William Arhtur Sirmon did not actually receive the Silver Star until years after WWI. It was formerly known and awarded to him as the Citation Star. The Citation Star originated from an Act of Congress on July 9, 1918 and is incorporated into the center of the Silver Star. William Arthur Sirmon had his Citation Star converted into the Silver Star in the 1930’s.
The Silver Star was converted from the Citation Star by the Secretary of War in 1932. It is awarded to a person who is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force. It was also awarded upon letter application to Commander, to individuals serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army who received a citation for gallantry in action in World War I published in orders issued by a headquarters commanded by a general officer.
Excerpt from That’s War:
“September 9th. In Support. When I was but a boy, I used to look with awe upon a man in the uniform of Uncle Sam or one arrayed in the attire of that mysterious land “out west.” I read of the deeds of these men and no poet’s imagination ever ascribed greater courage to any hero than I bestowed upon the men whose dress was so suggestive to me, of the great things men do.
On September 4th I slept all day because I had patrolled all night, and when I awoke I made a report of my patrol, that I thought very unsatisfactory because I had no prisoners to deliver. Today I received an order from the Division Commander, the wording of which does justice to the heroic deeds of my heroes of childhood. My house of cards has fallen! A man, just a plain ordinary man, does his best-and that seems to constitute heroism. Just duty, always duty, performed in spite of obstacles, seems to be all that can be done. No man could fail his leadership with soldiers like mine! Here’s the Order:
82nd Div. Headquarters, American E.F.
8 September 1918.
1. The Division Commander takes great pleasure in announcing to the Command the splendid conduct of 1st Lieutenant W.A. Sirmon, 325th Inf., and the men of his patrol, on the night of Sept. 3rd and 4th. While in command of a patrol in the enemy’s territory, and under fire from front and flank by Machine Guns, Lt. Sirmon led his patrol against the Germans, making his attack with a daring and coolness worthy of the best traditions of the service. The Germans were driven away from their guns and retreated in great haste.
The Division Commander hopes that the daring action of this officer and his men will furnish an example to be followed by all patrols sent out from Division.
By Command of Major General Burnham,
Lieut. Col. General Staff,
Chief of Staff.
Major, A.G.D., Adjutant”
The World War One Victory Medal, originally known just as the Victory Medal, was designed by James Earle Fraser. It was established in 1919 by general orders from the different branches of the military. The United States Congress had intended to create this medal but when the bill was voted on, not enough voters supported it so the idea was cast out of Congress.
In the center of a bronze medallion one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter, a full-length frontal representation of Winged Victory is shown. She holds a shield in her left hand, and in her right hand she holds a sword. The figure wears a spiked crown. The theme was agreed upon by all allied nations, and each country was expected to produce its own rendering of that theme. Winged Victory was chosen for America and the spiked crown on her head was suggested by the crown on the Statue of Liberty.
The ribbon to the World War I Victory Medal consists of a double rainbow, with red joining in the center. The ribbon is edged with narrow stripes of white. The rainbows were selected to represent a "new era" and the calm after a storm, pertaining to the First World War. It also represents the combined colors of the Allies joined together in a common cause.
The WWI Victory Medal is a decoration that was awarded to all veterans serving from 1917 to 1920 however, the names on the ribbons of the medal tells exactly when and where they fought.
William Arthur Sirmon was among the many men who fought and shed his blood in St. Mihiel, the Defense Sector, and the Meuse-Argonne, otherwise known as the Battle of the Argonne Forrest. When you read, That’s War, you will recognize these places and also notice several other places he fought.
Excerpt from That’s War:
“And to see it! The whole heavens were lighted and were aquiver with the shimmering light from the flashes of cannon. For many miles in every direction the hills were spitting streams of fire. Blades of flame swept along their sides as batteries fired their guns in salvo! An inferno, yes,-but a beautiful one! Thousands of cannon, all pouring out their missiles of destruction, as gun crews, sweating and swearing, kept them firing at maximum capacity. Surely Germany cannot withstand this!
