Valor Friday

| May 6, 2022

308th Infantry Regiment marching in victory parade in New York after the war

I have something of a bit of a series I’ll be starting here, men who fought in more than one army. I’ve already talked about two, the legendary “Soldier of Three Armies” Larry Thorne (Finnish Army, German Wehrmacht, and American Army) and Richard Stern (Imperial German and American Army).

Fighting for multiple countries was actually, historically, somewhat common. History is replete with groups of people who traveled the world engaging in war. Some, like the legendary Hessians of the American Revolution (German soldiers from the Hesse region of the then-Holy Roman Empire, now-Germany) that fought on the side of the British did so for money. Some came as either advisors or in pursuit of the cause. On the American side of the Revolutionary War two of the Americans’ more celebrated heroes were foreigners, the French Marquis de Lafayette and Prussian Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Both men served as successful generals in the Continental Army.

The Swiss Guard, who have protected the Pope for 500 years, are another example. Swiss Guards have served in numerous European conflicts for hundreds of years. The gorgeous Lion Monument in France is dedicated “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss” Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art. As Mark Twain put it, it is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”

Back on topic, people serving in multiple armies during a single war is a bit more rare. It’s obviously hard to switch sides in the middle of a war. You have to convince the new army that your loyalties don’t lie with your previous one. Typically, those who “serve” in more than one army within a single war are defectors (such as Martin James Monti an American who defected to the Nazis). It’s rare that someone will switch sides without betraying their former government, but it appears that’s what today’s subject did.

Wilhelm August Heinrich Fehlbehr, who went by August, was born in Bremen, Germany in 1895. His mother was an ethnic German, but American by birth, while his father was German. August’s mother appears to have returned to the US in 1906. She arranged passage for her sons August and Johann in April 1907. As a sign of how it went at the time, the two boys emigrated on two different steam liners. Eleven year old August sailed across the North Atlantic alone.

Becoming a naturalized citizen once here, August returned to Germany at some point as an adult. When war broke out, Germany called for all Germans to return to fight for the fatherland. It seems August answered the call. He was inducted into the Imperial German Army sometime in 1914. He served the Kaiser a total of 36 months.

It’s not clear exactly what August did during his German service. Few soldiers didn’t see combat as the German advance pushed into Belgium and France. Battles anyone remotely familiar with to students of World War history such as the First Battle of the Marne, the First Battle of Ypres, and the Battles of Arras, Cambrai, and Verdun all occurred during this time, claiming hundreds of thousands of men in the process. It’s hard to imagine any scenario that didn’t result in Fehlbehr seeing some action while in the German service.

Upon the United States’ entry to war in April 1917, Fehlbehr somehow left the Germany Army, returned to the United States, and was drafted into the US Army. How exactly this unlikely series of events happened is unclear, but it’s a true story, no matter how hard to believe. It’s possible (perhaps probable) that as a US citizen he was mustered out of the German military when the US entered the war.

On Fehlbehr’s US draft registration card, he lists a Brooklyn, NY address and his occupation as brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was inducted into the US military on 28 September, 1917.

It would seem that his prior military experience, even with the enemy, was a boon rather than a hindrance to his American service. Fehlbehr, just 34 days after his enlistment was promoted to sergeant.

Fehlbehr had been inducted into the 308th Infantry Regiment, part of the 77th Infantry Division. The 77th ID was known as the “Statue of Liberty Division” due to their shoulder sleeve insignia featuring the famous monument. It had been selected as their insignia because almost all of the new division and newly raised regiment’s troops were draftees from New York.

Assigned to Company I of the 308th Infantry, Fehlbehr and his fellow doughboys sailed from New York City to France in April 1918. Once there, they were assigned to the British sector and engaged in training with them until June. They were then some of the first units of the National Army (the largely draftee-filled units) to take front line positions when they arrived in Badonviller in northeastern France.

Over the next several months the men of the 77th ID would see 68 days of combat and be the closest US division to the German pre-war border. We’ve talked about elements of FehlBehr’s 308th Infantry Regiment, when they were trapped behind enemy lines in what became known as “The Lost Battalion.”

