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Medal of Honor
Awarded for actions during World War I
For extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1918, while serving with Company G, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, in action at Bellicourt, France. Seeing that the left flank of his company was held up, First Sergeant Lemert located the enemy machinegun emplacement, which had been causing heavy casualties. In the face of heavy fire he rushed it single-handed, killing the entire crew with grenades. Continuing along the enemy trench in advance of the company, he reached another emplacement, which he also charged, silencing the gun with grenades. A third machinegun emplacement opened up on him from the left and with similar skill and bravery he destroyed this also. Later, in company with another sergeant, he attacked a fourth machinegun nest, being killed as he reached the parapet of the emplacement. His courageous action in destroying in turn four enemy machinegun nests prevented many casualties among his company and very materially aided in achieving the objective.
Rank: First Sergeant
War Department, General Orders No. 59 (May 3, 1919)
The following information is compiled from articles in the Crossville Chronicle, Cumberland County, Tennessee.
Milo Lemert was born in Albion, Iowa on March 25, 1890, the tenth of 11 children. Milo's father was a farmer and the family moved from Iowa to Oklahoma to Kansas, and in 1912, to Cumberland County, Tennessee where the family settled south of town. Milo attended Kansas State University for two years and was elected class president.
After graduation, Milo journeyed to Wyoming where he sheared sheep, regularly sent money home to help with the expenses of operating the family farm and feeding his siblings. When WWI broke out, Cumberland County, Tennessee was one of the few counties in the state to meet its enlistment quota, with brothers Milo and Nathan joining the Tennessee National Guard.
On September 29, 1917, Milo married Crossville native Nellie V. Snodgrass, a girl he had met in Cumberland County but who was teaching in Greenville, South Carolina, near Camp Sevier where the Tennessee troops were in training. While at camp, Milo rose to the rank of Sergeant, displaying tremendous leadership qualities.
In March 1918, members of the Old Hickory Division were shipped to Europe where brother Nathan was promoted to Mess Sergeant and separated from Milo. For the next several months the division worked its way across northern France, finally arriving at Bellicourt where the Germans were dug in.
On September 29th, when all of the company's officers were killed, Milo reorganized the unit and extricated it from a dangerous position, "and with coolness and courage led the command forward throughout the day," fellow soldier Litton Thurman wrote in a letter published in the Chronicle in 1918.
"With a few other men, he faced heavy machine gun and grenade fire to charge an enemy emplacement.
"We went over the top Sunday morning and took one of the strongest points on the famous Hindenburg Line that they had been holding for four years. We drove them about three miles in four hours and we sure had some hard fighting and had several casualties.
"Milo Lemert was killed by my side as we were going into a machine gun post, but we took it and many others and the Huns were thick and the ground was covered with the dead.
Eight days after the battle, Nathan, some officers and two orderlies, recovered Milo Lemert's body and gave it a temporary burial. Nathan wrote home to his mother, "There is no use to grieve, tho, Mama. He was willing and ready to go. He gave his life for his country and there wasn't an ounce of cowardice in his big body. He died like a man and hero. No one can die a braver death than he did . . . . There isn't another man like him in the world. Every man in the company loved him and would do anything for him. He was right in the heaviest of the fighting, trying to keep the boys together and run out a news of machine guns when a machine gun bullet got him through the body. His last words were, "I am finished, boys, give them hell."
Lemert died heroically on September 29, 1918. Lemert was remembered when the Medal of Honor was presented to his wife of one year at the court house in October 1919. The funeral was held several days later and Milo Lemert was forgotten. For his valor that day, while fighting alongside Lemert, Litton Thurman received the nation's second highest medal, The Distinguished Service Cross.
Although Milo Lemert's heroism was forgotten in Crossville, it lived on in Maryland, TN, where an American Legion Post was named for him. In Savannah, TN, a long overdue bridge over the Tennessee River was dedicated on September 13, 1930 as the Milo Lemert Memorial Bridge. This was the second longest (1,005 feet with two traffic lanes), largest (three span) and costliest bridge outside Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga and was dubbed The Million Dollar Bridge of No. 15.
The three-hour dedication ceremony was attended by about 3,000 and many dignitaries including Gov. Henry H. Horton. It served the area well until August 21, 1980. The promise had been that its replacement would be built within five years. The Milo Lemert Memorial Bridge was taken down by explosives on August 21, 1980. The new bridge was dedicated in 1981 and named the Harrison-McGarity Bridge for two WWII Hardin County Medal of Honor recipients. In Savannah, the Milo Lemert Memorial Bridge served them for 50 years and the class rings of graduates during the 1930s and 40s pictured the bridge.
In December 1994, a Hardin County afghan was offered. It featured important historic events in the county and the Milo Lemert Bridge was pictured there.
In Crossville, Milo Lemert's name was just another name on a gravestone at the City Cemetery until a relatively new resident in town began a search. Mike Moser, editor of the Crossville Chronicle, was at a performance of Tennessee USA! at the Playhouse in 1986. In one scene, an actor marched across the stage holding a placard with the words Milo Lemert, Congressional Medal of Honor. Mike's search led to Lemert's grave and he was shocked there was no mention of the honor he had received. After more months of locating relatives in the west and talking with Congressman Jim Cooper, a special Medal of Honor grave marker was dedicated on Memorial Day 1987.
After 68 years forgotten, Milo Lemert's story bothered other citizens who spoke up, and at the Veterans Day program November 13, 1991, he received another honor. It was announced that the old post office was now the Milo Lemert Memorial Building and they unveiled a large plaque which gave an account of his heroic actions.
In 1994 Jan Burns completed a painted portrait of 1SG Milo Lemert, commissioned by her father COL Ed Rogers, which was donated to American Legion Post 163 in Crossville, Tennessee.
There was still one more honor to come. The Crossville City commission voted in 1991 to recommend to the Tennessee Department of Transportation that the new bypass being constructed around the city be designated by signs reading Sergeant Milo Lemert Memorial Parkway. In 1999, the Tennessee General Assembly approved the bill naming the section of highway after Lemert. A new century arrived before the road was completed and was officially christened the Milo Lemert Parkway on December 15, 2004.
Now our forgotten hero is remembered because of the curiosity of newsman Mike Moser, another quiet hero.