Thomas Croft Neibauer was born May 17, 1898 in Sharon, Idaho. Neibaur enlisted into the Idaho National Guard on March 30, 1917, a week before the United States declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917. The Army inducted him into federal service on April 8, and he then served in the Rocky Mountain northwest, guarding tunnels and railroad bridges until October 1917 when he and his 2nd Idaho Infantry Regiment was ordered to Camp Mills, Long Island. There he became an automatic rifleman in newly organized 41st Division of western states guardsman. Later moving to Camp Merritt, New Jersey the 41st Division deployed to France where it became a replacement division for the other units of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Neibaur and thousands of other western guardsmen were transferred to other divisions already in France, he being assigned to M Company, 167th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd "Rainbow" Division.
Private Neibaur served as an automatic rifleman using the French manufactured Chauchat 9mm automatic rifle using a "banana clip" of 20 rounds. In February he went into the lines on the Lunéville sector, and then later in March at the Barracat sector. He did not see any real combat except for artillery fire until March 1918, once the German "Ludendorff Offensive" commenced on March 21, 1918. He served on the Somme River where the 42nd Division was part of the French 7th Army.
In June, more American divisions entered the front lines and Neibaur fought in several campaigns, the Aisne, the Aisen-Marne, and the Champagne-Marne through August 1918. As with any infantry regiment, brigade or division, the units rotated and relieved one another on a routine basis. During this time, Neibaur was wounded or incapacitated temporarily by German mustard gas.
In August, Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur assumed command of the 84th Infantry Brigade which consisted of Neibaur's 167th Infantry Regiment and the Iowa National Guard 168th Infantry Regiment. In early September General John Pershing, commander of the AEF, received permission to "reduce" the salient that had developed for several years at St. Mihiel, southeast of Verdun. Beginning on September 12, 1918, the American 1st Army under Pershing commenced an offensive, the first independent American offensive in its own sector of the Western Front. Within days, the crumbling German army was thrown back and the salient was reduced causing a "straightening" of the front line.
On September 26, the Americans launched their second offensive between the Argonne Forest on the left and Meuse River on the right. By October 14, the 42nd Division was stalled along the strongly defended Kreimehilde "stellung" (German for position or line). Unlike the St. Mihiel, the Germans conducted an aggressive and spirited defense. The two main terrain features holding up the Rainbow division's advance were hills: Hill 288 and the Còte de Châtillon. The 167th, specifically the Neibaur's 3rd Battalion, received the order on the 15th to attack and capture Còte de Châtillon.
On October 16, 1918, the American attacks captured Còte de Châtillon, though there remained several pockets of German units and many isolated machine gun positions. Neibaur along with two other soldiers, an observer and a loader, volunteered to flank and remove a network of machine guns just over a hundred yards from "M" Company and 3rd Battalion's hastily occupied positions. Crawling up a draw between two spurs, Neibaur's automatic rifle team encountered a wire obstacle and was then fired upon. Neibaur's two team members were killed and he received three wounds in the right thigh. Passing through the wire entanglements he positioned his automatic rifle behind a dirt berm. Some Germans observed his movement and approximately 50 or so attacked him. He opened fire with his Chauchat automatic rifle, killing or wounding most of them until his gun jammed, firing some 50 rounds or two and a half clips.
Discarding his automatic rifle, he tried to crawl or run downhill some 100 yards to friendly lines and was wounded a fourth time in the hip and fell unconscious. Awaking, he found himself captured by some fifteen or so Germans who had survived the counterattack against him. The Germans had to take cover due to the supporting fire from Neibaur's "M" Company. Neibaur then realized that the Germans had dropped on the ground near him his semi-automatic pistol, the Colt made M1911. He crawled to it and as he did so, some of the Germans charged him with bayonets, four of whom he killed immediately with his pistol and then within minutes, though wounded four times, he captured eleven Germans and led them to the American lines below.
Private Thomas Neibaur spent several months in field hospitals recovering from his wounds. His last wound by a German machine gun bullet remained in his hip the rest of his life. He was one of the first soldiers in the Army to be nominated for the Medal of Honor. On February 9, 1919 at the AEF headquarters at Chaumont, France, Gen. John Pershing presented the Medal of Honor to him, along with a dozen other officers and soldiers. Private Neibaur then left Europe and arrived home at Sugar City, Idaho on May 27, 1919.
Thomas Croft Neibaur died on December 23, 1942.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, Company M, 107th Infantry, 42d Division. Place and date: Near Landres-et-St. Georges, France, 16 October 1918. Entered service at: Sugar City, Idaho. Born: 17 May 1898, Sharon, Idaho. G.O. No.: 1 18, W.D., 1918. Citation: On the afternoon of 16 October 1918, when the Cote-de-Chatillion had just been gained after bitter fighting and the summit of that strong bulwark in the Kriemhilde Stellung was being organized, Pvt. Neibaur was sent out on patrol with his automatic rifle squad to enfilade enemy machinegun nests. As he gained the ridge he set up his automatic rifle and was directly thereafter wounded in both legs by fire from a hostile machinegun on his flank. The advance wave of the enemy troops, counterattacking, had about gained the ridge, and although practically cut off and surrounded, the remainder of his detachment being killed or wounded, this gallant soldier kept his automatic rifle in operation to such effect that by his own efforts and by fire from the skirmish line of his company, at least 100 yards in his rear, the attack was checked. The enemy wave being halted and lying prone, 4 of the enemy attacked Pvt. Neibaur at close quarters. These he killed. He then moved alone among the enemy lying on the ground about him, in the midst of the fire from his own lines, and by coolness and gallantry captured 11 prisoners at the point of his pistol and, although painfully wounded, brought them back to our lines. The counterattack in full force was arrested to a large extent by the single efforts of this soldier, whose heroic exploits took place against the skyline in full view of his entire battalion.
C o p y r i g h t (C) 2 0 1 7 – H e a t h R o b i s o n / I d a h o H e r o e s . o r g