By David VergunApril 11, 2017
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- The hero people most recall from World War I might be Sgt. Alvin York, who captured 132 Germans and received a Medal of Honor for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France in 1918, according to Dieter Stenger.
Stenger, a curator at the Army Museum Enterprise, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, spoke to visitors Thursday at the Pentagon, during a display of World War I artifacts and re-enactors marking the centennial of the U.S. declaring war on Germany, April 6, 1917.
Many people have heard of York because of a 1941 film about his exploits, played by Academy Award-winning actor Gary Cooper. But there were a lot of other unheralded heroes too, Stenger said.
Take 2nd Lt. William H. Kofmehl. He captured 37 German soldiers and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest military award (behind the Medal of Honor). Yet, his feat was significant as well.
Kofmehl's platoon took heavy casualties from machine-gun fire in Bois-des-Rappes, north of Verdun, France, Oct. 21, 1918. His unit was Company C, 15th Machine-Gun Battalion, 5th Division, American Expeditionary Force
Rallying a handful of men, Kofmehl led them in a charge on the Germans manning the guns and, in the process, captured 37 prisoners. Kofmehl went on to distinguish himself in the fighting after taking the prisoners to the rear.
During the fighting, Kofmehl captured a German Maschinengewehr 08/15 machine gun. Stenger showed the weapon, which was on a table, along with a lot of other World War I artifacts.
It is probable that Kofmehl's machine-gun was a French 1915 Chauchat, he said, adding that the Browning Automatic Rifle had not yet been fielded to his unit.
Stenger said the weapons and equipment would all be on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir when it opens in 2019.
In addition to a number of curators answering questions from Pentagon personnel, several re-enactors in World War I Army uniforms posed and chatted about World War I and their uniforms and accouterments.
Todd Rambow, sporting an infantryman's uniform, said he and the other re-enactors acquired the clothing from flea markets and online bidding.
"I've always been interested in history, but particularly World War I," said the 27-year-old machinist from Lindenwold, New Jersey.
One of Rambow's regrets is never having met a World War I veteran, he said, so he relives history through the many books and uniforms he's acquired over the years. An entire room of his house has World War I Army and Navy uniforms, displayed on mannequins.
The only family connection Rambow has with World War I is his great-grandfather, who served on the USS Black Hawk, a destroyer tender that participated in mine laying in the North Sea to prevent German ships from entering the Atlantic.
Rambow recalls his grandmother telling him stories about her father. He died sometime in the 1930s.
Twice a year, Rambow and the other re-enactors participate in the Great War Association-sponsored World War I re-enactment battles in a field near Newville, Pennsylvania, he said.
The re-enactment includes cold, muddy trenches, shell holes, bunkers and machine guns that make it feel like a real World War I battlefield, he said.
Rambow also participates in re-enactments aboard the cruiser USS Olympia, docked in Philadelphia. According to Rambow, in addition to seeing service during World War I, the Olympia was Commodore George Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.
Mike Kirby, another re-enactor, was dressed in an Army engineer's uniform. He was armed with a shovel. Asked if it was for digging trenches, he said an engineer carried around a shovel mainly to fill in shell holes on roads so that military vehicles could pass.
Besides being a history buff, particularly of World War I, Kirby said he was also particularly keen about the engineer corps, because his great-uncle served in the Army during World War I with C Company, 23rd U.S. Engineers.
(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)