Preston, Robert Milton, Cpl

 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1944-1945, POW/MIA
Service Years
1943 - 1945


One Service Stripe

Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Preston, Robert Milton, Cpl.
Contact Info
Home Town
Silver Spring, MD
Last Address
Denton, MD

Date of Passing
Sep 12, 2006
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Sec: 60, Site: 1669

 Official Badges 

Belgian Fourragere Infantry Shoulder Cord Honorably Discharged WW II Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Most decorated platoon of World War II

The Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon from the 394th Infantry Regiment of the 99th division was the most decorated platoon of World War II for action on the first morning of the Battle of the Bulge defending a key road in the vicinity of the Losheim Gap. Led by a 20-year old lieutenant named Lyle Bouck Jr., during a 20-hour long fight with an entire German battalion of over 600 men, the 18 men of the platoon inflicted between 400 and 500 casualties on the Germans. The platoon seriously disrupted the entire German Sixth Army's schedule of attack along the northern edge of the offensive. At dusk on 16 December, about 50 German paratroopers finally flanked the platoon and captured the remaining 15 soldiers. Two who had been sent on foot to regimental headquarters to seek reinforcements had been captured, and a third was killed.

Due to their capture and the general chaos of the Battle of the Bulge, the unit's story was not well known and their heroic stand undocumented until after the war ended. On October 25, 1981, after considerably lobbying and letter-writing by Bouck, every member of the unit was decorated. The platoon was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, and members were given four Distinguished Service Crosses, five Silver Stars, and ten Bronze Stars with V devices, all for their 20 hour struggle with an entire 500 strong German battalion.

In 2004, the book The Longest Winter was published documenting the defensive actions of the platoon. Bouck cooperated with the author, Alex Kershaw, but imposed one condition, "I told him that other authors never wrote about the other men in the platoon, just me. I said I wouldn't talk to him unless he promised that he'd also write about the other men."

Members of the platoon were:

  • PFC William James Tsakanikas (DSC)
  • Tech. Sgt. William L. Slape (DSC)
  • PFC Risto Milsovech (DSC)
  • First Lt. Lyle J. Bouck Jr. (DSC)
  • Pvt. John B. Creger (Silver Star)
  • Pvt. Louis J. Kalil (Silver Star)
  • Cpl. Aubrey P. McGeehee (Silver Star)
  • PFC Jordan H. Robinson (Silver Star)
  • Pvt. James R. Silvola (Silver Star)
  • Pvt. Robert D. Adams (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Pvt. Robert D. Baasch (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Sgt. William D. Dustman (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Pvt. Clifford R. Fansher (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • T/3 James Fort (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Cpl. Samuel L. Jenkins (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Pvt. Joseph A. McConnell (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Cpl. Robert M. Preston (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)
  • Sgt. George H. Redmond (Bronze Star Medal with V device for heroism)

Only one soldier in the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon died in the war or in POW camps. The remaining men all made it home safely after the war, and nearly all were alive when they were finally recognized for their stand in the Battle of the Bulge on October 25, 1981.

Robert Milton Preston, 83, who died September 12, 2006, of arrhythmia at his daughter's home in Monrovia, Maryland, spent most of his life as an electrician working for construction and electrical firms on numerous government buildings in Washington. But before that, he was a reluctant hero in World War II's fierce Battle of the Bulge and a prisoner of war for five months in Germany.

After being drafted into the Army at 20, Corporal Preston landed in England on October 13, 1944. He stayed there for three weeks before being posted across the channel in Butgenbach, Belgium.

Assigned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division, the young soldier ran "sneak and peak" missions along the Ardennes front.


"It was on one such mission that Preston and Sergeant George Redmond observed German movement from his observation post along the Ardennes forest," the Montgomery Journal said in a 1981 article. "The two soldiers reported seeing the troops -- the beginning of the German buildup for the battle."

For their discovery, Corporal Preston and the Sergeant received the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Days later, Corporal Preston and the other members of his platoon positioned themselves in well-dug foxholes on the front near Lanzerath, Belgium, although the intelligence-gathering platoon was not supposed to be directly involved in the fighting.

However, it was. Corporal Preston recalled in the Journal article the early-morning start of the fighting. "The whole valley lit up," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Ordered to "hold at all costs," the platoon held off German troops after three attacks lasting 18 hours. In the end, two American soldiers were killed, and the others, including Corporal Preston, were captured.

Corporal Preston was detained in a German prison camp for five months. Food was scarce, the weather was bitterly old and living conditions were unsanitary. He suffered frostbite and many indignities, said his daughter, Pamela Richter of Pasadena, who said her father rarely spoke of his imprisonment and didn't consider himself a hero, as some had called him and the others.

