Statue of war hero to be placed in park that bears his name

The statue of Stephen Gregg will stand at the 43rd Street entrance

A plaque has been placed near where the statue will be installed. Photo by Bill Coughlin for the Historical Marker Database.
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A plaque has been placed near where the statue will be installed. Photo by Bill Coughlin for the Historical Marker Database.

A local World War II veteran and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient will have a statue built in Stephen R. Gregg Park, known to locals as Hudson County Park, according to the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

At the Nov. 24 meeting, the board voted in favor of a resolution approving a non-fair and open contract between the county’s Office of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Development and J. Brett Grill for the creation and installation of the statue.

The sculpture of Gregg will be funded by the “1% Fund for Public Art,” totaling $130,000.

The bronze sculpture will be installed at the 43rd Street entrance along JFK Boulevard, near a plaque bearing his name and picture.

Heroic acts

Gregg was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, 143rd Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. On August 27, 1944, Gregg saved seven of his fellow soldiers in Montelimar, France, according to his Medal of Honor citation.

His platoon was advancing up a hill when they were ambushed by German soldiers. Gregg’s unit was hit by enemy gunfire, and grenades raining down on them from atop the hill. Some were killed, and seven were wounded, but medics were unable to reach them.

Gregg grabbed a .30 caliber machine gun and climbed up the hill with a medic behind him. Dodging grenades, Gregg continued up the hill returning fire on the enemy as the medic attended to the injured soldiers in his unit.

As Gregg ran out of ammunition, he was surrounded by four German soldiers. However, due to Gregg’s charge up the hill, reinforcements were able to get into position and fired on the enemy. This allowed him to escape and continue fighting using a pistol recovered from a German soldier.

Gregg escaped to a machine gun placement where he fired at his attackers. The Germans were driven back by his actions, which allowed his platoon to capture the hill.

Don’t mess with his mortars

The following morning, the Germans launched an attack supported by tanks in an attempt to drive Gregg’s company from the hill. As tanks and foot soldiers advanced up the hill, Gregg ordered his men to fire on the enemy, inflicting heavy casualties.

By late afternoon he had directed 600 rounds when his communication was knocked out. Without hesitation he started checking his wires, despite being under heavy fire from enemy gunfire and artillery.

When he was within 100 yards of their position, one of his men informed him that their position had been captured, and the Germans were using American mortars to fire on the company.

Gregg and nearby soldiers then headed for the gun position where he could see multiple German soldiers firing.

He ordered two men to cover him while he crawled up, threw a grenade toward the German’s position, and then charged it. The grenade killed one German soldier and injured two. Gregg took the other two soldiers as prisoners, and put his mortars back into action.

Gregg, then a technical sergeant, was awarded the rank of second lieutenant.

The highest awards

On April 17, 1945, Gregg was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor a soldier can receive.

Gregg has also received the Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, and the Combat Infantry Badge. On Bastille Day in 2001, France awarded Gregg its highest medal, the Legion of Honor.

After the war, Gregg returned to a hero’s welcome: a parade with more than 50,000 in attendance. He went on to work for the Hudson’s County Sheriff’s Department for 50 years, eventually retiring as chief of court officers in 1996.

The park was renamed for Gregg in 1994. He died at age 90 in February of 2005.

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