Before that would happen though, the 308th Infantry would be participating in action during the earliest moments of the Hundred Days Offensive. This campaign, in which the American forces were fully and completely brought into the fighting alongside the British, French, and Belgians along the Western Front, would ultimately bring the Germans down and end the war in November.

It was in the first days of the Hundred Days Offensive that Fehlbehr would be wounded severely in action. On 17 August 1918, he was felled by an artillery strike at Fismes near the Chateau du Diable.

Fismes is a small city in the Marne department of France. The city had a population of only a few thousand, but it had been invaded and held by the Germans. When the Allies came to retake it, the Germans destroyed the town. As they rebuilt after the war, sadly their strategic position as a railway city meant they would again suffer greatly during the Second World War at the hands of the German occupiers again.

Unfortunately in France is where the amazing tale of August Fehlbehr ends. He died four days after his combat injuries. He was only 23 and had seen more than four years of wartime service on both sides of the First World War.

I can find little describing what August was like as a man. He answered the call for both his fatherland and his adopted homeland. That speaks volumes about his character. That he was promoted so quickly speaks to his abilities as a soldier.

The part of the journey of Fehlbehr that I find perhaps most interesting is that, with less than a year in the US Army, the conscripted ex-German soldier had been promoted even beyond buck sergeant. He was entrusted by both his men and the officers above him and at the time of his death was First Sergeant, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 308th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.

Being first sergeant of a line infantry company is no easy task. Particularly in the 308th Infantry. In their combat in this first part of the Hundred Days Offensive, the part that claimed First Sergeant Fehlbehr’s life, the 308th Infantry suffered horrendous casualties. They lost nearly one-third of their men by the end of August 1918. With replacements (mostly from the American west) the regiment would be moved to the Argonne Forest in early September where they’d meet their next meeting with history.

Fehlbehr is interred in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Picardie, France. At the time of his death, he was survived by his mother. She appears to have passed away in 1937.

Category: Army, Historical, Valor, We Remember

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Some Sabaton history.

Prior Service



Warriors gonna Warrior! Salute!

Great story, Mason. Thanks!


Does anyone/has anyone heard or is familiar with the old photographer from MCRD San Diego? From what i’ve read/recall he served in the German Army during WWII and then came to the US and served in the Corps during Vietnam. There are photos of him floating around wearing blues, Captains bars, and an Iron Cross.


Found this after searching:
The Total Bad-Ass Boot Camp Photographer At MCRD San Diego in the 1990sA lot of you Devils who went through Boot in San Diego in the early 90’s May or may Not remember the guy who took the Boot Photos in Blues and went around the base taking pictures of the Companies Training. He was probably in his early to mid 60s by then. His name was Max and he had a heavy German Accent. Real nice guy who did a great job. Had a Boxer’s nose from when he boxed a bit, Anyway When he took the pictures of the companies he would have a little box of ones he’d set outside his office in the recruit PX for the DIs to go through and get pictures of themselves. Me and another hat had just ran our Platoon through and Max told me he had a few of the company pictures I could look over and take back, He had me come back in the office to get a few he hadn’t put out yet and I see HIS Blues photo on the wall.


This motherfucker had been Enlisted in Korea and got a Commission and fought in Vietnam as well and retired as a Captain. He had a Bronze Star and a Couple of Purple Hearts. That wasn’t the most bad ass thing… On the very bottom row where foreign Awards go this motherfucker had a IRON CROSS Devils. Ends up as a young Teenager he had been drafted in the German Army and fought the Russians. He came to the US after the War and Joined the Corps. He was pretty much close lipped about it but I think it was late 94 we were at the All Services Ball in San Diego and he was there in his Civies. I got to talking to him and he was getting ready to retire, He’d did 20 in the Corps and 20 working for the Exchange and was eligible to draw Social Security, so he was ready to Chill out. I jokingly asked him if he was going to get anything from the German Army. Motherfucker looked me dead in the eye and said ” The Hitler Youth didn’t have much of a retirement program” Stone fucking killer.