[Editor's note: The following was written and submitted by local historian Jim Clifford. It appears in latest edition of the Journal of Local History, published by the archives committee at the Redwood City Public Library.]
By James O. Clifford, Sr.
There was a volley of excitement at the American Legion Hall in Redwood City when, by sheer serendipity, it was discovered that the city might have a second connection to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Alas, an investigation by The Journal of Local History shows any link is slender.
It was hoped that another photo of a soldier who was awarded the nation’s highest honor might soon grace a wall at the Legion Post 105 hall on El Camino. The building has long been home to a picture of Mitchell Paige, a marine who was awarded the MOH for his exploits on Guadalcanal in World War II.
Paige survived the war and became a member of the post in Redwood City where he lived. The other Medal of Honor recipient, Victor Kandle, was killed in action and is buried in France.
Any Kandle tie to Redwood City was dormant for decades until the Legion hall underwent a half million-dollar facelift recently, according to Post Commander Romie Bassetto.
“We found this in a storage area,” Bassetto said, motioning toward a frame that housed a photo of Kandle in his first lieutenant’s uniform along with a certificate describing what he did to be awarded the MOH.
“What Kandle did reads like something out of ‘Sergeant York,’” said Bassetto, referring to the World War I Medal of Honor recipient made famous in a movie that starred Gary Cooper in the title role.
The citation for Kandle’s heroism said he showed “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” on Oct. 9, 1944 against German forces near La Forge, France. It said Kandle captured five prisoners and then engaged in a “duel at pointblank range with a German field officer and killed him.”. If that wasn’t enough, Kandle killed a German machinegunner “with accurate rifle fire” and led his men in taking out another machinegun crew.
“Finally, he led his small force against a fortified house held by 2 German officers and 30 enlisted men,” the citation continued. “After establishing a base of fire, he rushed forward alone through an open clearing in full view of the enemy, smashed through a barricaded door, and forced all 32 Germans to surrender.”
Kandle was credited with capturing or killing three German officers and 54 enlisted men, the destruction of three enemy strongpoints and seizure of enemy positions that had halted a battalion attack. He was killed two months later. One report said he was killed by a grenade tossed at a tank he was riding on.
Kandle was born in Pierce County, Washington, but just exactly where is unsure. Some sources say Roy, Washington while others list Puyallup and McKenna, also both in Washington. He attended Yelm High School in Yelm, Washington. The towns all fall in to the circulation area of the Nisqually Valley News which ran a detailed story on Kandle’s heroism in its May 17, 1945 edition. Additional information about Lt. Kandle’s exploits was supplied to the Valley News by Pfc. Mark Porter of Puyallup, who was a correspondent with Stars and Stripes.
The German major opened fire with a machine pistol and, “as bullets splintered the trees around him, Kandle opened up with his rifle, forcing the officer to dash through the trees in an attempt to escape,” the newspaper reported.
“Firing through the sights at a standing position, Lt. Kandle hit the German in the arm, and when he kept running two more shots stopped and killed him,” the newspaper said in winding up the duel.
Several government documents say Kandle enlisted in Redwood City where his wife, Marijene, lived at her mother’s home, along with their son, Terry. Other sources say he enlisted in Seattle in 1940. The widow and son received the Medal of Honor at a ceremony in the Presidio in San Francisco and that may have led to the erroneous conclusion that Lt. Kandle was from Redwood City.
Actually, Kandle never set foot in Redwood City, according to his widow, now 90 and living in North Dakota with her second husband, Earl Dodd. She said she and Kandle were married in Olympia, Washington.
“I think this misunderstanding all started when Look Magazine ran a story and photo about the award at the Presidio,” she told The Journal of Local History in a telephone interview.
The Redwood City Tribune shares some of the blame. Its story about the award at the Presidio said Kandle was a “Redwood City man.” The headline read the same.
Dodd, who married Marijene in 1947, said, “This keeps popping up. Some years back someone in Redwood City wanted to name the armory after him. I can tell you he never was in Redwood City.”
His wife and son lived in several Bay area cities during the war, which reminds us how uprooting WWII was. According to the National Housing Agency, which launched a “Share Your Home” drive during the war, an estimated 1.5 million families shared their dwellings, sometimes with strangers.
“I don’t remember too much about my grandmother’s house on Finger Avenue,” said Terry Kandle, the son. “I think I was three or four. I do remember that there was a creek in the back yard that I spent a lot of time playing in.” Terry said his grandmother was Floise Lee Dodge.
Another item that needed clarifying was the spelling of Marijene. It often appears as Marigene.
There is still one mystery left: no one knows where the framed picture and citation came from.