Virgil John Tangborn (May 23, 1920 - June 14, 1944) PFC, U.S. Army, and Silver Star recipient for gallantry, was mortally wounded by enemy shellfire during the Invasion of Normandy on June 14, 1944 at the small village of Amfreville in Normandy, France. He was rescuing a wounded soldier trapped in a burning truck containing exploding ammunition. The action took place during ensuing explosions within a burning and heavily shelled artillery ammunition dump. He is the brother of Wendell Tangborn, American glaciologist. Unless otherwise indicated, the following quotes are from Wartime Journal: A Memoir of Virgil Tangborn (1938-1944) (2017) edited by Wendell Tangborn.
== Quotes ==
After such a close brush with mortality I feel that I have an obligation to destiny and want to do something with my life that will benefit mankind. I am not a writer but think the best thing I can do is try to report on and understand what is happening in the world.
October 1, 1938The book cannot be called, as some say, “a written evidence of the mind and character of Hitler and his henchmen,” for at the time of writing Hitler was seeking power, and once having gained this power it becomes the old story of the oppressed gaining power, becoming the oppressor, a fact that runs through history with a persistency of man’s claims to “natural rights.”
Mein Kampf review by Virgil TangbornThe Hitler... as dictator of the Reich... has a new personality. He seems to be a disciple of Nietzsche’s Metaphysical divinity – power and the masses of people are to be used as pawns in the chessboard Power Politics.
Mein Kampf review by Virgil Tangborn...[T]he day that the Japanese captured Nanking. As many as 300,000 civilians were killed.I would like to understand how such things can happen in a civilized society. It is as though a mantle of evil is periodically draped over the world.
October 1, 1938John Dewey ...said “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not preparation for life, but is life itself.” I understand and completely agree with this philosophy.
October 1, 1938A heavy blanket of snow fell last night obscuring the ground and much of the trash that has collected during the winter. If only we could cover our past misdeeds in the same way.
January 15, 1941Sunday – a pack of dogs killed several of our sheep last night. ... I do not believe that Smokey participated in the killing but he was shot anyway. There was no indictment or trial – just an execution.
February 9, 1941One of our mules died today. ...[W]e rigged up a block and tackle with a sling around her middle and tried to hoist her up to a standing position but her legs were too weak to hold her up. Then Father said we may as well give up because he noticed that part of her insides was protruding from her rear end. He said that when this happens there is no hope... So we lowered her back to the ground and let her die in peace, which she did in a few hours.
July 10, 1941One of those usual summer Sabbaths. Chores - breakfast - listen aimlessly to radio - swing music - symphony - round table discussion — and then rather aimless reading.
August 17, 1941I intensely dislike the job of butchering a farm animal. The pig we butchered today squealed unmercifully when it was shot. It thought we were going to feed it but instead it received a bullet to its brain. Eating animals is so uncivilized, I am beginning to understand why GB Shaw, Tolstoy and Albert Einstein are vegetarians...
March 4, 1942Life can be explained for the most part in terms of natural laws. The causes of suffering, pain then become plainer. Man should strive to enrich as much as possible life. To make himself an important tool in the general progress of mankind.
March 26, 1942A strange calm has come over my feelings and disposition last two days. Feel a strong will to achieve something forming and growing. ...Maybe I am squarely facing reality at last and am beginning to mature mentally.
March 27, 1942Try out for position in 90th Division Band. I’m afraid I did not do so well because my lips were chapped from the hot, desert wind and I was terribly thirsty.
July 20, 1943
== Quotes about Tangborn ==
He was just a young man who desperately wanted “a clearer philosophy of life.” He endured so much just to be able to read some important books and get the knowledge that would help him understand and live a full life... Like so many boys of his generation, he never had the chance. But I think to all those boys, and their devastated families, Virgil would say, “we must face whatever life offers us and try to enrich our lives as much as possible to become an important tool in the general progress of mankind.”
Wendell Tangborn, Appointment in Amfreville: A memoir of Virgil Tangborn, 1920-1944 (2016)
Virgil was buried in the Normandy military cemetery near Omaha beach... One of the 9386 crosses in the cemetery marks the site of Virgil’s grave... In 2000 a memorial was dedicated in Periers, at the urging of Henri Levaufre, and the support of Periers citizens. A monument was erected with four life-sized statues of American soldiers who were killed in the invasion. One of the statues is Virgil as a medic assisting a wounded comrade. The cemetery is visited by nearly 2 million people each year, most of them Europeans, who look at these crosses and say, “they did this for us”. Thus, Virgil’s memory lives on in the hearts and minds of millions of grateful people in France and other European countries.
Wendell Tangborn, Appointment in Amfreville: A memoir of Virgil Tangborn, 1920-1944 (2016)Pfc Virgil J. Tangborn 37172938, Inf, United States Army. On June 14, 1944 the field in which an artillery ammunition dump was located was heavily shelled. The ammunition dump was set on fire and during the ensuing explosions, Pfc Tangborn, seeing a wounded soldier trapped in a burning truck which was filled with exploding ammunition, hurried to the truck accompanied by two other enlisted men to effect a rescue of the wounded man. At this point Pfc Tangborn was mortally wounded by enemy shellfire. Entered service from Minnesota.
Official citation for action meriting gallantry and the Silver Star Medal.
== Also see ==
World War II
== External links ==
American Battle Monuments Commission
Normandy American Cemetery
"Normandy 44" Association, 90th US Division
A True Hero: Pfc Virgil John Tangborn
U.S. Army Silver Star Recipients for actions Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Department of Defense.
WWII History Archive