What a lesson was taught me in those brief hours! What a lesson the world should learn from this! What punishment a free people can mete out to its enemy when aroused by unjust attack! Free America was speaking! Mighty America was speaking! I trembled with pride! My America was speaking! And Germany must listen! I stood enthralled while the morning hours passed. I could not move while the great drama unfolded.
At five o’clock this morning our artillery barrage lifted and our infantry jumped off. By noon news was back to us that the Boche were retreating so rapidly our doughboys were being loaded into trucks to overtake them. What a glorious day! I know the end must be near. Now I can sleep; I must sleep, and damn me, I will sleep!”
“When a man is cornered, or his friends are cornered, he will rise and fight with every ounce of energy, courage, or cheap trick that he must to protect his own.” – Brannon Sirmon
William Arthur Sirmon was a Lieutenant and eventually promoted to Captain during battle of “the war to end all wars.” This meant that not only was he in charge of his life and the men next to him, but he was accountable for the lives of every man in his platoon. He was responsible with executing orders, at all cost, leading his gaggle of heroes into fierce combat to defy death time and time again to prove that the Allies could and would win “The Great War”. His defiance of death did not go without cost, however. This is where the honor of the Purple Heart comes in.
The Purple Heart was originally called the Badge of Military Merit, coined by the First President of the United States, George Washington. It was established in 1782 but it was rarely ever used until after WWI.
The Purple Heart is a decoration for military personnel awarded for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces. It is awarded in the name of the president and is America’s oldest active combat medal.
Excerpt from That’s War:
“When I had safely stored every man in the eggshell, I got down in the dugout but could not move away from the foot of the steps. I could hear the deep guttural roar of the enemy cannon far off in the distance, and with it came the awful moaning whistle peculiar to gas shells. Sometimes I had no time to wonder “Where Will That One Land” for those that come near give no warning. The moan of its flight is drowned in the bang of its explosion. Two or three times I thought our little wooden shack, with all of our worldly goods, had been blown off the landscape, but the first gray of morning revealed it still there. Shell splinters had chipped it up to look like wormy cypress but no direct hit had been scored.
A silence! Maybe it was over! Then that dreadful rumble in the distance and that moan like the wailing of a lost soul in purgatory, then the crash on the Decauville track near us! The Boche rained shells on us! When they exploded we could hear the liquid showering the leaves of the trees. The fumes were like fog! Our dugout had no gas curtains to protect the entrances. We had to take it!
Heads were aching badly now. Those who are experienced will tell you the nose clip and head straps of a gas mask are most uncomfortable after two hours of steady wearing. Some men removed the face cloth, keeping the nose clip and mouth piece in place. They paid for it.
Then a real pause came. I waited but a few minutes and ordered the men out of the dugout. We had cleared it for about two minutes when men were climbing trees trying to get out of the gas for it hugs the ground. One of them, in a muffled voice that always comes from a gas mask, called down, “Smith, come up here, there’s no gas here.”
A clear Texas brogue without gas mask to hinder it, answered, “There ain’t none down here now.”
I shouted through my mask, “Fool, get your mask on. Because you don’t die immediately you think the damn stuff is harmless.” There was gas enough to wipe out half the population of New York City. When you have sniffed a little of it you can no longer smell it so acutely. A muffled voice answered me, “It’s on now, Lieutenant.”
Damn the Hun! That distant rumble came again and the wailing saints of hell rent the air again!”
To read more buy That’s War today!!!
Last week I told you about the Croix de Guerre with Palm, which is France’s fifth highest honor. This week I will tell you a little bit about France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honour, and give you a brief look through Bill Sirmon’s eyes on a night right before combat.
The French Legion of Honour is also known as the National Order of the Legion of Honour. It was established over two hundred years ago on May 19, 1802 in the time of the first Republic of France. Napolean Bonaparte created this award to commend civilians and soldiers for excellence and as recognition of merit. It is divided into five different classes: Knights, Officers, Commanders, Grand Officer, Grand Cross. Bill Sirmon received this award on February 16, 1919 and was classified in the Knight, or chevalier, category.
