Michael “Mike” Colalillo, Last Minnesota WWII Medal of Honor recipient, Dies

Michael “Mike” Colalillo, 86, of Duluth, the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient of Minnesota, passed away Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, in Ecumen Bayshore Care Center.

Mike was born Dec. 1, 1925, in Hibbing, the son of Carlo and Victoria (Jannone) Colalillo. He served in the United States Army during World War II. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroi...c actions during combat. He returned to Duluth and was employed by Interlake Iron Works Company. Mike retired from the Port Authority as a long shoreman He married Lina Nissila on Nov. 16, 1945, in Duluth. They made their home in the west end of Duluth for many years.

Mike was a member of the Medal of Honor Society, Duluth Hall of Fame, a life member of the American Legion and V.F.W., Disabled American Veterans, Raleigh Breakfast Club, and the Italian-American Club. He also coached youth hockey with Bob Watt.

He enjoyed fishing, having lunch with the guys on Fridays, and traveling with Lina to Medal of Honor Conventions. He received one Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a French Campaign Ribbon.

The family would like to thank the staffs of Ecumen Bayshore and Senior Friends for their excellent care and concern for Mike these past months.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife Lina; daughter Joann; brother Patrick; and sisters Carmella, Concetta, Nikki, and Mary.

Mike is survived by his son, Al (Terry) Colalillo of Hayward; daughter Michele (Rodger) Schneeberger of Meadowlands; two grandsons, Mike A. Colalillo and Nick Bakken; and three great-grandchildren, Michael Colalillo II, Daijia and Dilin Bakken; brother Albert Colalillo of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; and sisters Jennie Price of Duluth and Grace Otterson of Cloquet.

Mike was a great husband, father, and grandfather.

VISITATION: 3-7 p.m. with prayers at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, in Dougherty Funeral Home, 600 E. Second St., Duluth. Visitation continues at 10 until the 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, Jan. 7, in St. James Catholic Church, 721 N. 57th Ave. W., Duluth. Burial at Forest Hill Cemetery with full Military Honors by the Minnesota Army National Guard Honor Guard.

Memorials preferred to the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, 5209 Ramsey St., Duluth MN 55807.

Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home (218) 727-3555.


Mike Colalillo's Medal of Honor citation

He was pinned down with other members of his company during an attack against strong enemy positions in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany. Heavy artillery, mortar, and machinegun fire made any move hazardous when he stood up, shouted to the company to follow, and ran forward in the wake of a supporting tank, firing his machine pistol. Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire. When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, he climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned an exposed machinegun on the turret of the vehicle, and, while bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machinegun. Maintaining his extremely dangerous post as the tank forged ahead, he blasted 3 more positions, destroyed another machinegun emplacement and silenced all resistance in his area, killing at least 3 and wounding an undetermined number of riflemen as they fled. His machinegun eventually jammed; so he secured a submachinegun from the tank crew to continue his attack on foot. When our armored forces exhausted their ammunition and the order to withdraw was given, he remained behind to help a seriously wounded comrade over several hundred yards of open terrain rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage. By his intrepidity and inspiring courage Pfc. Colalillo gave tremendous impetus to his company's attack, killed or wounded 25 of the enemy in bitter fighting, and assisted a wounded soldier in reaching the American lines at great risk of his own life.


Note - The last living Minnesota Medal of Honor recipient is now Leo Thorsness from Walnut Grove, Minnesota (U.S. Air Force / Vietnam War). For more information, see www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3433/thorsness-leo-k.php.