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Samuel Woodfill MoH

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“Failing to kill them with his revolver, he grabbed a pick lying nearby and killed both of them.”
Samuel Woodfill, one of the most highly decorated US soldiers of World War I. Serving in the Philippine-American War, World War I and World War II, he was one of the most celebrated American soldiers of the early 20th century. General John Pershing even called him the most outstanding soldier of the Great War. Enlisting as a Private in 1901, he would serve as a Major in World War II.
He earned his Medal of Honor in France, 12 October 1917, as part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive — his citation reads:
“While he was leading his company against the enemy, First Lieutenant Woodfill's line came under heavy machinegun fire, which threatened to hold up the advance. Followed by two 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 two soldiers in front. When he got within ten yards of the gun it ceased firing, and four of the enemy appeared, three of whom were shot by First Lieutenant Woodfill. The fourth, an officer, rushed at First Lieutenant Woodfill, who attempted to club the officer with his rifle. After a hand-to-hand struggle, First Lieutenant 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, First Lieutenant 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 three 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 five men in one machinegun pit with his rifle. He then drew his revolver and started to jump into the pit, when two 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.”
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17 minutes ago, Marshal Mo Hare, SASS #45984 said:

The citation says Lt the uniform says MSGT.  I guess Lt was temporary for the war.

MSG with officer collar brass. Now I’m confused too.



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Here. Up and down through the ranks! :blink:



Maj. Samuel Woodfill Chronology

Jan. 6, 1883: Born in Bryantsburg, Ind., near Vevay. He was the son of John H. Woodfill, a veteran of the Mexican-American War and Civil War.
1901: Enlisted in the U.S. Army. Sent to Philippines.
1910: Sent to Alaska during a border dispute with Canada and England in the Alaska-Yukon area.
1912: Stationed in Ft. Thomas, Ky. Sent to Mexican border to protect southwestern states while Mexico was in civil war.
Dec. 25, 1917: Married Lorena "Blossom" Wiltshire.
1917: Promoted to lieutenant.
1918: Sent to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force headed by Gen. John J. Pershing in World War I.
1918: Part of U.S. Army's 60th Infantry, Fifth Division. Sent to Meuse-Argonne front in France.
Feb. 9, 1919: Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor at Chaumont, France, by Gen. Pershing. Promoted to captain.
1920: Re-enlisted and lost rank.
1921: One of three soldiers selected to dedicate the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.
1923: Retired with rank of sergeant.
1942: Commissioned U.S. Army Major as part of a campaign to boost national spirit and enlistments. He was an Army teacher and instructor in Birmingham during World War II.
1944: Resigned from the Army and moved to Vevay, Ind.
Aug. 10, 1951: Died and buried in Jefferson County, Ind., cemetery but in 1955 was moved to a grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.


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Woodfill was promoted to captain in the Infantry on March 25, 1919. Unfortunately for Woodfill, the Army was in the process of a major drawdown after the First World War and Woodfill was discharged on October 31, 1919. He re-enlisted as a sergeant on November 24 and was later promoted to master sergeant.

Along with Alvin York and others, Woodfill was picked in 1921 to serve as a pallbearer for the Unknown Soldier. He was regarded as one of the country's great heroes of World War I, but apparently struggled to make a living after the war.[8]

Despite his honors, Woodfill—on a sergeant's salary—struggled to pay his bills and to pay off the mortgage on his Fort Thomas home. Woodfill took a job in 1922 as a $6-a-day carpenter working on the Ohio River dam project at Silver Grove. Ned Hastings, manager of the Keith Theater in Cincinnati, sent pictures of Woodfill working at the dam site to New York City. There, a theatrical group involved in charitable work raised money to pay off the mortgage on Woodfill's Fort Thomas home and to pay up an insurance policy.

Woodfill retired from the Army as a master sergeant on December 24, 1923. He was promoted to the rank of captain on the retired list by an act of Congress on May 7, 1932.





