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First Name: Nelson

Last Name: Holderman

Birthplace: Trumbull, NE, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Santa Ana, CA
Middle Name: Miles

Date of Birth: 10 November 1885

Date of Death: 03 September 1953

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1916 - 1923
Nelson Miles Holderman

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Nelson Miles Holderman

Colonel, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War I

Colonel Nelson Miles Holderman (10 November 1885 - 3 September 1953) was a U.S. Army officer who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War I. He was most notable for commanding a company of the 'Lost Battalion' and he is also considered by many to be one of the most decorated American soldiers of WWI.

Nelson Miles Holderman was born in Trumbull, NE, on 10 November 1885 and named Nebuchadnezzar. Upon reaching his 18th birthday he requested permission from his parents to legally change his name to Nelson Miles after a military officer that his father had served under who had been a Civil War hero and Medal of Honor recipient. Nelson was the second oldest son in a family which included three older sisters and two brothers. In 1893, his family moved to Tustin, CA, where his parents bought 30 acres of land to grow oranges, walnuts and apricots.

In 1916, Holderman enlisted as a Private in the Santa Ana unit of the California National Guard. From June to October of that year, he participated in patrols on the United States-Mexico border during the time of Pancho Villa's raids. Holderman quickly rose through the ranks and by the time the U.S. entered World War I, he had become a Captain in charge of Company L of his Santa Ana unit.

Company L was assigned as replacements of Company K, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division of the American Expeditionary Force. Even though Holderman was a replacement officer for Company K, he was very well respected by the soldiers under his command due in part to his previous experience prior to the war. As an officer, he was regarded as a "soldier's soldier" who never turned down a patrol and saw his military service as "an adventure." His unit was part of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. On 3 October 1918 a major offensive began whose purpose was to break the German line in the Argonne forest. Of all the units who took part in the initial assault, elements of two battalions under the command of Major Charles White Whittlesey were able to break through. However, as the only units to have reached their objectives they had gone too far into German territory and were subsequently cut off. Initial attempts were made to reach Whittlesey and his men but all the units were met with heavy resistance and had to pull back. Only Holderman's Company K, composed of 97 men, had managed to reach Whittlesey's units which, incorrectly became known as "The Lost Battalion" even though there were two such units of that size. With not enough men able to close the distance between Whittlesey and the American lines, Holderman and his company subsequently became part of the Lost Battalion. Holderman was tasked to command the right flank. Though severely wounded early in the five day siege, Holderman continued to lead his men until finally being relieved.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, 307th Infantry, 77th Division.

Place and date: Northeast of Binarville, in the forest of Argonne, France, 2-8 October 1918.

Citation: Capt. Holderman commanded a company of a battalion which was cut off and surrounded by the enemy. He was wounded on 4, 5, and 7 October, but throughout the entire period, suffering great pain and subjected to fire of every character, he continued personally to lead and encourage the officers and men under his command with unflinching courage and with distinguished success. On 6 October, in a wounded condition, he rushed through enemy machinegun and shell fire and carried 2 wounded men to a place of safety.

Post-War Life

After the war, Holderman rejoined the National Guard and continued to serve for many years, eventually retiring with the rank of Colonel. He was appointed as the commandant of Yountville Soldier's Home in Yountville, CA, taking care of veterans. He served from 1923 until his retirement in 1953 during which time he greatly expanded the home. After his death, the Yountville Soldier's Home was renamed as the Nelson M. Holderman Soldier's Home in his honor. Though he was regarded as a national hero, he never used his status for personal gain.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor

Silver Star Medal

Purple Heart with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters

World War I Victory Medal

Knight of the Légion d'honneur (France)

Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 (France)

Officer of the Order of the Crown (Belgium)

Knight of the Order of Leopold II (Belgium)

Croce di guerra 1915-1918 (Italy)

He was awarded the Mexican Service Medal with Citation Star but it was replaced with the Silver Star Medal in 1932.


The Captain Nelson M. Holderman U.S. Army Reserve Center in West Los Angeles, CA, is named in his honor, as is the main building on the grounds; Holderman Hall.

Death and Burial

Colonel Nelson Miles Holderman died on 3 September 1953. He is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.

Honoree ID: 1775   Created by: MHOH




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