Scott County

Pfc. Earl Mittleberger



Pfc. Earl Mittleberger served in the United States Army with the 114th Engineer’s, Combat Battalion of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division.

The Urbana Force was having a tough time in front of strong defenses around the junction of the trails which forked toward Buna Village and Buna Mission from the Dobodura-Buna track. This area was known as the Triangle. . . .
In evacuating the Triangle the Japanese had given up an immensely strong position that Urbana Force, despite many costly attempts, had found it impossible to take. Going over the ground a day later, General Eichelberger reported to General Sutherland: “I walked along there and found it terrifically strong. It is a mass of bunkers and entrenchments surrounded by swamp. It is easy to see how they held us off so long.
. . . On the afternoon of 28 December, General Eichelberger told Colonel Grose that he was to make an attack on Buna Mission at once; that the attack was to be made by the 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry, from Musita Island; and that the Battalion was to be split into two elements – one to cross on the bridge at the northeast end of the island, the other to move in assault boats from the south side of the island.  
There was a gap in the bridge and it was covered by enemy fire. Six men volunteered to go forward with timbers to span the gap in the footbridge, a hazardous task, as the bridge was about forty feet long. They were: Privates Arthur Melanson and Earl Mittleberger, Technicians Fifth Grade Charles H. Gray and Bart McDonough of Company A, 114th Engineer Battalion, and Privates Elmer R. Hangartner and Edward G. Squires of Company H, 127th Infantry. They succeeded in getting the timbers in place, but when the leading men of Company K started across the pilings, the far end of the bridge collapsed and it was again useless. Pvt. Mittleberger had been killed while on the bridge. He and five men with him were all later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The assault boat crossing was equally unsuccessful. In spite of reconnaissance by Captain Stephen Hewitt (regimental S-2) and energetic leadership by Lieutenant Clarence Riggs and Staff Sergeant Milan J. [Miljatovich] Miljativich, the five assault boats missed direction and landed on the point on the west side of Entrance Creek. Some were sunk.

Pvt. Mittleberger, killed in action on December 28, 1942, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. His citation reads:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Earl Mittleberger (37039378), Private, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company A, 114th Engineer Combat Battalion, 32d Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 28 December 1942, during the Papuan Campaign at Buna, New Guinea. Private Mittleberger's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 32d Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

Headquarters, South West Pacific Area, General Orders No. 10 (1943)