William Shemin was just 19 years old when, over the space of three days in August 1918 during the pivotal Second Battle of the Marne, he crossed the battlefield three times to rescue fellow American soldiers.
On the third effort during the battle, in which the Allies stopped the last German offensive of World War I, he was wounded in the head.
But with his commanding officers either hurt or dead, Shemin refused medical attention and led the platoon out of danger before finally collapsing unconscious.
“He distinguished himself by excellent control of his platoon at every stage of the action and by the thoroughness at great personal danger at which he evacuated the wounded,” according to the battle report submitted three months later by the division commander.
The Bayonne, N.J., native’s heroics made him the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest combat award, with his award being signed by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.
Now, nearly a century later, the Army will consider whether Shemin actually deserved the Medal of Honor, but was denied because he was Jewish.