Henry Gunther Memorial (Last KIA WW1)
On the east side by the trail.
(Etched into the stone below)
For the information panel:
(2nd column, English)
On April 6, 1917, the United States
of America declared war on
Germany and entered the First
World War on the side of France
and her allies. In a , two million
young Americans. both volunteers
and conscripts, were sent to
France. General Pershing, the
Commander in Chief of the
American Expeditionary Force,
refused to allow his troops to be
amalgamated with French units
and requested a separate
American attack sector.
The US troops were given the task of reducing the St. Mihiel Salient, an area in the Department of the Meuse. The
assault took place on 12 September 1918. Within three days the Americans, supported by French units, had liberated
the salient, which had been in German hands since September 1914.
Marshal Foch then ordered another major offensive. This would begin in the Meuse-Argonne region on 26 September
1918 and thrust towards Mezieres. Foch wished it to be as violent as possible. The offernive was to be carried out
by the first American Army, supported by the Second French Colonial Corps, the 17th French Army Corps and the
Fifth Cavalry Division.
American operations began on 26 September 1918 and came to an end on 11 November 1918 at 11am. There were
• from 26 September to 3 October : the initial assault.
• from 4 October to 31 October : the main battle.
• from 31 October to 11 November : advance to victory.
On the American right wing, the final assault was carried out by the 26th and 79th Infantry Divisions. The Germans
were pushed back to a line running from Damvillers to Romagne-sous-les-Cotes but were ordered to hold at all costs
the position known as the Kriemhilde line. On 10 November 1918, the village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers and
the surrounding hills were liberated by the 313th, 314th and 315th US Infantry Regiments. Ahead of them, the German
31st Landwehr Infantry Regiment put up furious resistance.
Henry, Gunther, a native of Baltimore, was in Company A, 313th Infantry.
Aged 23 and of German origin, Gunther had previously worked in a bank and was
to be married when he returned home. Following the censor's interception of a
letter critical of army life, Gunther, who had previously been promoted to Supply
Sergeant, was downgraded to Private. He was wounded at the start of the
Meuse-Argonne offensive but refused to be evacuated, preferring to remain with
Although it was known early on 11 November that the Armistice would take effect
at 11am that day, the High Command ordered the assault to continue to the last
minute. Emerging from a bank of fog, Private Gunther and his friend, Sergeant
Powell, found themselves confronted by two German machine gun squads
manning a road block. The Germans watched in disbelief as the Americans came
forward. Powell and Gunther threw themselves to the ground, as bullets cracked
overhead. The Armistice was imminent and the Germans ceased firing, believing
that the Americans would have the good sense to stop. Their sacrifice would not
change the war. Suddenly, Gunther got up and ran at the enemy. Sergeant Powell
ordered him to stop. The German gunners signalled to him to go back but
Gunther kept advancing. One of them fired a five-round burst. Gunther was struck in the left temple and died
instantly. It was 10.59am. One minute later, the Armistice took effect and silence descended on the front.
Later, there were scenes of fraternization and in the evening the Germans fired off all their rockets, lighting up the
sky over their positions.
General Pershing's Order of the Day recorded Henry Nicholas Gunther as the last American soldier to die in the First
World War. He was posthumously promoted to Sergeant and received the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1923,
Gunther's body was returned to Baltimore and buried in Section W of the Holy Redeemer Cemetery.
This memorial renders homage to Gunther and his comrades, whose actions here pushed the Americans advance in
the Verdun sector to its furthest extent.
Translation : Christina Holstein
313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
79th Infantry Division
American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)
United States Army