For his actions, Woodfill was awarded the Medal of Honor, which would be presented to him by General John Pershing at a ceremony in Chaumont, France on February 09, 1919. In addition to this honor, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm by the French Government and made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He would later also be presented with the Meriot di Guerra by the government of Italy and the Cross of Prince Danilo by Montenegro.11 Along with these awards he would receive a promotion to the rank of Captain. Shortly after this, Woodfill would return to his unit, now in Luxembourg, where he would remain with the Army of Occupation before sailing home in 1919.

Samuel Woodfill and Wife in a group photograph Library of CongressHis term in the military would run out in 1919 and Woodfill would reenlist not long after; however, upon reenlistment he would lose his rank of captain. There were local efforts later on to push Congress to allow for Woodfill to retire with a rank of sergeant but on a Captain’s pension, however this would ultimately fail, as Woodfill had been given the opportunity to take the examination for captaincy but reportedly opted not to.12 After arriving back at Fort Thomas, Kentucky on November 26, 1921, he would find it difficult to support his wife and make house payments on just a sergeant’s pay.13 Sam was determined to make ends meet. In 1922, he received leave from the army to work on a dam project on the Ohio River at Silver Grove, Kentucky. At this work, he reportedly earned six dollars a day, roughly double his sergeant’s pay, which helped him to make payments on his and Lorena’s home in Fort Thomas.14 Upon seeing a picture of Woodfill working on the dam, the Keith Theatre Interests in New York City sought to help the war hero. They gave $10,000 to pay off the mortgage on his home as well as pay up some life insurance for Woodfill. The sergeant was overwhelmed and offered his humble and heartfelt gratitude to “those who made possible the freeing of our home from debt.”15

In the years following the war, Samuel Woodfill would spend a great deal of time in the spotlight, though it was often said that this was not an experience which he very much enjoyed. Despite Woodfill’s aversion to publicity, his fame would soar as General Pershing recognized him as one of the most outstanding soldiers of the war and chose him to represent the infantry as pallbearer for the burial of the Unknown Soldier on November 11, 1921.16 17  In addition, Woodfill would be honored around the country, papers praising his name across the U.S., receiving a standing ovation from the House of Representatives with a reception being held in his honor, as well as a meeting with President Warren G. Harding who upon praising Woodfill as an outstanding soldier commented that “when he shook hands with me he had the grip of a fighting man.”18 19 Throughout these events, Woodfill’s humility was repeatedly noted, as well as his discomfort with his own celebrity.  He expressed his frustration when being called to Washington once more later on, reportedly telling his wife that he was tired of “being a circus pony,” and lamenting how “every time there is something going on they trot me out to perform.”20 Regardless of his discomfort before crowds, Woodfill’s time in the spotlight would not end for years. Later on, he would meet and be photographed with President Calvin Coolidge21 and locally Woodfill would receive even more honors with in 1922, a school at Fort Thomas being named in his honor.22 Woodfill would be brought back into the public eye repeatedly throughout the years to come despite his wish for peace and quiet, saying: “I hope there won’t be any more written about Woodfill.”23

Samuel Woodfill with President Calvin Collidge at a celebration in Washington D.C.  Library of Congress.In 1923, Woodfill would be discharged from the Army with full military honors and the rank of master sergeant.24 After a long and meritorious career in the military, Sergeant Woodfill would now have to navigate civilian life. Two years later after his discharge, Woodfill bought a farm of about sixty acres in Campbell County, Kentucky, reportedly with the hopes of making the land into a profitable orchard; however this would unfortunately be unsuccessful. To keep his farm and deal with his now accumulated $2,000 debt, he began working as a watchman, starting in 1929, and would continue in that profession until America’s entrance into World War II later on.25

With the United States now embroiled in World War II, in 1942 at the age of 59, Woodfill was commissioned a major in the United States Army, serving as an instructor in Birmingham, Alabama training infantry during the war.26 The rationale for employing Woodfill in such a capacity was that having old heroes like Alvin York and Samuel Woodfill would help to boost morale within the ranks. When Woodfill left for Alabama in 1942, it would be in mourning. His wife of almost twenty-five years, Lorena Blossom Woodfill would on March 26, 1942 succumb to pneumonia at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.27 The now Major Woodfill would choose to sell his empty home in Kentucky and after retiring from the army at the age of sixty, moved back to Jefferson County, Indiana, near where he had been born, and bought a small farm near Vevay.28

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