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A Picture from History: Thomas Hall

We take a look at Sergeant Thomas Hall -- an American solider that took out a German machine gun nest with just a bayonet during World War I.

The war to end all wars took a firm grasp of the globe. This was the beginning of a new era of warfare. 

Chemical weapons were officially used for the first time, and the horrors of trench warfare began to dawn upon the many soldiers who found themselves sleeping in them.

Trench aid during World War I
Trench aid during World War I

But for one man, none of this — war, loss, fear — proved to be an obstacle. Thomas Lee Hall was an American soldier who sacrificed to protect his men…

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A Southern Boy Goes to War

From York County, South Carolina, Thomas found himself overseas in the U.S. Army after the start of World War I. He served as a sergeant attached to Company G of the 118th Infantry in the 30th Division. 

On October 5, 1918, the Australians in the area commenced the Battle of Montbrehain, France. The ultimate move of this attack was to punch through the massive system of trenches that the Germans placed in the area. 

Photo of an English tank destroyed during the Battle of Montbrehain on a postcard
Photo of an English tank destroyed during the Battle of Montbrehain on a postcard

The Allied goal was to first punch through the Hindenburg Line, then pass through the Hindenburg Support Line, and finally puncture the Beaurevoir Line.

If they could do that, they could reach Germany. 

The Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt
The Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt

After intense fighting, the Aussies managed to take the town of Montbrehain, but only after suffering intense losses. 

Just a few short days later, American soldiers would inflict heavy casualties as well. 

Attack on the Hindenburg Line
Attack on the Hindenburg Line

October 8, 1918

The day proved to be a nightmare.

Trench warfare often felt like nothing more than a prairie dog hunt. Soldiers poked their heads above the trench line with the desperate hope that a sniper or machine gunner’s bullet wouldn’t find its mark. 

Concrete machine gun nest used by the Germans in France during WWI
Concrete machine gun nest used by the Germans in France during WWI

And yet somehow, Sergeant Thomas Hall led his men to take out two of the German machine gun nests that littered the area.

As his men continued to advance — despite the odds stacked against them — they were finally pinned down with some of the worst machine gun fire any of them had ever experienced. 

American soldiers on the way to Hindenburg Line
American soldiers on the way to Hindenburg Line

As the heavy staccato of the gun barks, Hall’s men dove for safety.

By this point, they’ve witnessed firsthand how a machine gun nest protected by elaborate trench systems can annihilate any soldier caught out in the open. 

Nevermind the Potential Cost

Sergeant Hall undoubtedly witnessed this as well… all too aware of the potential consequences of exposing himself to that nest. But if something wasn’t done soon, his men would die.

Ordering his men to cover, Hall made his way toward the nest. Did he run? Did he sneak, belly-crawling through the cold mud? 

There’s not a lot of information to tell us. It’s a facet of the story that seems to have been forgotten. But what we do know is that Thomas Hall brought a knife to a gunfight. And he was going to win. 

M1905 bayonet and scabbard (Photo Auckland Museum)
M1905 bayonet and scabbard (Photo: Auckland Museum)

Using his bayonet (likely either an M1905 for a Garand or an M1917 for a trench shotgun), Hall attacked the German machine gun nest.

It was one versus five, yet Hall somehow killed all five men, singlehandedly taking out an entire machine gun nest with nothing other than his bayonet. 

M1917 Enfield rifle bayonet and scabbard
M1917 Enfield rifle bayonet and scabbard (Photo: Smithsonian Museum)

To Set an Example

Not only did Hall save his men, but he provided an exceptional show of what bravery truly meant.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that there are so many stories of heroism on October 8 from the 188th Infantry Unit that day. 

Trench warfare at night
Trench warfare at night

Gary Foster, James Heriot, and James Dozier were other men of the 188th that went on to win the Medal of Honor that day, each of them having silenced machine gun nests — and often with nothing more than grenades, pistols, and even bayonets. 

Did they draw inspiration from Hall, did he from them, or were the men of the 118th just a different breed?

Hall would die later that day after being shot while trying to take out another machine gun nest. You can see his grave at Unity Cemetery in South Carolina. 

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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8 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    david schultz

    Like the History lessions.

    December 4, 2022 6:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Scott O'Brien

    Great story with awesome pics for reference. I could do with even more info on the mentioned weapons - even if they weren't featured in this particular history. WWI and WWII are goldmines for heroes and unfamiliar gear - I will read these articles.
    As always, thanks for the info.

    November 26, 2022 2:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    MoonGod

    Amazing, awe inspiring story. Thx.

    November 25, 2022 6:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Sua Sponte

    Great story that like others, need to be told often so they are not lost to time.

    "that went on to win the Medal of Honor that day"

    Earn The Medal of Honor.....

    November 25, 2022 3:13 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bullshot

      Great Story

      November 29, 2022 4:27 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    AJFirearms

    The Garand wasn’t invented until 1932. So possibly not a garand bayonet?

    November 25, 2022 9:30 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sua Sponte

      The bayonet though was invented/introduced in 1905. Originally designed for M1903 and M1917 US Rifles, this was first type to see use on the Garand. They usually came with a canvas covered, wooden scabbard. The bayonet had a bright blade until about 1917, after which they were parkerized. Later, during WWII, almost all of the earlier "bright blade" 1905 bayonets were parkerized too since it cut down on reflection in combat. These are very hard to find and are very collectable. The blade was 16" in length and each bayonet had its own serial number, along with a manufacturer's name or code and date stamp. The grips were made of wood.

      MODEL 1905 BAYONET, WWII-Era: These are identical to the WWI bayonets except they were parkerized from the start, are rougher in appearance and finish and were equipped with black or reddish plastic grips rather than wooden ones. They have no serial numbers and are dated either "1942" or "1943." Many call this the Model 1942 bayonet, however this isn't the official name. These bayonets came with the M3 olive-drab fiberglass scabbard.

      November 25, 2022 3:25 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        AJFirearms

        Cool! Thanks for the info!

        November 25, 2022 4:40 pm
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