Lt. Col. E. Rusteberg – West Point 1934 – Two Silver Stars, One Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation (Battle of Hatten), Purple Heart. American hero.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry) Edwin Rusteberg (ASN: 0-19542), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with Headquarters, 1st Battalion, 242d Infantry Regiment, 42d Infantry Division, in action on 9 January 1945 at Hatten, France. As Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, 242d Infantry Regiment, during the action at Hatten, France, Colonel Rusteberg planned and executed the defense of that area with outstanding success. In spite of point blank fire from enemy tanks supported by Infantry that raked his positions with fire, Colonel Rusteberg by personal example held his troops in position and withstood the enemy attack. Fighting side by side with his men in the face of overwhelming odds without mechanized or artillery support, Colonel Rusteberg by his courageous leadership, tenacity and devotion to duty played a major role in the successful defense of the town of Hatten.
General Orders: Headquarters, 42d Infantry Division, General Orders No. 131 (1945)
Action Date: 9-Jan-45 Service: Army Rank: Lieutenant ColonelCompany: Headquarters Battalion: 1st Battalion Regiment: 242d Infantry Regiment Division: 42d Infantry Division
Editor’s Note: The Hero at the Battle of Hatten was Vito Bertoldo. I tracked down his son who lives in California. His son served two tours in Vietnam as a Marine. He is a retired California State Highway patrolman.
Col. Rusteberg, years after his retirment from the Army, related a story about Vito. On the voyage across the Atlantic to North Africa, word came up from the ranks that one of the cooks, Vito Bertoldo, wanted to become a rifleman. Seems he was not getting along with his fellow cooks and wanted a transfer. Request granted. Little did Vito’s superiors know that Vito would go on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Battle of the Bulge.
A German NCO who was captured praised the soldiers for their gallant stand: “We were amazed at the way your men fought. We always considered you could defeat us only if you had a tremendous amount of tanks and armor. We believed that if we met you on equal terms we would have no difficulty. At Hatten we had the armor and the artillery and the experienced men. Your men were inexperienced and lacked tanks and artillery support. Our officers said it was the best infantry defense they ever saw.”
One interesting comment is by a very experienced German officer, Col. Hans Von Luck, who fought with the German army on every front from Poland in 1939 to the Russian victory over the Germans in 1945. Von Luck commanded one of the tank units attacking Hatten and the nearby village of Rittershofen. In a book describing his World War II experiences he writes: “In those two villages, Hatten and Rittershofen, there now developed one of the hardest and most costly battles that ever raged on the Western front.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_von_Luck