b. 06/01/1833 Bryantsburg, Indiana. d. 10/08/1951 Vevay, Indiana.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12/10/1918 Cunel, France.
Samuel Woodfill was born January 6, 1883 in Bryantsburg, Indiana, the son of John H. Woodfill. His father was a veteran of the Mexican–American War and the Civil War, having served in the 5th Regiment Indiana Infantry. Woodfill learned to hunt at an early age and was a good shot by age ten. He received a basic education in local schools and enlisted in the 11th Infantry of the United States Army on March 8, 1901.
The United States was occupying the Philippines when Woodfill was dispatched as a private. Woodfill was involved in a number of conflicts with the Filipino guerilla forces. He remained in the Philippines until 1904 before being transferred to Alaska that same year to serve at Fort Egbert until its closure in 1911. Not wanting to leave Alaska, Woodfill remained and served at Fort Gibbon. In 1912 he was moved again and stationed in Fort Thomas in Kentucky.
In 1914 Woodfill was dispatched as part of a force to guard the Mexican American border during the Mexican Civil War. Their presence was sufficient to halt the cross border violence and he saw no action there. In 1917 his company returned to Fort Thomas.
After the United States declared war on Germany and entered World War I in April 1917, the Army greatly expanded. Due to the demand for experienced officers, Woodfill was granted a temporary commission as a second lieutenant on July 11, 1917. About this time, Woodfill began courting Lorena "Blossom" Wiltshire and the couple married on December 26, 1917. The couple bought a home in the town of Fort Thomas.
At the outbreak of World War I, Woodfill's regiment, the 60th Infantry Regiment was assigned to the Army's Fifth Infantry Division and deployed to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force under the command of General John Pershing. Due to the shortage of experienced officers, Woodfill was promoted to second lieutenant on July 11, 1917 and to first lieutenant on March 2, 1918. Woodfill's regiment was placed in the defenses between Meuse and the Argonne in France in August 1918.
On September 26 the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began. The offensive lasted for forty-five days and left tens of thousands dead. On the morning of October 12, Woodfill and his company were stationed near Cunel when his men were advancing through thick fog. As they moved forward, machine gun fire broke out from German held positions targeting Woodfill and his men. While the other men took cover, Woodfill quickly advanced on the machine gun emplacement while avoiding being hit. As he approached the emplacement he opened fire, disabling three German soldiers. A German officer rushed Woodfill and engaged him in hand-to-hand combat, but Woodfill gained the advantage and killed him.
With the threat removed, Woodfill signaled for his company to advance when a second machine gun opened fire. Woodfill ordered his men to charge the emplacement, which was quickly overrun and three Germans captured. His men again resumed their advance only to have a third machine gun open fire. Woodfill ordered another charge. As he approached the machine gun he opened fire with his rifle, disabling five German soldiers. Woodfill was first to reach the gun emplacement and entered the bunker pit. He discharged all the shots in his pistol without hitting either of the two soldiers manning the position. He then seized a nearby pick axe and clubbed the two soldiers to death.
Mustard gas had become heavy in the area during the fighting and Woodfill and his men began to suffer under its effect. As the symptoms worsened, Woodfill ordered his men to withdraw to the allied battle line. None of his men died in the fierce fighting, but several, including Woodfill, were hospitalized in Bordeaux after their retreat. Woodfill saw no more action for the remainder of the war and remained in medical care for several weeks while he received treatment for the effects of the poisonous gas. His heroics earned him a number of decorations, but he would suffer from weakened lungs for the rest of his life.
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.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
Section 34, Grave 642-A
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