The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Obituary Archives

November 10, 2013

Samuel W. Magill Sr.

Munich, Germany — Samuel W. Magill Sr., Lt. Col. (Army Retired), passed away peacefully in Munich, Germany, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at the age of 94.

As one of the “greatest generation”, a young 24 year old, Lt. Sam Magill was a member of the 83rd Infantry Division, (The Thunderbolts), 329th Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon during World War II. In September, 1944, he and his platoon went behind enemy lines and convinced German Major General Erich Elster that his fate was sealed and any further fighting would be a useless waste of life. General Elster surrendered his 20,000 troops in the largest surrender of the war.

As he and the Thunderbolts continued their sweep across Europe, Sam and his platoon liberated several POW, labor, and concentration camps, and made the first radio contact with the Soviets near the Elbe River.

Sam was a very humble man who seemed a bit awkward with the attention and fame his W.W.II feats attracted. He always gave his platoon the credit stating that were it not for each man doing his part, it could have ended very differently. Lt. Magill and his platoon were honored on Ralph Edwards’ This Is Your Life”  TV program in 1955, as well as numerous articles in publications, such as Life Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, many newspapers, and several books, including “Never A Shot In Anger”, by Col. Barney Oldfield. (Additional information on Lt. Magill’s heroics can be viewed at http://83rdinfdivdocs.org/sam-magill/  and  indianamilitary.org/83RD/Surrender/Magill.htm, as well as other locations).

The platoon was also known as “Platoon International” due to the presence of men from various European countries. These men were translators and negotiators who, of their own accord and without pay, worked and fought along-side the GIs.

Lt. Magill was born in Monroe Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio, the son of William J. Magill and Lucy (Ackerman) Magill. He and his family returned there after the war and settled in Ashtabula, Ohio. Sam’s National Guard unit was activated for duty in Korea, but the Korean War ended before they were sent. His decision to remain in the military lead to a career in Intelligence during the Cold War.

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