J. Hunter Wickersham

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John Hunter Wickersham
MOH WWI.jpg
Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1890-02-03)February 3, 1890
New York City, New York
Died September 12, 1918(1918-09-12) (aged 28)
near Limey, France
Place of burial St. Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt, France
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division
Battles/wars World War I
 • Battle of Saint-Mihiel
Awards Medal of Honor
Croce di Guerra (Italy)

John Hunter Wickersham (February 3, 1890 – September 12, 1918) was a United States Army officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War I.

Biography[edit]

Wickersham was born in New York City[1] to Mary E. Damon.[2] He joined the Army from Denver, Colorado, and by September 11, 1918 was serving as a second lieutenant in the 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division in France.[1] On that day, as his unit prepared to take part in an offensive which would become the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Wickersham wrote one last letter home to his mother in Denver. The letter contained a poem, "The Raindrops on Your Old Tin Hat", which was later published.[2]

The next day, on September 12, Wickersham was severely wounded near Limey, France, but continued to lead his platoon in its advance until collapsing and succumbing to his injuries. For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1919.[1]

Second Lieutenant Wickersham's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Advancing with his platoon during the St. Mihiel offensive, he was severely wounded in 4 places by the bursting of a high-explosive shell. Before receiving any aid for himself he dressed the wounds of his orderly, who was wounded at the same time. He then ordered and accompanied the further advance of his platoon, although weakened by the loss of blood. His right hand and arm being disabled by wounds, he continued to fire his revolver with his left hand until, exhausted by loss of blood, he fell and died from his wounds before aid could be administered.[1]

Wickersham, aged 28 at his death, was buried at the St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiaucourt, France.[3] A marker in his memory was placed at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.[4]

The poem he wrote to his mother the day before he died reads as follows:

The mist hangs low and quiet on a ragged line of hills,
  There's a whispering of wind across the flat,
You'd be feeling kind of lonesome if it wasn't for one thing—
  The patter of the raindrops on your old tin hat.

An' you can't help a-figuring—sitting there alone—
  About this war and hero stuff and that,
And you wonder if they haven't sort of got things twisted up,
  While the rain keeps up its patter on your old tin hat.

When you step off with the outfit to do your little bit
  You're simply doing what you're s'posed to do—
And you don't take time to figure what you gain or lose—
  It's the spirit of the game that brings you through.

But back at home she's waiting, writing cheerful little notes,
  And every night she offers up a prayer
And just keeps on a-hoping that her soldier boy is safe—
  The Mother of the boy who's over there.

And, fellows, she's the hero of this great, big ugly war,
  And her prayer is on the wind across the flat,
And don't you reckon maybe it's her tears, and not the rain,
  That's keeping up the patter on your old tin hat?

—"The Raindrops on Your Old Tin Hat" by J. Hunter Wickersham[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ a b c d "Medal of Honor recipients - World War I". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. July 16, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  2. ^ a b c Howard, John Raymond (ed.) (1922). Poems of Heroism in American Life. Thomas Y. Crowell Co. p. 317. 
  3. ^ "John Hunter Wickersham (1890 - 1918) grave". Find a Grave. June 19, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  4. ^ "John Hunter Wickersham (1890 - 1918) memorial". Find a Grave. June 18, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-15.