Decorated Soldiers of World War I

Private, U.S. Army
Headquarters Company, 59th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: October 4 - 5,1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to George Brown, Private, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Bois-du-Fays, France, October 4 - 5, 1918. As a battalion runner, Private Brown repeatedly exposed himself to intense artillery and machine-gun fire, crossing open spaces in view of the enemy to deliver important messages. He aided largely in maintaining liaison and his courage was an inspiration to those near him.
General Orders 71, W.D., 1919
Home Town: Moundsville, WV

The Fighting Forces and the Inner Lines

Marshall County, West Virginia
November 1919; Second Edition; pages 26-31.

Compiled by R. J. Smith.

Submitted by T. Vernon Anderson.


      In the engagement of Belleau Woods, June, 1918, which history records as the turning point of the war, several Marshall County boys were on the firing line. Two of them were decorated for conspicuous bravery.
      After the spring drive of 1918, when the Germans almost separated the English and French armies, nearly reached the Channel ports; and, by June 1st had opened the way to Paris, the French poilu lost heart. The French divisions, holding the gateway to Paris, gave way. They were falling back -- retreating before the sweep of the German army. The spirit of the French soldiers was broken. In a few days the Boches would be shelling Paris. Already they were packed in the Soissons-Rheims salient. An advance of a few miles more and Paris was at the mercy of the Hun.
      The American Marines were thrown into the fighting on the road to Paris at this critical period and at the point where the French army had given way. They held the Germans, gave the French new heart; and, a few weeks later General Foch began the offensive that meant the end of the war and victory for the Allies.
      On June 1st, 1918, just a handful of Marines, measured as numbers were on the Western front, were near the Paris-Metz road on which the French were retreating before the advancing Germans in the flush of their spring drive with final success practically within their grasp. The Marines were resting after being in the trenches. They belonged to the Second Division and were only 8,000 strong. These Marines were suddenly loaded on trucks of every description and sent down the road from Paris, passed the retreating French poilu; and, as they went by the dispirited French they sang:

"Over there; over there; and We wont be back till it's over, over here."

      Neither the Marines nor the poilu, at first, knew the meaning of this movement. The Marines felt they were going into action. The retreating French sensed something in the air; and, before the American Marines reached the point of contact with the advancing Germans, the French began to reform, to stand, to turn about and the fighting spirit again surged through their ranks.
      Of the 8,000 Marines that went into action singing: "We won't be back till its over, over here," 6,200 were reported in the casualty list -- but they held the Germans.
      The 84th Co. of the 6th regiment of the Second Division, was a part of these 8,000 men, and were near the town of Bouresches on June 8th. Each man was sticking to a hole he had dug in a little rise of the ground as a protection from the sweep of the German guns.
      Munition trucks had held the right of way, on the road from Paris, since June 1st. Food fransports, even Red Cross ambulances, were "sidetracked" for munition trucks; but, these munition trucks could not get to the Marines. German shells had blasted up the roadway.
      The 84th Co. of Marines ran out of munitions. The nearest 'dump' was half a mile away. Most of the distance in the open under sweep of the hail of German gun fire. Annihilation was before them. It was either, be cut to pieces by German fire in the holes dug in the hill, or be mowed down in an effort to get munitions. It was a situation in which no officer gives command.



Felix Hill, Right

      Sergeant Felix W. Hill chose to try and save the company. He made one trip to the munition 'dump' a half mile away, returing with Springfield munition and hand grenades. A second and a third trip was made by Sergeant Hill and his company of 250 men were saved from annihilation.
      On June 28th, Sergeant Hill was decorated with the French Croix de Guerr -- the French War Cross; also by General Pershing with the Distinguished Service Cross of the American Army -- which few men wear.
      Sergeant Hill was among the few hundred, dirty, ragged, battle-scarred 'Leathernecks' that participated in the Fourth of July celebration in Paris; and, who were hailed amid the wildest demonstration, not only as the saviors of Paris, but as the men who had given France a new heart, turned the tide of war and shown the world the mettle of American soldiers. These tatered Marines, with torn uniforms and lank faces, who had been without food from three to five days, during the first of June, while munition trucks held the right of way on the Paris-Metz road, and who had tackled the whole German army, walked in Paris on carpet of roses. They epitomized the new fighting spirit that had entered the war and which brought it to a close on November 11th, five months later.
      Sergeant Hill was wounded twice at the engagement near Soissons on July 19th. The 84th Co. advanced through a wheat field against the Germans in the woods on the opposite side of the field. Of the 250 men in the company only 16 reached their objective. Sergeant Hill was one of the 234 who did not 'get there.' A shell struck in front of him, killing three nearby. A fragment struck him in the left shoulder, turned him a couple of flip-flops, and when he sprang to his feet a German machinebullet went tearing through his left arm, and he took the count.
      Sergeant Felix W. Hill volunteered in August, 1915. He was the first West Virginia soldier to receive the American Distinguished Service Cross. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Hill, Hickory avenue, Moundsville. Thomas W. Hill is a Civil War veteran.


      The other Marshall county boy to be decorated for bravery in the action which proved to be the turning point of the war, was Raymond White, son of Thomas White, an employee in the Moundsville Postoffice.
      Private Raymond White was a member of the battalion of Marines, each of whom were decorated with the French Croix de Guerr. He was later given the French Bouraches, a regimental citation, signifying that his unit had been in action at least five times.
      Private Raymond White was in action on six different fronts, and on five of these fronts he had the distinction of being used among shock troops.
      From Chateau Thierry the Fifth Marines were hurried to Soissons, where they were used by General Foch in launching the great offensive of July 18th, which wiped out the Soissons-Rheims salient and kept the Germans on the run until they finally appealed for the armistice. In this Soissons action the regiment followed British tanks over the top and did terrible execution among the Germans, at the same time losing heavily themselves.
      With the Rheims-Soissons salient reduced the boys were sent to St. Mihiel, where in September they helped to wipe out German positions which had withstood French and British assaults for four years. This work was accomplished so easily as to be called a military miracle by our allies.
      From St. Mihiel until the close of the war the Marines were constantly in action. They jumped next to the Champagne district where they helped the French, and from there back to the Argonne-Forest drive which opened in October, and were engaged on this front when the armistice was signed.
      White was gassed three times but was not seriously injured. On November 5th, he took sick and was ordered to the hospital by his company commander. In December he was invalidated home with a shipload of wounded, arriving at Newport News on December 29th, 1918.