Captain Arnold Joseph Cissna, US Army, was born 5 March 1922 in Pharoah, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. He earned the Eagle Scout rank in 1938 and graduated from Weleetka High School in 1940. The “Be Prepared” Scout motto would serve Cissna well when he joined the Oklahoma National Guard at Wetumka in 1939; during his training with the 120th Engineers, 45th Division and with combat service in the 249th Engineer Combat Battalion.
Captain Cissna and the 249th Engineer Combat Battalion entered France across Utah Beach in August 1944 and by mid-December were on the German Border.
On 19 December, the 249th began its 100-mile move north to support the southern counterattack against the German thrust into the Ardennes. Now attached to the 26th Infantry Division, Cissna’s Company C was ordered on Christmas Eve to relieve unknown elements of the 4th Armored Division in Arsdorf, Luxembourg. As Cissna’s column approached the sister town of Bilsdorf, it came under enemy fire from a much larger enemy force. While leading a platoon of his company to determine the enemy’s strength, the unit received heavy fire from all directions. Placing his men in buildings for the purpose of defense, they warded off several intense enemy attacks and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.
As the fighting continued, Cissna realized his forces were greatly outnumbered, making it necessary to withdraw. Cissna ordered his men to withdraw while he elected to stay behind to cover their withdrawal; he fought on alone until he was killed.
For this action, Captain Cissna was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His citation read in part: “…Inspiring his men by his personal example of heroism...Captain Cissna’s intrepid leadership and supreme devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.” Captain Cissna was also awarded the Purple Heart.
In Robert F. Shelato’s 1991 book, From Wheat Fields to Battlefields, he referred to Cissna and that battle when he wrote: “But if there should ever be a Hall of Fame for unsung heroes, then let those fallen men take an honored place among the finest, particularly Captain Cissna.”