Nelson Miles Holderman MOH

b. 10/11/1885 Trumbull, Nebraska. d. 03/09/1953 Napa, California.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02-10/10/1918 NE of Binarville, France.

Nelson M Holderman MOH

Holderman was born in Trumbull, Nebraska, on 10 November 1885 to Upton Christian Holderman, Jr. and Mary Morse. His father had served as a Private in Company “A”, 22nd Iowa Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War. He was named Nelson Miles Holderman after Nelson A. Miles, a leading officer in the Civil War and recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was the second oldest son in a family which included three older sisters and two brothers. In 1893, his family moved to Tustin, California, where his parents bought 30 acres (120,000 m2) of land to grow orange, walnuts and apricots.

In 1916, Holderman enlisted as a private in the Santa Ana unit of the California Army 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 of the American entry into World War I, which occurred on April 6, 1917, he was a captain, and a company commander in charge of Company L, 160th Infantry, 40th Infantry Division of his Santa Ana unit.

Upon arrival on the Western Front the following year his company was assigned as replacements for Company K of the 307th Infantry Regiment, part of the 77th Division of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). 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 took part in the Meuse–Argonne offensive in late September 1918. On October 3 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 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 Major Whittlesey’s units which, incorrectly became known as “The Lost Battalion” even though there were officially two elements of a battalion. 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 on in the five-day siege, Holderman continued to lead his men until finally being relieved. The war came to an end just over a month later, on November 11, 1918 at 11:00am.

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 the Veterans Home of California Yountville in Yountville, California caring for veterans. He served from 1923 until his retirement in 1953 during which time he greatly expanded the home. After his death, the Veterans Home was renamed to the Nelson M. Holderman in his honor. Though he was regarded as a national hero, he never used his status for personal gain.



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 machine-gun and shell fire and carried two wounded men to a place of safety.