Sergeant William Shemin

Oct. 14, 1896
New York, New York
enlistment date
Oct. 2, 1917
unit at time of action
Company G, 47th Infantry, 4th Division, American Expeditionary Force
tours of duty
World War I, France, Germany and Belgium, 1918-1919

William Shemin was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, Oct. 14, 1896. During his teenage years, Shemin played semi-pro baseball. He graduated from the New York State Ranger School in 1914, and went on to work as a forester in Bayonne. After the United States entered World War I, Shemin enlisted in the Army, Oct. 2, 1917. Upon completion of basic training at Camp Greene, North Carolina, he was assigned as a rifleman to Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in France.

During Shemin's service, he participated in the Aisne-Marne Offensive, where he took shrapnel and was wounded by a machine gun bullet that pierced his helmet and was lodged behind his left ear. Following his injuries, Shemin was hospitalized for three months and later received light duty as part of the Army occupation in Germany and Belgium until he completed his tour.

For the injuries he sustained during combat, Shemin received the Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for battlefield valor, Dec. 29, 1919.

Shemin was honorably discharged in August 1919, and went on to get a degree from the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. After graduation, he started a greenhouse and landscaping business in Bronx, New York, where he raised three children. Shemin died in 1973.

Portrait of Sgt. William Shemin in uniform overcoat. Photo courtesy of the Shemin family.

Portrait of Sgt. William Shemin in uniform overcoat. Photo courtesy of the Shemin family.

Download original

"With the most utter disregard for his own safety, (Shemin) sprang from his position in his platoon trench, dashed out across the open in full sight of the Germans, who opened and maintained a furious burst of machine gun and rifle fire."

Capt. Rupert Purdon, one of Shemin's superiors

Battle Narrative

area of operation
Vesle River, South East of Bazoches, France
date of action
August 7-9, 1918

Sgt. William Shemin served as a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces, during combat operations against the enemy on the Vesle River, near Bazoches, France.

While serving as a rifleman from August 7-9, 1918, Shemin left the cover of his platoon's trench and crossed open space, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue the wounded.

After officers and senior non-commissioned officers had become casualties, Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire, until he was wounded, Aug. 9.

Doughboy Fighting

A doughboy is shown fighting through barbed wire entanglements. Drawing by official American military artist Capt. Harvey Dunn. (Photograph by Pvt. Berhens, S.C. Dec. 21, 1918)

Download original

The 47th Infantry Regiment
“The Raiders”

The 47th Infantry Regiment was activated in the Regular Army as the 47th Infantry in Syracuse, New York, June 1, 1917, and assigned to the 4th Division, Nov. 19, 1917. The division was organized at Camp Greene, North Carolina, Dec. 10, 1917. The 47th Infantry would remain with the division throughout the duration of World War I.

The first units of the division sailed from New York, April 20, 1918, followed during May by the rest of the division. Following arrival in France, most of the division, including the 47th Infantry proceeded to the Samer training area in Picardy, where it was attached for training to the British 16th Irish Division. The division moved to the vicinity of Meaux, on the Marne River, June 11, and the 47th Infantry was attached for training to the French 4th Division, as part of the American Expeditionary Forces.

During its service throughout World War I, the 47th Infantry Regiment earned campaign credit for its participation in Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Champagne 1918, and Lorraine 1918 campaigns.

The 47th Infantry Regiment
Distinctive Unit Insignia

This distinctive unit insignia was approved, March 20, 1936. This regiment was organized from the 9th Infantry Division in 1917, with the parent organization being shown by the canton taken from its arms. The four leaf divisional insignia on the shield represents the regiment's service during World War I in France with the 4th Division.