Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), 351st Infantry Regiment
Hero From Princeton Is Back Home
Princeton, Mo., Nov. 24. (Special) - First Lieut. Perry J. Cheeney, wearer of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, Mercer County's most decorated hero, has arrived home after two years in the Italian campaign with the 88th (Blue Devil) division, one of the 10 American divisions that slowly drove the Germans north through Italy.
Quiet and unassuming, Lieutenant Cheeney thinks he didn't do much, that the real tribute should go to the men who didn't come back and the ones who lost a leg or an arm, but it was for single-handed storming of two buildings, killing four Germans and capturing six more, that Lieutenant Cheeney proved himself to be a one-man army and received the citation of the Distinguished Service Cross,
The citation reads: "Perry J. Cheeney, first lieutenant, infantry, 351st infantry regiment, 88th divsion (sic), for extraordinary heroism in action on April 29, 1945, in the vicinity of Bassano del Grappa, Italy. On the evening of the 29th, company I, ,351st infantry regiment, crossed the Brenta River and established a bridgehead in that part of the town that lies east of the river. The 2d platoon, commanded by First Lieut. Perry J. Cheeney, moved to the right flank in the suburb of the town. As he led his men toward a group of buildings, machine gun fire from the buildings wounded three of his men and forced the others to seek protection from the grazing fire.
Killed Three Germans.
"Accurate concentrations of artillery fire began to fall near his men, further adding to the confusion and casualties. Determined to remove this menace to his men, Lieutenant Cheeney crawled forward along a small ditch until he was within hand grenade range of the nearest house. Lieutenant Cheeney hurled one well-aimed grenade through a window and killed three Germans who were manning a machine gun. Immediately following up his advantage, Lieutenant Cheeney charged through the doorway, grappled with a German on the lower-floor and finally succeeded in killing him with repeated blows of his carbine stock. At this time two more Germans ran down the stairs from the upper floors and leaped at him. Lieutenant Cheeney killed the first one with a single shot and overpowered the second German as he stumbled over the body of the first.
"Not content with this magnificent accomplishment, Lieutenant Cheeney forced his prisoner to march back to his platoon, while he called a squad of his men into the house. Lieutenant Cheeney directed two of his men to cover him while he rushed the second house, throwing two grenades into the lower floor windows. Faced by this assault, five Germans who were in the upper story surrendered to Lieutenant Cheeney, along with the radio with which they had been adjusting artillery fire on our troops. By his intrepid display of courage and outstanding valor, Lieutenant Cheeney fulfilled the finest fighting traditions of the army and brought new laurels to both himself and his regiment."
Regarding this action Lieutenant Cheeney's runner made the following affidavit: "I was Lieutenant Cheeney's runner in the Po Valley push and I stayed close to him nearly all the time. We were clearing a lot of houses in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, and some of the fellows in the squad got about 75 yards from a house, when a machine gun opened up on the columns from the downstairs window.
"All of us hit the dirt and waited for orders when about 15 rounds of light artillery fire landed 30 yards to our right. Lieutenant Cheeney was about 40 yards from the house and we were right behind a little mound of dirt. He told me to go back and get the platoon and bring them up to the house, and at the same time, he jumped up and ran straight towards the house. He got next to the wall and I saw him take a grenade from his belt and throw it at the windwo. He jumped into the door and then side-stepped to the left. I heard five or six shots and some hollering inside the house. A little later there was more shooting, but about this time I went back and got the platoon. There was more machine gun fire, but the artillery was hitting to our left this time. When I brought the platoon back to the house, Lieutenant Cheeney was not in there. He came out of another house about 30 yeards too to the right, and he had five prisoners. I was the first man in the door of the first house Lieutenant Cheeney entered, and there were three dead Germans huddle up in the lefthand corner. It looked like they had been killed by a hand grenade. There was one dead kraut with his face all battered in, lying in the center of the room and another dead one at the bottom of the stairs. This one was shot right between the eyes. Lieutenant Cheeney was the only one of us who had been in the house and as far as I know the only one who had returned any fire."
Commissioned on Battlefield.
It was the year before, in November 1944, that Tech. Sergt. Lieutenant J. Cheeney received a battlefield commission as second lieutenant, and received the award of the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action.
That citation reads: "Tech. Sergt. Perry J. Cheeney was awarded the Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in action in northern Italy. A platoon sergeant of the 351st regiment, 88th (Blue Devil) division, Sergeant Cheeney personally accounted for three Germans in a charge on his company's objective near Castel del Rio. In spite of strong Nazi counterattack, Cheeney's men pushed on to their objective and held their position until the remainder of the battalion could be moved up. In attacking a hill, heavy casualties necessitated immediate reorganization of the platoon. Cheeney reorganized the unit and, with a flanking movement, by-passed a machine gun which had coused much damage, and then led an assault on the position. In this bold maneuver the platoon killed or captured 18 Germans, seized three machine guns, one mortar and a large quantity of ammunition. Sergeant Cheeney's courage and leadership are exemplary and he is a continual inspiration to this men."
An army new release in August, 1944, said that his regiment, the 351st, had marched and fought continuously for more than five months. It was the first regiment of the 88th division to arrive overseas and the first to earn the Distinguished Unit Badge for a four-day battle resulting in the capture of Laictico (sic) during the Arno River drive in July, 1944.
Lieutenant Cheeney, a sone of Mrs. Austin Cheeney, enlisted in February, 1941. He is the only one from Mercer County to have received the Distinguished Service Cross, and is believed to be the only one to have received the Silver Star and return home.
"Hero From Princeton Is Back Home." The St. Joseph News Press, November 25, 1945. Downloaded from Newspapers.com.