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The Amazing Life Of World War Two Hero Dirk J. Vlug

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The Amazing Life Of World War Two Hero Dirk J. Vlug

Dirk J. Vlug isn't a household name anywhere in the world, but if you were alive during the Second World War, or the years immediately after, you'd probably have recognised who he was.

While serving in the Philippines, US army soldier Vlug had been tasked with defending an American roadblock which came under attack from a group of Japanese tanks.

Alone, Vlug ran into the open, collected a rocket launcher and set about countering the tanks while under a wave of machine gun fire. He destroyed the first tank with one shot.

When Japanese soldiers got out of their tank to attack him, he shot at them (with a rifle) until they climbed back in. He then destroyed the tank with a rocket, and proceeded to do this another three times.

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Dirk J. Vlug on his return to Michigan. Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Dirk J. Vlug on his return to Michigan. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Vlug was born in the summer of 1916 in Minnesota. He joined the army in Grand Rapids, a city 30km east of Lake Michigan, in April 1941, several months before the USA officially entered the war that December, following the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

By December 1944 he was serving as a private first class in the 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division. The regiment has been active since 1855, with soldiers serving in the American Civil War, the US's 19th-century war with Spain, the early 20th-century border war with Mexico, and both world wars.

On 15 December 1944, Vlug was serving in the Philippines close to Limon, in Leyte province, roughly 900km south east of capital city Manilla.

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It was during the battle that he took out five tanks on his own. For his valiance, Vlug was awarded the Medal of Honor, the United State military's highest decoration, and was welcomed home during a parade in Grand Rapids when he returned from the war.

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He joined the Michigan National Guard in May 1949 and retired with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1951. He died on 25 June 1996, at the age of 79, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Philippines was a key battleground in the Pacific War during WW2. After being attacked by the Empire of Japan in 1941 (just after the attack on Pearl Harbour), Japan launched attacks on American and Filipino forces. The USA controlled the Philippines at the time and had numerous military bases there.

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Vlug's heroics took place during the Battle of Leyte, an amphibious invasion of the Gulf of Leyte by Filipino guerrillas and US forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.

The Japanese army lost some 49,000 troops in the Battle of Leyte, and once it had fallen, Japan gave up hope of retaining the Philippines.

Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Topics: military, World News, US News, World War Two, USA

Ronan O'Shea
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