In the last week of October 1944, Sergeant Coolidge and some 30 outnumbered soldiers in his rifle and machine-gun section faced annihilation by German troops with tanks during a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, near the German border.
At one point, two German tanks came within 25 yards of him. A tank commander shouted, “in perfect English, ‘Do you guys wanna give up?’” Mr. Coolidge recalled in a 2014 interview with the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media. His reply: “I’m sorry, Mac, you’ve gotta come and get me.”
“You see your buddy get killed,” and sleep along the ground “every night in every kind of weather,” he said in the 2014 interview. “There are a lot of people scared to death, especially if you’re a replacement, never been in combat.”
As he put it, for all the adulation he received, “there’s no glory in the infantry.”