When he came ashore at Utah beach a few weeks after the Allied landing at Normandy, he was mistakenly told that his best buddy from Amsterdam Richie Dantini had been killed on D-Day. The news filled him with rage. He spent the next several weeks of the War feeding off that rage to avenge Dantini’s death. And even after he later learned that Dantini had not been killed but instead was seriously wounded, he continued to fight the Germans with a fury few others possessed.
According to an interview with Marnell’s daughter Sandra that appeared in a blog published by Albany, New York’s Times Union Newspaper, her Dad and his crew of South Side buddies had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they headed into service one after the other in 1942. They were young and naïve but also both confident and brave. Boot camps and training exercises taught them how to follow commands, perform battlefield maneuvers and use their weapons but there was no way to prepare these young men for the horrors and destruction and death they were about to become part of.
Marnell was a soldier in Patton’s Third Army, assigned to the 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. After hitting Utah Beach about one-month after D-Day, his elite unit was at the spearhead of Patton’s historic drive to Germany, liberating every French town and city they encountered along the way. Marnell’s most heroic moment occurred just outside of the French city of Metz, which had been heavily fortified by the enemy and was being strenuously defended by the German Army.
With his unit pinned down near the city’s airport by enemy anti-aircraft and machine gun fire, squad leader Marnell crawled by himself along a twenty foot ditch filled with fire, took out the German guns with a grenade and then single handedly captured seven of the enemy soldiers who were defending that position. Not only did his action prevent his own infantry platoon from being decimated by those German guns, it also cleared the attack path that led to the taking of the airport by US troops. During his effort Marnell had been hit in the arms legs and chest with exploding shrapnel.
Per Department of Defense Code, soldiers in the US Army are awarded the Distinguished Service Cross if and only if “their act or acts of heroism are so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.” Richard Marnell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions outside that Metz airport. He also received his first Purple Heart. Before the fighting was over, he would see action in a total of five major battles and receive two more Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf clusters. The man was a true American Warrior.
He was also Amsterdam’s most decorated War hero and Tech. Sergeant Marnell was given the honor of…