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Willie David Greenawalt

Courtesy Richard Kimble, Find A Grave

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Willie David Greenawalt
1915-1944

"Verus Ad Finem." ("True Until the End.")

Motto of Willie David Greenawalt’s Regiment

In the Upper Tract of West Virginia, down in Pendleton Country and between the Appalachian Mountains, lies Greenawalt Gap, near the small town of Kline. Greenawalt Gap is the family farm of the Greenawalt family, to whom it has belonged for generations and generations, and it was at this family farm that one Private First Class Willie David Greenawalt would be born in 1915, to Clara Alexander and David Andrew Greenawalt. He would live there for twenty-seven years along with his multiple siblings Vernon, Carl, Geneva, Fred, Hugh, Truilla, Forrest, and Dale. There also he would gain a basic grammar school education in the process, but it was then at age 27 that his life would change.

Willie David was pulled from the farmer’s life in October 1942 and sent off to train to join the U.S. Army as an infantryman. This entailed multiple areas of training, three in particular: Camp Atterbury in Indiana, Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky, and some maneuver training in Tennessee. (Source: “In Lost Airplane: PFC Willie D. Greenawalt,” Grant County Press, 3 Aug. 1944:1.) With this training then complete, Willie David was assigned to the 330th Infantry Regiment within an infantry division, the 83rd “Thunderbolt” Division. Once assigned to his regiment, Willie was shipped off with the rest to Liverpool, England…. Soon he would participate in one of the most important military campaigns of the entirety of World War II: The Normandy Invasion.

The 83rd “Thunderbolt” Infantry Division, including the 330th Infantry Regiment and by extension Pfc. Greenawalt, spent some time continuing their training in the United Kingdom before moving to Normandy. On June 16, 1944, ten days after D-Day itself, Pfc. Greenawalt and his fellow soldiers of the Division landed on Omaha Beach, by then under Allied control. After some weather delay, they then continued on to fight in the front lines of Normandy. (More details of the 83rd’s role in the campaign to gain a foothold in France can be found online in LoneSentry.com’s pamphlet The Thunderbolt Across Europe [83rd Infantry Division], [Web, accessed 17 June 2015]. The pocket-size document opened up to display a map of the division’s route on one side and an informal unit history prepared by the divisional Information-Education Section on the other.)

The 83rd Regiment took up a position about 1.8 miles south of the village of Carentan, and their job there was to dislodge a group of very heavily fortified Germans from the area, which the regiment was not alone in. Nonetheless, the first couple of days of the conflict, starting around July 4, 1944, were extremely rough for the regiment. The entrenched Germans had heavy artillery support, and the 330st Infantry Division, Pfc. Greenawalt included, found itself heavily troubled by a combination of artillery barrage and mortar barrage, made worse because they had to pass over hedgerows to pursue their attack.

It was an unfortunately lethal combination. Pfc. Greenawalt participated in these first few days of combat, and around July 4th, he exited the combat during which he earned two medals: a Bronze Star and, tragically, a Purple Heart. Willie David was wounded in combat, and though the wound did not kill him, it required his being taken from the front and flown out of France in a C-54 transport along with several other wounded men due to the raw amount of casualties incurred in France; too many wounded for England to handle, the C-54 was headed to the United States instead.

The C-54 transport never completed its trip, in an accident the War Department called the first of its kind. Having left Western Europe, the plane was on its way to refuel in Iceland before it simply disappeared between Newfoundland and Iceland, possibly having exhausted its gasoline. Despite an intensive search, nothing was found; the ship, its crew, and the wounded, including Pfc. Willie David Greenawalt, were forever lost at sea. (Source: Missing Air Crew Report, 26 July 1944.)

Willie David Greenawalt was memorialized in the Cambridge American Cemetery on the Tablets of the Missing. Despite the fact his remains have never been found, his family also set aside a grave in the Greenawalt Cemetery, in his home farm of the Greenawalt Gap. A final resting place awaits him in a familiar setting with the hope that eventually he will find his way home. (Source: Richard Kimble, “Willie David Greenawalt,” Find A Grave, Web, accessed 17 June 2015.)
Tablets of the Missing

Sculpture of a Soldier, Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Article prepared by Sebastian Roderick, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Willie David Greenawalt

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