Juno Sundstrom could see the German troops advancing as darkness fell over his outpost. "We could see them coming against the skyline and against a haystack that was burning," Sundstrom recalled. Sundstrom and another young soldier were firing a .30-caliber machine gun at the enemy soldiers, trying to slow their advance into a town just taken by the U.S. Army.
"Of course, when you fire a machine gun at them, they go down. It doesn't mean you hit them, but they hit the ground," Sundstrom recalled. He said he and his buddy didn't receive any direct enemy fire. "We kept moving the machine gun, kept moving toward town," Sundstrom said. "We slowed them way down."
Finally, running low on ammunition, he and his buddy and other soldiers pulled back into the town where they found the U.S. troops were pulling out. The action, in March 1945, was part of the Rose Pocket Battle, the last big battle in Europe during World War II.
For his heroic action and for his service fighting across Europe, Sundstrom was awarded a Bronze Star and other medals.
An expert machine gunner, Sundstrom served in the Army from 1940-1945, reaching the rank of corporal. He fought in major European battles including Normandy, Cologne, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Ardennes Forest before the Rose Pocket Battle, which resulted in the capture of 350,000 German troops.
Sundstrom admitted he felt fear during battle. "You can't help but be afraid. But you get over it." Of the 130 men in his 24th Cavalry Troop, 23 were killed in battle, he said. The other young man on the machine gun with Sundstrom the night the Germans attacked their outpost was killed about 10 days later, with only a few weeks left in the war.
The story of this Mud Butte native was adapted from article by Steve Miller, Rapid City Journal, 1-5-10.