May 26

Lucian Adams: The Tornado From Texas

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 11:32 AM


Right now, in the Naval Institute Archives, our team of archivists are working on an online database of our photographic collections. This means providing a description of every photograph we are digitizing, researching and finding as much information as possible. Through this process, we end up learning a lot about different subjects related to the Navy and the military in general. One of my favorite subjects to research about is people. I am lucky enough that this past month I’ve had the opportunity to work on many photographs of personnel, and I thought I would share the story of one of these people today with you: Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams, U.S. Army. Also known as: the Tornado from Texas.

Lucian Adams was born on 26 October 1922 in Port Arthur, Texas, and was one of twelve children in his Mexican-American family. After high school he spent two years in a wartime plant creating landing craft, then chose to enlist in the Army in February 1943. Adams went overseas and served with the 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division in France, and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. It was during his time in France that his actions merited receiving the Medal of Honor, as well as his catchy nickname.

SSgt Lucian Adams in uniform. U.S. Army Photograph

On 28 October 1944, Adams’s company was near the town of Saint-Die in the Mortagne Forest. They were working to open a supply line to two assault companies in his battalion that were cut off by the German forces. It was during this mission that they were stopped by heavy enemy fire, and Adams was ordered by his company commander to scout ahead. He reported back three enemy machine gun nests. When given this information, his commander told him, “You go on out there and make a breakthrough to get those GIs.”

What an order! But Adams followed the command. With a borrowed Browning Automatic Rifle, Lucian Adams headed out down the road with his men. The road was heavily wooded on either side, and they had not gone ten yards before the Germans opened fire. Three of his mean were killed and six more were wounded. As his men took cover, Adams continued forward. He moved from tree to tree through gunfire and killed the first gunner with a tossed grenade. As a second German popped up from a foxhole not a few yards away, Adams opened fire with the BAR, killing him as well. From there he charged towards the second machine gun, killing the gunner with a second grenade and forcing the two supporting infantrymen with the gunner to surrender.

From there he ran deeper into the woods and killed five more Germans on his way to the third machine gunner. The moment Adams was in sight the German took fire, continuously firing as Adams ran straight for him firing the BAR. Miraculously, the German missed every shot, but Adams hit his mark. He killed the final gunner, ridding the area of all enemy soldiers in his one-man rampage. It was from this moment on that his men began calling him the Tornado from Texas.

Apparently, when Lucian Adams heard a rumor later that he was up for the Medal of Honor, he merely shrugged it off and continued fighting with his unit into Germany. This surprised me, but not as much as learning that this was the second time he’d heard such a rumor, because this was the second time he had single-handedly taken down a German machine gun position. That he could do such actions twice before receiving commendation for it makes me wonder just how often scenarios like this one played out during war, and how many other personnel went unrecognized for their heroic actions. In my eyes, it also makes the actions even more admirable. Adams went into enemy fire alone knowing that he might not only die in the attempt, but also that his actions might not get the recognition many would believe they deserved. I suppose fighting for a cause greater than yourself can give you a strength and a resolve to endure and to achieve. Knowing that your actions push the fight forward is enough.

3rd Infantry Division Soldiers receive Medals of Honor at the newly secured Zepplinfeld Stadium in Nuremberg, Germany, in April 1945. SSgt Lucian Adams is second from right. National Archives.

In the Spring of 1945, Adams received orders to go home to be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unfortunately, Roosevelt died before Adams left for the United States. Instead, he received the medal from Lieutenant General Alexander Patch on 23 April 1945, in Nuremberg’s Zeppelin Stadium. From there he returned home to Texas, where he worked for Veteran’s Affairs for forty years.

I truly enjoyed researching Lucian Adams. His story is not only exciting, but also noble and one to be admired. I hope to find more stories like this to share in the coming months, and that you are inspired by them. May we all strive to achieve great things for the sake of others, grateful for recognition, but more than satisfied with the fact that we accomplished something.

SSgt Lucian Adams shakes hands with Lieutenant General Alexander Patch as he receives the Medal of Honor. U.S. Army Photograph.
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