Maj. Samuel Woodfill’s Army career is the stuff of legend. It’s no surprise that, as a result, the Association of the United States Army released a graphic novel detailing the acts of heroism that earned him his Medal of Honor.
“General John Pershing recognized Samuel Woodfill as the most outstanding soldier of the First World War,” according to AUSA.
On Oct. 12, 1918, in the midst of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, then-1st Lt. Woodfill was with the 60th Infantry near the town of Cunel, France, when their advance came under heavy fire.
“Followed by two soldiers at 25 yards, this officer went out ahead of his first line toward a machine-gun nest and worked his way around its flank, leaving the two soldiers in front,” his citation reads.
As Woodfill approached, the machine gun firing stopped and four German soldiers attacked. Woodfill shot three and “attempted to club the officer with his rifle.”
After a struggle, Woodfill shot the soldier with his pistol.
His unit continued the advance until it was met with yet another machine gun barrage.
“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,” according to the citation.
The unit then encountered a third machine gun nest manned by five German soldiers, which Woodfill took out with his rifle. He tried but failed to subdue two additional troops with his revolver. Instead, he took up a pick-axe in the trench and engaged them in close-quarters combat.
“Inspired by the exceptional courage displayed by this officer, his men pressed on to their objective under severe shell and machine-gun fire,” the citation notes.
For these acts of valor, Pershing presented the Medal of Honor to Woodfill on Feb. 9, 1919.
But Woodfill’s story started much earlier in his hometown of Madison, Indiana, where he attempted to join the Army at age 15 to fight in the Spanish-American War. Turned down, he joined in 1901 when he was 18.
In 1917, he was made and officer and promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.
Woodfill served in the Army until retiring in 1923, but was recalled in 1942 at the outset of World War II.
“He was given special clearance to serve and, at 59, was still an excellent marksman,” according to the Defense Department archives. “But he hit the mandatory retirement age of 60 in 1943, so his third bout of service was short-lived.”
Woodfill died in 1951 and was buried in Indiana, however, in 1955, his remains were reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery — next to Pershing.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.