When exploring the lives of military heroes, one often finds their battlefield achievements bordering on the super-human. No way could mere mortals face such overwhelming odds and live to tell about them with a sense of humility and grace, saying that they merely did their jobs, which further grips us in awe of them.
Take Charles E. Kelly for example. Born into poverty in 1920 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as one of eight brothers, he enlisted in May, 1942, and found himself looking through bars of a stockade twice for going AWOL. Later he admitted he just needed time alone and never considered the consequences of his infractions. Hardly a promising start to his superiors.
Yet, like another celebrated warrior named Audie Murphy, whose inauspicious beginnings and frequent visits to sick bay almost kept him from ever firing a shot, such deeds can be deceiving. As he deployed in September 1943, as part of the amphibious group bound for the beaches of Salerno, Italy, one could surmise, not even he could have imagined the feats he would accomplish in the coming days. One of which would leave jaws agape after it was discovered that one man had pretty much done it all.
Private Kelly landed ashore as part of L Company, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division and experienced his first combat on September 10th. He began volunteering for dangerous missions immediately, with one of these occurring September 13th, when he started a crawl some two miles across a no man’s land filled with artillery and sniper fire to scout an occupied hill. With close calls from beginning to end he succeeded, and returned with vital information. Private Kelly selected three men and set out again to scout the area around the town of Altavilla.