Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, June 1, 2015

New WWI Medal of Honor Recipients

The Medal of Honor is to be awarded tomorrow to Army Sergeant William Shemin and to Army Private Henry Johnson for conspicuous gallantry during World War I. 

Sergeant William Shemin will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Sergeant Shemin distinguished himself during combat operations in the vicinity of the Vesle River, Bazoches, France, on 7–9 August 1918. 

Sergeant Shemin entered the Army on 2 October 1917. He was assigned as a rifleman to Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment, which moved from Syracuse, New York, to Camp Greene, North Carolina, joining the 4th Infantry Division. The division arrived in France in May 1918. 

While serving as a rifleman from 7–9 August 1918, Sergeant Shemin left the cover of his platoon’s trench and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue the wounded. After officers and senior noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire, until he was wounded, 9 August.

Private Henry Johnson will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Then-Private Johnson distinguished himself during combat operations in the vicinity of the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers, northwest of Saint Menehould, France, on 15 May 1918.

Private Johnson entered the Army on 5 June 1917. He was assigned to Company C, 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment, an all-black National Guard unit that would later become the 369th Infantry Regiment. The regiment was ordered into battle in 1918, and Private Johnson and his unit were brigaded with a French Army colonial unit in frontline combat. 

While on night sentry duty on 15 May 1918, Private Johnson and a fellow soldier received a surprise attack by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers. While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces. Private Johnson exposed himself to grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.

The awards will be made at the White House on 2 June 2015. Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson, New York National Guard, will join the President at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor on Private Johnson’s behalf. Ms. Elsie Shemin-Roth of Webster Grove, Missouri, will join the President at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor on her father’s behalf.


  • The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:
  • Engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • Engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.

Source:  White House Website


  1. It's good to see that these brave men's deeds have not been forgotten. I know of a family who is seeking to obtain recognition for a Lieutenant in the 80th Blue Ridge Division, 318th Regiment, for actions similar to those of Sargeant William Shemin. Can anyone provide advice as to how to proceed?

    1. They should talk to their Congressperson and Senators. It will require an Act of Congress.

  2. Stephen L. HarrisJune 1, 2015 at 5:06 PM

    The soldier Henry Johnson kept from being captive was Needham Roberts from Trenton, NJ. Johnson fought off the Germans mostly with a bolo knife. The number of Germans has been listed as more than 20. Johnson's son, Herman Johnson, was an officer, flying with the Tuskegee Airman. His granddaughter did not serve in the military, but her son fought bravely in Desert Storm. Quite a military heritage.
    Stephen L. Harris

  3. It was a nice ceremony yesterday. Good to watch.