Thomas Merendino ’41 (Heroism During D-Day)

Merendino '41 b_wThomas Merendino ‘41, often called Tommy, was known as an athlete, scholar and gentleman at PMC. He was a versatile athlete and played football, basketball, and baseball. Yet, it was his smile and good humor that his classmates remembered.

The D-Day mission of the 16th Infantry Regiment was to land on Omaha Beach, the most heavily fortified of the five beaches, reduce the beach defenses, and secure the Beach two hours before dark. As the regiment’s landing craft approached the Beach, they came under intense fire. As the assault wave slowly built up a firing line, Company B, led by Captain Merendino, landed ten minutes after the first assault wave. The scene was described as chaotic and disorganized. As landing craft dropped their ramps, men were killed and wounded as they attempted to get out of the boats. Others were hit as they struggled through the surf or tried to run across the sand weighted down with waterlogged equipment.

Merendino disembarked from the landing craft in the initial assault wave and, with complete disregard for his own safety, organized the men who were struggling in the water and led them through the intense enemy fire to the shore. Upon reaching the shore, he refused to take cover and again organized an assault group for further advance. Fully exposed to the sweeping fire from enemy pillboxes and machine gun nests and a constant target for the snipers on the hill, he personally led the charge up the slope and overran a German stronghold.

Victor H Briggs DSC Resized JPEG 300 dpiGeneral Eisenhower visited the First Division on July 2nd and pinned awards for heroism on twenty five First Division heroes, including Merendino, who received The Distinguished Service Cross Medal. This was not his first act of valor. During the Oren offensive in Algeria, the (then) Lieutenant Merendino directed the fire of a105 mm self-propelled howitzer on an enemy stronghold. When this failed, he ordered the howitzer to ram the German stronghold. He then dismounted the vehicle and charged the German stronghold and captured 20 Germans. This act of bravery earned him The Silver Star Medal.