Excerpt From That’s War
We got into his lines about ten o’clock, but it was not until about 2:15 this morning that we finally made our attack. I had bought hemp soled “sneakers” for my men in Nancy yesterday, so we could prowl about the Boche back yard quietly. I controlled my patrol by a series of soft bird-like whistling signals. Never a word was spoken.
The hours from ten o’clock until two fifteen were nerve-racking ones. We were always conscious that the German army was all around us, and we could not tell what form his attack might take. He might be watching us, and suddenly rise up all around us, or we might be walking into another trap where he would mow us down with machine guns, and blow us too pieces with grenades. It is the unknown that man fears. Give him a definite enemy and he will make his attack daringly, but none except those who have experienced it, will ever know the terrific strain of the hours of suspense, facing the unknown.
William Arthur Sirmon was a lot of things, but a coward was just not one of them. This is proved by the citations and merits he received for his bravery that is shown throughout the pages of the World War One book, or his authentic diary, That’s War.
The Croix de Guerre with Palm can be seen in the top left corner of the cover page of That’s War. It is a French medal that wasn’t believed necessary until the brutality of WWI. Prior to the Croix de Guerre, France awarded the Citation du jour, which was just a sheet of paper, but because of the immensity of the war France decided they needed something more to honor their soldiers.
It was established on April 8, 1915, and it can be awarded to a unit that exemplifies an extreme amount of bravery. It may also be given to an individual who shows unfailing courage in the face of combat with enemy forces, which is why William Arthur Sirmon received it.
Excerpt from That’s War:
“We were caught-successfully ambushed! We were hemmed in on both sides by the heavy German wire. We could not deploy.
I heard Lieutenant Hazelwood shout, “Tell Major Hawkins that Hazelwood is wounded.”
There was a terrific explosion right beside me. I turned, and a private lay there, groaning.
“Are you hurt?” I asked.
“I think my hip’s blown off,” he said.
I felt his hip and put my hand into a ghastly hole the potato-masher had made.
The Patrol broke. I wanted to shoot, but could see no Germans to shoot at. They had two machine guns and several riflemen flanking the opening. I had jumped to the side of it. In the flare lights I could see our men escaping, running back out of the wire. Strangely enough I did not think of running away. I was not even shaking now. Not that I was thinking of those things at the time. I don’t know that I was thinking at all. It was a case of being in a hot, tight corner, and somehow or other there was no time to think.
Soon everyone who was not wounded, was gone. The terrible firing continued. A short distance from me was a shell hole. I rolled the wounded man beside me into it. I saw several wounded and got them into the one hole. I found Hazelwood with several bullet wounds in his body and one foot blown off by a grenade. None of the wounded were able to do more than carry themselves.
Sergeant Garner, of our Regiment, appeared out of the dark. He said that Lieutenant Wood was dying in the wire to our left. I could not help him. I had seven wounded of my own, but told him I would cover the opening with a rifle until he could get away. He saluted, and got Wood and saved him
Firing had not slackened. I got the six enlisted men to the edge of No Man’s Land and showed them how to get over to our lines, and watch them hobble away, assisting each other.
I went back into the wire for Hazelwood.”
If you want to know what happens next buy That’s War, and read the entire mesmerizing and historical diary.
Independence Day, I am not referring to the movie with Will Smith punching an alien in the face with a quip of “Welcome to Earth”, is more commonly known as the 4th of July. Americans memorialize this day with barbeque, picnics, festivals, and baseball games. People gather with their friends and family to take trips to lakes, beaches, or mountain houses where they celebrate by firing fireworks and enjoying the pleasant company. We fly the American flag high because we are the nation that people escape to for freedom and security. But why do we do this?
This is the day that our government, our just democracy was born. We rejoice this day to honor our courageous, pioneering ancestors who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 to give us our freedom from the tyrannical rule of the Kingdom of Great Britain. We do this to remember the people who fought for our freedom and the millions that still fight. We enrapture ourselves with the pride of being Americans and the pure captivating feeling of showing our patriotism. It is my hope that this feeling never dies, that America remains the place that others can rely on for security, and that WE THE PEOPLE will do our part to remain the greatest nation that our ancestors fought for!
