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Nelson Miles Holderman
Nelson Holderman.jpg
Nelson M. Holderman
Nickname "Neb"
Born (1885-11-10)November 10, 1885
Died September 3, 1953(1953-09-03) (aged 67)
Place of birth Trumbull, Nebraska, Nebraska
Place of death San Bruno, California
Place of burial Golden Gate National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1916–1923
Rank Colonel US-O6 insignia
Unit Company K, 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division
California National Guard
Battles/wars Mexican Expedition
World War I
Awards Medal of Honor
Silver Star
Purple Heart
Croix de Guerre

Nelson Miles Holderman (November 10, 1885 – September 3, 1953) was an officer in the United States Army most notable for commanding a company of the Lost Battalion during World War I for which he received the Medal of Honor. He was considered by many to be one of the most decorated American soldiers of the war.[1][2]


Nelson Miles Holderman was born in Trumbull, Nebraska in 1885 and named Nebuchadnezzar.[citation needed] 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.[2] 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 oranges, walnuts and apricots.[2]

Early military careerEdit

File:Holderman (San Luis Obispo CA).jpg

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.[2] Holderman quickly rose through the ranks and by the time the United States entered World War I, he had become captain in charge of Company L of his Santa Ana unit.

World War IEdit

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.[3] 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".[3][4] His unit was part of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. On October 3, 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.

After World War IEdit

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 taking caring of veterans.[2] 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.[6]

Medal of Honor citationEdit


Rank at time of receipt: Captain, U.S. Army. Unit: 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division. Place and date: Northeast of Binarville, in the forest of Argonne, France, 2-October 8, 1918. Entered service at: Santa Ana, California. Medal credited to: California. Authority: War Department General Order 11, 1921.


Captain 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.

Awards and recognitionsEdit

Among Holderman's decorations and medals were the following:


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

In Popular CultureEdit

In the 2001 made for TV movie The Lost Battalion, Holderman was played by Adam James.

See alsoEdit



  • Laplander, Robert (2006). Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths And Legends of America. New York.  ISBN 1-4116-7656-4
  • Johnson, Thomas (2000). The Lost Battalion. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.  ISBN 0-8032-7613-3

External linksEdit

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