Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Medal of Honor- Lt. Samuel Woodfill, US Army


Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 60th Infantry, 5th Division.

Place and date: At Cunel, France, 12 October 1918.

Entered service at: Bryantsburg, Ind. Birth: Jefferson County, Ind. G.O. No.: 16, W.D., 1919.

Citation: While he was leading his company against the enemy, his line came under heavy machinegun fire, which threatened to hold up the advance. Followed by 2 soldiers at 25 yards, this officer went out ahead of his first line toward a machinegun nest and worked his way around its flank, leaving the 2 soldiers in front. When he got within 10 yards of the gun it ceased firing, and 4 of the enemy appeared, 3 of whom were shot by 1st Lt. Woodfill. The fourth, an officer, rushed at 1st Lt. Woodfill, who attempted to club the officer with his rifle. After a hand-to-hand struggle, 1st Lt. Woodfill killed the officer with his pistol. His company thereupon continued to advance, until shortly afterwards another machinegun nest was encountered. Calling on his men to follow, 1st Lt. Woodfill rushed ahead of his line in the face of heavy fire from the nest, and when several of the enemy appeared above the nest he shot them, capturing 3 other members of the crew and silencing the gun. A few minutes later this officer for the third time demonstrated conspicuous daring by charging another machinegun position, killing 5 men in one machinegun pit with his rifle. He then drew his revolver and started to jump into the pit, when 2 other gunners only a few yards away turned their gun on him. Failing to kill them with his revolver, he grabbed a pick lying nearby and killed both of them. Inspired by the exceptional courage displayed by this officer, his men pressed on to their objective under severe shell and machinegun fire.

Not mentioned in the MoH citation is that Lt. Woodfill was hit with mustard gas during this action and was in hospital for the remainder of the war. He was one of the most decorated and celebrated soldiers of the First World War. Among others, he was also awarded the Croix de Guerra with palm leaves, the Meriot di Guerra and the Cross of Prince Danilo. General John Pershing, the most distinguished officer of the era, stated that he was the most outstanding soldier in WWI.

Lt. Woodfill returned to the Army following Pearl Harbor and was commissioned as a Major and spent the rest of his Army days training recruits in Birmingham, Alabama.

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