Editor’s note: Otto Dick, Oregon, has researched the people, places, and events important in the Oregon area’s history for the Ogle County Historical Society. The following is one of a series of the articles he has written.
By Otto Dick
The following is part two of Ralyn Hill’s own account from “A Personal Viewpoint, an Oral History” done by the 1974-75 history class at Oregon High School.
Hill, an Oregon native, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for rescuing a man from a French observation plane during World War I.
After the war ended, on November the 11th, 1918, we went up to Luxembourg, a little independent country.
We were in the Army of Occupation. After being there for some time they called for a review of our division just prior to our being shipped home.
Meanwhile, orders had come down from headquarters that I had been awarded the highest decoration that the United States could give, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Nobody knew what it was.
Finally the day came for General [John J.] “Black Jack” Pershing to review us, along with King George of England and King Leopold of Belgium and a lot of other high officials.
General Pershing pinned the Medal on me at Eddleburg. That was the name of the town where the review was held.
The citation given me reads as follows: “To Ralyn Hill, Company H, 129th infantry, 33rd Division, for conspicuous gallantry in intrepidity, above and beyond the call of action, with the enemy near Danevous, France, October 7th, 1918.
“Seeing a French airplane fall out of control and crash on the enemy side of the Meuse River, with the pilot dead, Corporal Hill voluntarily dashed across a foot bridge to the side of the plane’s wounded man and taking him upon his back, started back to his lines.
“During the entire episode he was subjected to the murderous fire of enemy machine guns and artillery but he successfully accomplished his mission and brought the man to the place of safety, a distance of several hundred yards.
His mother is Mrs. Edna Hill and address is Oregon, Illinois.”
Then at Brest, France I was decorated by Major General Lejeune, of the Marine Corps, who was commandant at the port.
A French General gave me the French Medaille Militaire and the Crox De Guerre with a palm.
After I had been home a while, I was notified that I had been given another Croix de Guerre with a palm, also the Italian Cross of War, the Montenegro Silver Medal, and the U.S. Victory Medal with the three battle clasps.
Almost all of the occupation troops came home in May of 1919.
I was never wounded but I did take a little gas which has given me some problems over the years.
There was a big parade in New York when we returned and also in Chicago when the 33rd Division of Illinois came home.
When we arrived I had seven days leave returning to my outfit on the armistice.
I really think we had adequate training in the States.
I’m sure there were some who did not have the same nine months training we had.
World War I was a justifiable war, but I don’t think Viet Nam or Korean wars were. I don’t see how those guys went through it.
In our war we knew who we were shooting at and there were no civilians around to get in the way, none.
With all the dirty, stinking skull-duggery nowadays, the amount of money spent and lives we have lost, I don’t know how the private soldier stood up under it. They get no recognition.
When I came back from the service, I felt welcomed and honored, but of course, after a few years everybody forgets.
Next week: Ralyn Hill’s life in Oregon and Kansas.