Place the Headstones Where They Belong
Thomas Neibaur, World War 1 Soldier
Publication Year: 2008
young Thomas Neibaur found himself in the core of the American Expeditionary Force’s most important offensive.
After becoming separated in advance of his unit, he, despite serious wounds, single-handedly stopped a German
counterattack at a critical hill known as Côte de Châtillon. For this remarkable feat of valor, he received the Medal of
Honor and other awards, becoming the first Idaho and first Mormon recipient of the nation’s highest combat award.
But after a heroic return and brief celebrity, his life followed a tragic downward arc, culminating in his attempt to return
his medal because, as he put it, it could not feed his family.
Published by: Utah State University Press
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He was just one Medal of Honor recipient of many, but he was, nevertheless, one. Private Thomas Neibaur is not listed among the most prominent names in the annals of U.S. military history, but some think he should be. His remarkable story is compelling and certainly worthy of acclaim. ...
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In May 2005 I commenced a journey of discovery that has climaxed with the publication of this biography. Over the last three years I discovered the heart and soul of Thomas Neibaur, and I am a better historian because of it. I remember well how the journey began with a casual phone ...
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Private Thomas Neibaur wrote in a letter home to his parents from his hospital bed on January 3, 1919, “I suppose you are very much surprised to hear that I have received a medal for bravery.” Recovering from four wounds while serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I, ...
Chapter 1: Homelands from Germany to Sugar City
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"In company of my wife 3 children & a number of others for Liverpool to embark on board the ship “Sheffield” bnd[bound] for New Orleans,” recorded Alexander Neibaur on February 5, 1841.1 From Preston, Lancashire, England, Alexander of Jewish roots and German nationality, and his English wife, ...
Chapter 2: War Comes to America, 1917
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How does one summarize a conflict that ended with some ten million dead soldiers and civilians? How does one easily explain a struggle that destroyed four empires, brought down several monarchies, and changed the world? Who could predict that this war would incubate two infamous “isms” that would ...
Chapter 3: Camps
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Private Neibaur served in an infantry company of local Idaho men, M Company, which was part of a larger unit, the 2nd Idaho Infantry Regiment, which consisted of even more men from across Idaho. M Company was commanded initially by Captain Levi E. Lundburg, with company officers, ...
Chapter 4: France, 1918
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Private Neibaur wrote, “On the 10th of February I was transferred to the Forty-second, or Rainbow Division. Continued with them until I was wounded and disabled.”1 The 42nd Division arrived in France in segments beginning in November 1917 and was one of the first of four American divisions ...
Chapter 5: The Summer of the Rainbow
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"I’ll tell you folks this war sure is hard on a man,” wrote Thomas, “and nobody but a real man could stand it. One night a man is sleeping in a good warm place and the next night he’s sleeping in a shell hole with nothing to [for] cover.”1 It takes some honesty to relate such personal sentiments ...
Chapter 6: C
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General John Pershing had made a pact with the devil, and now the devil was coming to collect. Pershing had wanted a separate American sector and offensive to prove the AEF’s worth and to keep his army intact. He had also promised the Supreme Allied Commander, Marshal Foch, that the AEF could reduce ...
Chapter 7: Hospitals and Home
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"Dear folks . . . I have been on the front for a long time then got wounded and am now in a hospital nursing a leg with three machine gun wounds in it,” Thomas wrote home on October 28, 1918. It was his first letter home after his momentous day nearly two weeks earlier. One cannot help marveling how ...
Chapter 8: Family and Fate
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Some time after Thomas Neibaur’s return from France and the Great War his father, James, sat down with him to have a frank discussion. Thomas began to discuss his war experiences, but he then became emotional and could hardly control himself. A decade later, in 1928, James Hopper visited the Neibaur family ...
Epilogue: Last Honors
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Thomas Neibaur’s life had some peaks and perhaps more valleys. Idaho writer Vardis Fisher wrote of Neibaur’s passing and legacy a week after his death. Recalling the heady day in Sugar City in May 1919, Thomas’s day of glory, Fisher wrote, “Of Neibaur’s life after that day of roses, the less said the better; ...
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Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2008