January 29, 1945, Holzheim, Belgium…a ragtag group of US paratroopers was assaulting the tiny town of mostly burned out buildings, rubble and Germans.
US Army First Sergeant Leonard A. Funk, Jr. had taken command of a small platoon after their second lieutenant was killed. There were 5 US Soldiers in all that day, made up of clerks and translators. They had captured about 80 German soldiers, who surrendered thinking the attacking US forces were much larger.
After policing the prisoners, Funk decided to link up with the main force of American paratroopers, supposedly stationed on the opposite end of town. He ordered the other four to guard their prize and said he would return shortly. Of course, the moment Funk left his men, a small patrol of enemy troops happened upon the gathering. The Soldiers were quickly overtaken and forced to free the prisoners.
Unable to find other friendlies in the area, Funk returned to the scene just as the released Germans were rearming. As he rounded the corner of a toppled café, he was met with the barrel of an MP-40 machine gun pressed into his gut. The German officer behind the weapon began to scream at Funk, who was, needless to say, confused.
Instead of dropping his Thompson and putting his hands in the air, Funk calmly looked around. He saw his four men, kneeling with their hands on their heads. He saw his Wehrmacht prisoners, now armed and aiming their rifles at him. He then looked at the screaming German officer…and couldn’t help bursting into laughter.
Although later he insisted he tried to stop, the laughter just kept coming. A man shouting German at him (which Funk did not speak and neither did any of his comrades) just…seemed hilarious. His outburst and non-compliance was so bizarre that many of the Germans began to chuckle, which made Funk laugh even harder. He hollered to his men, “I don’t understand what he’s saying!” The German officer was becoming increasingly agitated, screaming louder and angrier.
Then, Funk did the unthinkable.
In a lighting-fast maneuver he swung his Thompson around and opened fire, emptying his magazine. Within a matter of seconds, Funk had cut the officer in half and reloaded. He opened up on the other Germans while shouting to his men to pick up weapons and join him. The small force was able to quickly kill 20 enemy soldiers before the remainder threw down their guns and surrendered.
After a storm of heavy breaths, Funk secured the area and resumed his laughing spell. The other men watched Funk as he buckled in his fit and reportedly gasped, “That was the stupidest #^&*ing thing I’ve ever seen!”
For these darkly humorous actions, Leonard Funk was awarded our nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.Show