Samuel Woodfill

Samuel Woodfill

Infobox Military Person
name=Samuel Woodfill
born= Birth date|1883|1|6
died= Death date and age|1951|8|10|1883|1|6
placeofbirth= Belleview, Jefferson County, Indiana
placeofdeath= Indiana
placeofburial= Arlington National Cemetery

caption=Major Woodfill in his Army uniform displaying several of his medals
allegiance= United States of America
branch= United States Army
serviceyears=1901 - 1923 1942 - 1943
rank= Major
unit=60th Infantry, Fifth Division
battles= World War I *Meuse-Argonne Offensive
awards=Medal of Honor Legion of Honor French Croix de Guerre with palm Italy's Meriot di Guerra Cross of Prince Danilo, First Class

Samuel Woodfill (January 6, 1883-August 10, 1951) was a Major in the United States Army who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War I. His numerous other awards made him the most decorated soldier of World War I.


Samuel Woodfill was born January 6, 1883 in Jefferson County, Indiana and entered service with the United States Army from Bryantsburg, Indiana.

Considered to be World War I's most decorated soldier, receiving among others, the Medal of Honor (presented by General Pershing), the French Croix de Guerre with palm, and made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, Italy's Meriot di Guerra, and the Cross of Prince Danilo, First Class.

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.

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. 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.

In 1924 an effort was made by some independent Democrats to Woodfill to run for the United States Congress and challenge Democrat incumbent Arthur B. Rouse. A Kentucky Post account on April 16, 1924, said Woodfill had expressed an interest in Congress while attending a reception in Washington, D.C., three years before during the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When Woodfill was proposed as a candidate for Congress, he was out of town doing promotional work for American Legion posts in Massachusetts. Mrs. Woodfill, contacted at her home in Fort Thomas, downplayed the idea. She said when her husband was first contacted to participate in the dedication event, he had expressed reluctance, saying, "I'm tired of being a circus pony. Every time there is something doing they trot me out to perform." Mrs. Woodfill said her husband disliked public events because he was basically a bashful person who did not enjoy the glare of public attention. She added, though, "My husband may not have the education of a lawyer, scholar or the like, but if reputation, honesty, service and truth were the only requisite, he is amply qualified to fill the high position to which his friends would elect him." Upon his return to Northern Kentucky, Woodfill quickly put an end to candidate speculation, saying he wanted no part of elected office.

Locally, Woodfill remained a celebrity. In October 1924 a life-size painting of Woodfill was presented to Woodfill Elementary School by Mrs. Woodfill. The painting was to hang in the school along with copies of his citations and a brief history of his life. And in October 1928 Woodfill and his wife were the special guests of honor at the Greater Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. That account said Woodfill was living in retirement on a farm in Campbell County. A later account said Woodfill had purchased about 60 acres of farm land between Silver Grove and Flagg Springs in rural Campbell County in 1925 with the vision of planting apple and peach trees. A report on July 24, 1929, said many of the trees died, so Woodfill purchased more trees. The account said he worked hard trying to make the orchard into a paying business, but the orchard never became a success.

By 1929 Woodfill found himself with a $2,000 debt. To keep from losing the farm, the 46-year-old Woodfill took a job as a watchman at the Newport Rolling Mill on July 15, 1929 - working daily from 2 pm to 11 pm. Woodfill was still working as a guard at the Andrews Steel plant in Newport and living at his home in Fort Thomas when the US entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In May 1942, Woodfill and Alvin C. York - himself a highly decorated World War I veteran from Tennessee - were commissioned Army majors. Woodfill told a Kentucky Times-Star reporter at the time he was not aware the Army was going to give him the commission, which he termed a pleasant surprise. Woodfill was 59 and the Army commissions were part of a national campaign to boost national spirit and enlistments. Woodfill was later featured in an Army publicity picture, which showed him firing a rifle at Fort Benning, Georgia. Woodfill apparently spent most of the war as an Army teacher and instructor in Birmingham, Alabama.

His wife, Lorena, died March 26 1942, at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. One account said she was buried in Falmouth. In 1944 Woodfill again resigned from the Army, and he retired to a farm near Vevay in Switzerland County, Indiana. Because his wife had died, Woodfill decided not to return to Fort Thomas.

In a 1978 Kentucky Post story, Agatha Sackstedder, who grew up in a house across the street from the Woodfills, described Mrs. Woodfill as tall and elegant. She added that cookies and a big bowl of fresh fruit were always on the family table. She said the Woodfills had no children and Mrs. Woodfill seemed to enjoy having a young girl visit her. Mrs. Sackstedder described Woodfill as a strong looking, very tall man with a ruddy, happy looking face.

Woodfill was found dead at the Indiana farm on August 13 1951, at the age of 68. He apparently had died of natural causes several days before he was found. Neighbors said they had not missed him because he had talked of going to Cincinnati to buy plumbing supplies. Despite his Indiana roots, a Kentucky Post editorial on August 15 1951, called Woodfill "one of the greatest soldiers produced by the Bluegrass state." Woodfill was buried in the Jefferson County Cemetery near Madison, Indiana. But through the efforts of Indiana Congressman Earl Wilson, Woodfill's body was removed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery in August 1955. His grave can be found in Section 34, Grave 642.

Medal of Honor citation

An accomplished sharpshooter, Woodfill earned the Medal of Honor for actions on October 12, 1918. He singlehandedly disabled several German machine-gun nests and killed many enemy combatants with rifle, pistol and pickaxe.cite web|url= |title=Medal of Honor Recipients - World War I |publisher=U.S. Army Center of Military History |work=Medal of Honor Citations |date=2005-04-15 |accessdate=2006-10-23] His actual citation is below:

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.


: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.

ee also

*List of Medal of Honor recipients
*List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War I


NAME= Woodfill, Samuel
SHORT DESCRIPTION= United States Army Medal of Honor recipient

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