It takes a lot of bravery to move ahead in battle by yourself. That’s what Army Maj. Carlos Carnes Ogden did when his unit was pinned down in the early days of the quest to liberate France during World War II. His dedication and leadership earned him the Medal of Honor.
Ogden was born May 9, 1917, and raised in Fairmount, Illinois, by his parents, Ray and Myrtle Ogden. He had two younger siblings, a sister named June and a brother, Robert.
After high school, Ogden attended Eastern Illinois University, where he was a standout on its football and basketball teams. However, by the spring of 1941, as the threat of World War II loomed, he was drafted into the Army. By November 1942, he’d been commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served as an instructor at Camp Roberts in central California before joining the 79th Infantry Division, which deployed to Europe in April 1944.
After the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944, the Allies had gained a foothold into France. In order to keep it, they needed to secure the port city of Cherbourg. The 79th was one of the divisions sent to capture it from the Germans.
Allied troops reached the city by June 22 and found it well-defended, especially Fort du Roule, which was built deep into the rocks surrounding the harbor and was reinforced by German pillboxes, gun emplacements and other defenses. It took U.S. troops three days to push close enough to make their final assault on the town.
On the morning of June 25, 1944, the 79th’s 314th Infantry Regiment was tasked with taking the fort. Then-1st Lt. Ogden had just taken over Company K of the 3rd Battalion from its wounded commander when they became pinned down by two enemy machine guns and an 88 mm gun.
Ogden knew he had to do something for them to survive, so he grabbed an M1 rifle, a grenade launcher and several grenades, then moved up a slope on his own toward the fort’s emplacements. Along the way, a machine gun bullet glanced off his head, knocking him down. The wound was painful, and more close-range enemy fire was headed his direction, but Ogden continued the climb anyway.
He eventually reached a vantage point where he was able to successfully take out the 88 mm gun using the grenade launcher. Then he chucked the hand grenades, which knocked out the two machine guns.
Ogden was injured a second time in the process, but his heroics inspired the men around him to push harder and reach their objectives. The attacks gradually led to various sections of the fort’s top level to surrender. When all of Cherbourg was taken, it gave the Allies the ability to use the port for essential supplies that would sustain American forces liberating France.
Ogden was nominated for the Medal of Honor and received it May 30, 1945, a few weeks after victory in Europe had been declared. Army Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch III presented it to the first lieutenant during a ceremony in Augsburg, Germany. Another soldier from the 314th Infantry Regiment earned the Medal of Honor for his actions that day; however, Cpl. John D. Kelly, 23, didn’t survive the war to receive it in person.
Ogden remained in the Army for two more years, reaching the rank of major before leaving the service in 1947. For about a decade after that, he worked as a counselor for the Department of Veterans Affairs at a VA hospital in San Jose, California, where he chose to settle after the war.
At some point, he married a woman named Louise Sanford, and they had four sons.
In 1958, Ogden became a manager for the San Jose Chamber of Commerce. In 1967, he became the state’s director of selective service on Gov. Ronald Reagan’s recommendation. At that time, he was also vice president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, president of the United Veterans’ Council and a former president of the San Jose Kiwanis Club.
He also turned down numerous requests to run for Congress, according to Eastern Illinois University.
Ogden never forgot his military roots. His alma mater said that in 1956, he went to France as a member of the official U.S. delegation to attend the dedication of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Two years later, at the invitation of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he served as an honorary pallbearer at the internment of the World War II and Korea Unknown service members at Arlington National Cemetery. Ogden was also invited in 1964 to serve as one of 15 people from the U.S. to attend France’s 20th anniversary commemoration of the Invasion of Normandy.
According to the San Jose City Council, Ogden spent much of his post-war life participating in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and a variety of youth sports leagues.
Ogden died on April 2, 2001, in Palo Alto, California. His Los Angeles Times obituary said his death was due to complications from several strokes and a long battle with cancer.
Ogden is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.
Source: Department of Defense