Below is an Excerpt from the book “That’s War” by Capt. William Arthur Sirmon. It is a passage in his journal during the days of battle of WWI that shows his feeling of the American holiday.
July 4th. Minorville. Today the world celebrates the greatest national holiday in history. Every American citizen should return thanks to Heaven for the privilege of his citizenship. Every Allied nation and almost all of South America joins us in celebrating this day of our independence. The principles upon which the policy of our government and the character of our people are founded will be extolled by every leading nation of the Allied and neutral world. To guarantee the future privilege of the freedom and liberty that our government assures to pledge themselves to the successful prosecution of the war. As indicative of the tremendous part we are playing, 120 ships will slide into the water from American shipyards, and the President announced that we have today more than a million men in France. To us who are holding the Hun on the Western Front, our thoughts go out to America, and to our homes today.
Personal Note- In the past the Fourth of July, to me, meant that it was time for some extremely delicious food and a vacation was on the horizon. I knew that it was America’s birthday and that we were suppose to honor the soldiers who fight for us. I never really took the time to actually honor the day. This year I look at it in a completely different light. With the economy in decline, our national struggles growing, and my best friend of twenty years in the heart of the battle in Afghanistan, I believe we should all do our part to honor and nurture America. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!
Each generation fathers pass down their stories, sense of humor, possessions, and most importantly their love. We grow into the individuals that we become due to our fathers that raise and groom us for the tribulations of the world. Many people live by a wide variety of philosophies. I believe that, "family is the most important thing," is one of the most practiced of these philosophies. That being said, I hope that we all take this day to appreciate our fathers’. Father's Day is a day to remember and give thanks to the men who bring us into this world. It is a time where we may bond with our fathers, whether it is through a casual lunch, an extended phone call, or even a prayer. I would personally like to tell my father, Thank You, and Happy Father’s Day!! Also I hope all the fathers out there have a Happy Fathers Day!!
What is Flag Day? How do we celebrate? Why should we even care? These are all questions to which Americans should have an immediate answer. Sadly, as present generations are losing their concern for history and pride in country, it seems as though people are forgetting the flag altogether.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a 1916 proclamation, which declared Flag Day would be celebrated annually on June 14. Unofficially, however, it has been acknowledged in some form or fashion for over two centuries. While Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, many states like Pennsylvania have declared it a state holiday. It commemorates the passing of a 1777 act when the Continental Congress established an official flag for our new nation. Some scholars believe that George Washington hired Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to design the flag in 1776. This story is widely debated amongst the community of historians because no actual documentation exists. Naysayers will admit this is possible, though, considering that Ross did know President Washington and she was known for sewing flags.
America currently holds twenty-seven different official versions of the flag. The arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers’ preferences until 1912. The twenty-seventh president, William Howard Taft, standardized the flag’s forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag was developed after Alaska was admitted on January 3rd, 1959. Our current flag of fifty stars matured after Hawaii was added on August 21st, 1959, and also carries a standardized pattern. America has flown her current flag proudly since July 4th, 1960. Today, our nation’s flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes; seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the 13 original colonies, while the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white signifies purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The love for our flag begins early. From childhood, children begin their mornings in school reiterating the words many Americans have for decades. “I pledge allegiance to the FLAG of the United States of America…” After September 11th, 2001, people congregated to comfort and console one another, to lift up one another and strengthen communities. No matter the region of the nation, the flag remained the one thing they all had in common, waving proudly nearby. The flag is a lasting symbol of unity, hope, and freedom that America provides and must continue to exemplify.
Captain William Arthur Sirmon, who fought in World War One said, “Surely it is noble to fight for the flag, but how much more wonderful to have a world with flags that need no warriors. Is it possible? I think not. I am afraid we must always train men, discipline men, love men – then watch them die!”
Our flag has a proud and glorious history. It has led every battle fought by Americans and many people have died protecting it. It is our duty as free men and women to commemorate the people who have given their lives for us to own that freedom. As Americans, we have every right to be proud of our culture, our nation and our flag. Let us raise the flag every single day with pride!