Baron, Melvin, Pvt

Fallen
 
 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Private
Last Service Branch
Infantry
Last Primary MOS
745-Rifleman
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1943-1944, 745, 1st Special Service Force (The Devil's Brigade)
Service Years
1943 - 1944

Private



Two Overseas Service Bars


 Last Photo   Personal Details 


Home State
Connecticut
Connecticut
Year of Birth
1925
 
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Casualty Info
Home Town
Moodus, Connecticut
Last Address
Rome, Italy
Buried at Congregation Rodfe Zedek, East Haddam, Connecticut.

Casualty Date
Jun 04, 1944
 
Cause
Hostile, Died
Reason
IED-Improvised Explosive Device
Location
Italy
Conflict
WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Rome-Arno Campaign (1944)
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot: WW II vet.

 Official Badges 




 Unofficial Badges 




 Military Association Memberships
World War II Fallen
  1944, World War II Fallen [Verified]

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 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award
Basic Parachutist (1 Combat Jump)
Rifle
Recoilless Rifle
Auto Rifle

 
 Unit Assignments
1st Special Service Force (The Devil's Brigade)
  1943-1944, 745, 1st Special Service Force (The Devil's Brigade)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1943-1943 WWII - Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Aleutian Islands Campaign (1942-43)
  1944-1944 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Rome-Arno Campaign (1944)
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Jackie Michael, now 80, remembers the summer of 1944 and the deep sadness in the synagogue in Moodus when they heard that Ida and Isadore Baron's eldest son, Melvin, was killed in action in Italy. A Ner Tamid, or eternal light, was dedicated to the 19-year-old private and hung above the Ark in the little temple along North Moodus Road. The light still hangs above the Ark at the Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek synagogue in Chester, which has absorbed the Moodus congregation. Now, thanks to recent efforts by Michael, new information has been uncovered about Pvt. Melvin Baron's role in World War II. 

On Saturday, just a few days before Veterans Day, local historian Philip R. Devlin gave a talk at the Hadlyme Congregational Church in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Baron's death during the Anzio campaign. Devlin, a retired Haddam English teacher, revealed that Baron had served with the Devil's Brigade, the celebrated commando unit that first saw service in Italy. Known as the 1st Special Service Force, the joint American and Canadian unit was a forerunner of the Green Berets and Navy SEALs. "These guys inspired terror among the Germans," Devlin said. "They were trained in hand-to-hand combat and could kill with their bare hands." Michael, who grew up across the street from the Baron family dairy farm in Moodus, said she is gratified to finally know Baron's full story. "We never knew Melvin belonged to this special unit," said Michael, who now lives in Haddam. "His parents didn't even know where he died or how." 

Baron's story emerged earlier this year after Michael published a tribute to Baron in her synagogue's online newsletter. On an off chance, the posting was read by a woman researching the 1st Special Service Force for its 68th reunion, held in August in Helena, Mont., where the force was trained. "She contacted me and told me that Melvin Baron served with this unit," Michael said. "I was surprised and wanted to know more." So Michael turned to Devlin, who spent six months piecing together Baron's story. "The more I delved into this, the more fascinating it became," Devlin said. "It's really remarkable." 

The exploits of the unit were celebrated in a 1968 movie, "The Devil's Brigade," starring William Holden as Lt. Col. Robert T. Frederick, who transforms a band of misfits into a crack commando force that scaled the 1,000-foot cliff face of Monte la Defensa in Italy at night to capture the German stronghold. That was in December 1943, when the Allies were stalled in their push toward the pass below Monte Cassino, held by the Germans. The American losses were overwhelming, and the Devil's Brigade lost half its 1,200 men. The Allied command determined that a flanking maneuver involving a beachhead landing at Anzio, close to Rome, would be the principal objective. Ranger battalions were chosen to lead the landing, and suffered 70 percent casualties.

Baron's group was sent in as a reserve. Loggers, miners, ranchers and even a few criminals were recruited for Frederick's elite mountain troops, whose training included parachuting, mountaineering, skiing and demolition. The hand-to-hand combat instructor, Pat O'Neill, taught the men to attack the eyes, throat and groin. It was at Anzio that the unit got the name Devil's Brigade, or Black Devils, from the men's practice of smearing their faces with boot polish for night raids. The men were armed with a dagger, the V-42 Stiletto, designed for close combat. They had their own calling card, left on victims with the words "The Worst Is Yet to Come" printed in German below the unit's spear point emblem. 

Devlin is not sure how Baron, a farm boy from Moodus, ended up with the unit, but he suspects it was because of his athletic ability - he was a standout baseball player at Nathan Hale-Ray High School. Also, his farm experience made him familiar with operating trucks and machinery. 

At Anzio, an amphibious landing on a shelf of beach surrounded by high cliffs required the element of surprise, but the Allies, after taking the beach, were slow to move, allowing the Germans to reinforce their positions on the bluff above. The battle raged for more than four months before the Fifth Army began its breakout offensive on May 25, 1944. By then, more than 5,000 American and British soldiers had been killed. Baron did not die at Anzio as had been believed, Devlin discovered. 

The 1st Special Service Force was picked to lead the way to Rome, and it was there, driving a truck near the head of the column, that Baron was hit by fire from a German tank. Baron and six of his comrades were killed. It was June 4, 1944, the day Rome was liberated by the Allies. 

Baron was buried at the Allied cemetery at Anzio until 1948, when his remains and those of 82 other Connecticut soldiers were returned home. Baron now lies in the Jewish cemetery in East Haddam. 

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-veterans-day-war-hero-1111-20141107-story.html
   
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