Natick armory dedicated to Medal of Honor recipient from South Boston
By Emily Sweeney
via the Boston Globe newspaper web site
NATICK, MA — One fateful October day a century ago during World War I, Private First Class Michael J. Perkins crawled up to a nest of enemy machine gunners that were throwing grenades at his platoon and waited for just the right moment. When the Germans opened the door, he tossed a bomb inside. Then forced his way in and attacked the machine gun crews, and single-handedly forced them to surrender.
The courage that the South Boston war hero displayed on the battlefield was recalled Friday morning, when the Massachusetts National Guard dedicated its armory on Speen Street in his honor.
Among those in attendance at Friday’s dedication ceremony were Gary W. Keefe, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard; state Representative David Linsky; Colonel Brett Conaway, the brigade commander for the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; as well as Perkins’s nephew and grand-niece.
“His story is the stuff of legends,” Conaway said.
Born in South Boston in 1892, Perkins was a member of the Company D, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Yankee Division when he was killed in action on Oct. 27, 1918.
Perkins’s nephew, James Barry, 84, said he grew up hearing about his uncle’s heroic acts on the battlefield, and was happy to see his uncle still remembered after all of these years.
“I kind of thought [his story] might have been” forgotten, Barry said. “But it wasn’t. Apparently it wasn’t.”
When Conaway spoke at the ceremony, he told the audience about the events that unfolded in France on that fateful day in October, and how Perkins bravely took on the machine gunners by himself.
Conaway said Perkins “voluntarily and alone” crawled up a hill to a German “pillbox” machine gun emplacement. After throwing the bomb inside the pillbox, he pulled out his trench knife and rushed inside, and fought off the machine gun crews. He killed or wounded several of them, and took about 25 of them as prisoners.
“He did what he had to do to silence those machine guns,” Conaway said. “He was as tough as nails.”
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