1st Lieutenant Philip Hearn Williamson
Co A, 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion, A.E.F

born: 5 October 1886, Baltimore, MD
died: 27 May 1976 Miami, FL

Williamson's Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Philip H. Williamson, First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Thiaucourt, France, September 10 - 26, 1918. First Lieutenant Williamson displayed extreme coolness and courage while conducting the advance of his company in the sector near Thiaucourt. He visited daily, under heavy shell fire, his gun positions and made daily reconnaissances of the lines. When wounded, he refused to be taken to the hospital until he had superintended the removal of his men to a place of safety.
General Orders No. No. 140, W.D., 1918
Home Town: Baltimore, MD

Additional details from Maryland Military Men, 1917-1918:

Name: Philip Hearn Williamson
Race: white
Address: Oksley Road, Mt. Washington, Baltimore Co.
Birth Place: Baltimore, Md.
Birth Date: 05 Oct 1886
Comment: ORC 11/27/17 1 lt Inf, (Ft Myer Va.); 313 MG Bn; 3 A-A MG Bn 1/24/18; Co A 1 A-A MG Bn 4/10/18; Patient at Hosp AEF 9/26/18; Patient at Embark Hosp Newport News Va.; Patient at Walter Reed Gen Hosp D.C., Still in service 1/1/20, Overseas 4/30/18 to 11/9/18, St Mihiel; Def Sector (Lorraine), Wounded severely 9/26/18, Distinguished Service Cross Near Thiaucourt, France, Sept. 10-26, 1918. He displayed extreme coolness and courage while conducting the advance of company in the sector near Thiaucourt. He visited daily under heavy shellfire his gun positions and made daily reconnaissances of the lines. When wounded, he refused to be taken to the hospital until he had superintended the removal of his men to a place of safety, French Croix de Guerre (Gilt Star) He displayed the greatest courage and bravery under continuous bombardment and enemy gas attacks in the Thiaucourt sector from September 10-26, 1918. On September 12, although wounded by a shell, he advanced with his company very closely behind the infantry. He showed fine judgment in the choice of emplacements for his pieces. By his example and contempt for danger under trying conditions he sustained the morale and the ardor of his men. Wounded on the night of September 26, 1918, during a violent artillery bombardment, he refused to go to the hospital until he had given the necessary orders


Williamson's WWI Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart with original mailing box, and French Croix de Guerre with star.



Detail of the Purple Heart mailing box



DSC inside it original case


Reverse of Williamson's DSC



DSC number 6499



Detail of Williamson's Purple Heart box



Obverse of Williamson's Purple Heart



Reverse of Williamson's Purple Heart



Purple Heart number 21357



Reverse of Williamson's Croix de Guerre



Miscellaneous collar brass, rank insignia, and ribbon bars that came with the medals



Here is a brief combat history of the 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion, excerpted from Archie in the A.E.F. : the creation of the antiaircraft service of the United States Army, 1917-1918, by Charles Edward Kirkpatrick,  U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School, 1984:

The machine gun battalions fought a rather more rough and tumble war, and one that was unique among the Allies. The Allied Expeditionary Force was the only force in France that supplied machine gun troops at the front for the expressed purpose of firing at airplanes. The two antiaircraft machine gun battalions that saw action accounted for only 96 of the more than 1,500 antiaircraft machine guns scattered along the American front, but they brought down virtually all of the German airplanes which fell to machine gun fire there.124 Since they were located immediately behind the front, the machine gunners suffered considerably more casualties than the artillerymen. In the month of September the 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion had three men killed and twenty-five wounded; the 2d Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion had five killed and forty-one wounded during its front line duty. The reputation of the machine gun battalions in general as "suicide squads" extended to the antiaircraft machine gun battalions as well.

     A rotation plain for combat duty similar to that envisioned for the antiaircraft. gun battalions was drawn up for the antiaircraft. machine gun battalions. The 3d and 4th Antiaircraft. Machine Gun Battalions were intended to relieve the 2d and 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalions, respectively. To make the transition easier, the commander of the relieving battalion was first sent to the front with the relieved battalion for two weeks of observation. The relief never took place, however. The 3d Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion was ordered to report to Ligny-en-Barrois for duty just as the war ended, and the 4th and 5th Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalions likewise did not get into action.128 The 4th Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion was clearly about to relieve the 1st, because its commander was at the front on his orientation tour when the Armistice was signed.

     The entire combat duty of antiaircraft machine gun troops was therefore served by only two battalions. The 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion, under the command of Major H. D. Cushing, was in the line for the lionís share of that duty. It departed Langres for the front on 28 July 1918, less Company A, which remained behind to train the 2d Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion. The 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion was assigned to a sector which had a highly organized trench system, and was under constant shell fire for three months. The unit was part of I Corps for the Aisna-Marne operation of August 1-6 and remained in the corps are for the action later known as the Defensive Sector (Champagne), through 13 August. Company A rejoined the battalion on 19 August. On 31 August the unit was detached from I Corps and placed under command of the First Army Antiaircraft Service for the St. Michael offensive, from 12-16 September. After that action the battalion became a part of 2nd Army, except for Company A, which remained in First Army. The bulk of the battalion received credit for participation in the Defensive Sector (Lorraine) campaign, 17 September through 11 November, while Company A participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive from 7 October to 11 November.

     In all of its front line duty, the 1st Battalion was shelled and gassed with the same frequency as the infantry, since the platoons were situated less than one kilometer from the infantry line. A constant drain of casualties was the inevitable result. The St. Michael offensive gave the battalion an ample opportunity to show that it could give casualties as well as take them. During the month of September the 1st Battalion observed 542 German airplanes, of which 124 came within range of their guns. The companies fired at 130 airplanes during the month and shot down 13 of them. A total of 115 other aircraft were driven away by the unitís fire. Cushing delighted in reporting the capture of eight prisoners, presumably German aviators, and boasted that "it had been practically impossible for hostile planes to operate near the front line positions of our guns within a range of one thousand meters, during the entire month." Some planes could not be claimed, although the kill was almost certain. The 1st Platoon of Company A fired on a German airplane on the morning of 28 September. The men clearly hit the German, because pieces of wood from the struts were shot off, fell to the ground, and were secured by the men. The plane immediately returned to the German lines, "apparently coming to the ground."5

     The hazards of serving in the 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalionís sector are illustrated by the case of 1st Lt. Philip H. Williamson of Company A. He led his company into action near Harcourt, where the German shellfire was particularly heavy. After helping to select gun positions, he spent most of his time moving from one crew to another, checking on his men and directing their fire. His daily visits and reconnaissance of the lines were made under heavy fire, and his "coolness and courage" extended over a period of seventeen days. When finally wounded, Williamson refused to be evacuated to a hospital until his men were removed to, safety as well. Lt. Williamsonís heroism was recognized by a well-deserved award of the Distinguished Service Crass.

     The services of the battalion were similarly recognized by the French, who awarded the unit the Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star with the following citation:

Under the active and brilliant leadership of its commander, Major Cushing, it distinguished itself by the results which it obtained at the Marne and Maselle and by the heroism which it displayed and by its high ideals.137

     The 1st Antiaircraft Machine Gun Battalion ended the war with Second Army, where it was deployed to protect rail heads and bridges near the front and infantry support and reserve positions at the front. The war may have been drawing to a close, but the fighting did not slacken at all. The battalion shot dawn seven airplanes in October and three in the first eleven days of November, while its "gun positions were constantly under heavy enemy high explosive and gas shell fire."