"If you'd been there, you'd have done the same thing," Corporal Preston said in 1981. "You'd have no choice. But I'd tell you one thing, they'll never get me again. The indignities . . . no way."

Recognition for the small platoon came in October 1981, nearly 37 years after the start of the largest land battle in the Army's history. It followed the 1969 publication of a book, "The Bitter Woods," written by John S.D. Eisenhower, a participant in the campaign and the son of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. More interest came from Congress and the White House in the late 1970s.

The platoon received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism, and Corporal Preston and nine other soldiers were awarded the Bronze Star for valor.

Corporal Preston was born in Denton, Maryland, and attended Woodrow Wilson High School in the District. After World War II, he returned to Washington and joined an apprenticeship program in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26.

A lifetime member of the union, he worked for 24 years with the Walter C. Doe Corp. He applied his skills to numerous government building projects, including the Library of Congress, L'Enfant Plaza, the Smithsonian Institution and Blair House.

He worked at R.M. Thornton Controls before retiring in 1987 from Venture Associates Inc., an electrical firm.


A former resident of Silver Spring, Corporal Preston had lived in Monrovia since January.

He enjoyed reading history and was a Civil War buff. Crossword puzzles also held his interest, as well as watching the Washington Redskins, win or lose.

A man with a tremendous sense of humor, Corporal Preston loved "Seinfeld" reruns. He also enjoyed quoting William Shakespeare, saying often, "Brevity is the soul of wit."

His wife, Margery Washabau Preston, whom he married in 1950, died in 1991.

Besides his daughter, survivors include four other children, Paula Preston of Monrovia, Priscilla Preston-Shoap of Taneytown, Maryland, Robert Preston of Owings and Rebecca Preston of Germantown; a sister; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)/Battle of the Bulge
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The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe. Hitler planned the offensive with the primary goal to recapture the important harbour of Antwerp. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. United States forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred the highest casualties for any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany's war-making resources.

The battle was known by different names. The Germans referred to it as Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), while the French named it the Bataille des Ardennes ("Battle of the Ardennes"). The Allies called it the Ardennes Counteroffensive. The phrase "Battle of the Bulge" was coined by contemporary press to describe the way the Allied front line bulged inward on wartime news maps and became the best known name for the battle.

The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Greif, and Währung. As well as stopping Allied transport over the channel to the harbor of Antwerp, Germany also hoped these operations would split the British and American Allied line in half, and then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favor. Once that was accomplished, Hitler could fully concentrate on the eastern theatre of war.

The offensive was planned by the German forces with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Despite their efforts to keep it secret, the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, and Ultra indicated that a "substantial and offensive" operation was expected or "in the wind", although a precise date or point of attack could not be given. Aircraft movement from the Russian Front and transport of forces by rail, both to the Ardennes, was noticed but not acted upon, according to a report later written by Peter Calvocoressi and F. L. Lucas at the codebreaking centre Bletchley Park.

Near-complete surprise was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance. The Germans attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive around Elsenborn Ridge and in the south around Bastogne blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success; columns that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This and terrain that favored the defenders threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. Improved weather conditions permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.

About 610,000 American forces were involved in the battle,[2] and 89,000 were casualties, including 19,000 killed. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II.
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  351 Also There at This Battle:
  • Accattato, Rocco, PFC, (1943-1945)
  • Adams, Herbert, Pvt, (1941-1945)
  • Bahlau, Frederick Arthur, 1LT, (1942-1945)
  • Beck, Carl, M/Sgt, (1942-1963)
  • Belan, Elmer, T/5, (1943-1945)
  • Bizefski, Joseph Paul, Pvt, (1943-1944)
  • Boehme, Karen
  • Bolio, Robert, Cpl, (1943-1945)
  • Bouck, Lyle Joseph, 1LT, (1940-1945)
  • Brenzel, Frank, T/4, (1944-1946)
  • Burch, Gilbert, T/5, (1944-1946)
  • Burford, Chris
  • Burns, Henry, PFC, (1941-1944)
  • Bush, William Douglas, 1LT, (1942-1951)
  • Carey, Aaron, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • Carlson, Martin, T/5, (1943-1944)
  • Carmer, Richard, T/Sgt, (1943-1946)
  • Chase, George, Sgt, (1943-1945)
  • Cole, Chauncey David, LTC, (1938-1960)
  • Costanzo, Anthony, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • Dallas, Frank J., LTC, (1942-1970)
  • Davol, Rupert
  • Deitz, Wallace, MSG, (1944-1968)
  • Dobozy Jr, Steve, PFC, (1943-1945)
  • Domino, Anthony, Cpl, (1942-1945)
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