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Cpl. Thomas A. Pope

Young Infantryman Charged German Machine Gun, Spurred Allies On To Hamel



Young Chicagoan Thomas A. Pope was assigned to Company E, 1st Illinois Infantry, along with his brother and a host of childhood friends during World War I. The regiment joined with the 2nd Illinois to become the 66th Infantry Brigade of the 33rd Infantry Division.

In early June 1918, the men of Company E arrived in France. They had endured a year of training in Illinois and Texas, had seen their regiment renamed and reclassified, and had changed company commanders. But their biggest shock lay ahead: only 34 days after arriving in Europe, they found themselves at the front.

The Allies' key rail junction was at Amiens. Earlier in 1918, when the Germans launched an offensive that threatened the Amiens area, there was no time for Gen. John J. Pershing to mass American authority, so the 66th Infantry Brigade was attached to the Australian Brigade. The combined units were ordered to seize the town of Hamel on July 4. The assault was to be made on a 2,600-yard front from the Somme to the Bois de Vaire. As the battalion attacked, they encountered resistance -- concentrated machine-gun fire from one point.

According to one source, Pope yelled "I see it!" and sprinted out, charging into the enemy machine-gun nest before its surprised crew could fire at him. Pope wiped out the crew with his bayonet, then calmly turned, stood astride the gun, and picked off a nearby German squad with his rifle.

When the rest of his battalion caught up with Pope, they swept in and captured Hamel. During the two days of counterattack that followed, Pope was gassed and invalided back to England.

In 1919, his extraordinary actions were recognized when Pope became the Army's first Medal of Honor winner in France. During the awards ceremony, Cpl. Thomas A. Pope also received the Distinguished Conduct Medal from the British and the Medaille Militaire and Croix de Guerre from the French.

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