living WWII Medal of Honor winners, including Chattanoogan Charles Coolidge, are featured in a Postal Service stamp commemorative issue being released on Veterans Day.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In the Chattanooga area, two parks and a highway are named after Charles Coolidge. But starting next week his name and face will be celebrated across the country.

The 92-year-old Signal Mountain native is among a dozen World War II Medal of Honor recipients whose youthful photos are featured alongside one another in a new set of Forever stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service this month.

Coolidge is one of just nine recipients of the nation's most prestigious military honor living today, out of the 464 Americans who received the honor during the war.

In a statement, the U.S. Postal Service said they were "including the photographs of the living recipients on the stamp sheet as an appropriate way to recognize the living," while still paying tribute to all 464 recipients whose names are included in the Forever stamp "prestige folio."

Three of those included on the stamp sheet died before the new set was completed, including Vernon McGarity, of Memphis.

The new "World War II Medal of Honor" Forever stamp series will go on sale Monday, Veterans Day, and a special dedication ceremony honoring Coolidge will be held Nov. 13.

Coolidge joins New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs and blues singer Bessie Smith in the ranks of Chattanoogans who have been commemorated in a postage stamp series.

Coolidge, for whom Chattanooga's downtown riverfront park is named, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945..

Coolidge earned the medal during a four-day battle that started Oct. 24, 1944, along a ridge in Belmont sur Buttant, France. The then-U.S. Army Sgt. Coolidge took battlefield command of a group of recently arrived soldiers when they ran into a German infantry company escorted by tanks.

The German company repeatedly assaulted Coolidge's machine gun unit, but the men repelled the attacks.

At one point, "Coolidge armed himself with a bazooka and advanced to within 25 yards of the tanks. His bazooka failed to function and he threw it aside. Securing all the hand grenades he could carry, he crawled forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing enemy," according to the official citation. He then led his other men to do the same.

In 2006, France made Coolidge a knight of the Legion of Honor, that country's highest honor.

"When you talk about 'the greatest generation,' you couldn't pick a better model than Charles H. Coolidge," said Jim Wade, executive director of the National Medal Museum of Military History in Hixson.

"He came through the Depression, saw continuous fighting for two years during the war, came home, rejoined the family business. He had a family and settled on Signal Mountain. He still goes into the office just about every day, and works with his sons."

Chattanooga Printing and Engraving, Coolidge's family company, has operated in the city for more than 100 years.

Coolidge became acquainted with a number of the other men who received the Medal of Honor, and knows he is among the last of those living who were given the honor for action during World War II, Wade said.

Two other local World War II Medal of Honor recipients include Rising Fawn, Ga., resident Desmond Doss, who died in 2006, and Cleveland native Paul Huff, who died in 1994.

While Coolidge was "honored" to represent those who received the award through the new stamp set, he has continued to say his actions in Belmont sur Buttant were "only about his men."

"It was all about taking care of his men, those men on the ridge line," Wade said. "He has emphasized that over and over. It was about his men."

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

Charles Coolidge

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