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Richard Henry Pfau

Courtesy Robert W. Pfau, nephew

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Richard Henry Pfau
1924-1945

"So bring Spring’s warm caress to melt away this snowy shroud/ And lift him up on sunshine beams/ To kinder rest than this, somewhere beyond the clouds."

Dave Curry

On January 25, 1924, Richard Henry Pfau was born at Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia. His father, Otha Dellas Pfau Sr., was a son of Henry Martin Pfau and Malinda Irons Pfau. His mother, Mabel Ann Isner Pfau, was a daughter of Richard Edward Isner and Matilda Catherine Butcher Isner. Otha and Mabel were married in 1923 at Elkins.

Richard’s siblings, all younger, were Otha Dellas “June” Jr., Betty Sue (Mrs. Gerard Anthony Schohn), William Ralph, Vivian Ruth (Mrs. Paul “Mac” McDonough), and Mary Ann (Mrs. Ralph Kerns).

Richard Henry Pfau was not the first of his family to enlist in the U.S. Army. When the United States declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917, the call for volunteers failed to produce the needed one million troops to support the war effort. Consequently, the Selective Service instituted the draft with the first registration on June 5, 1917, for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.

Otha D. Pfau Sr., Richard’s father, registered in Randolph County on June 5, 1917. At that time, he was 23 years of age, single, living at Kerens, West Virginia, and working on the farm of C.C. Coberly. On May 15, 1918, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but was released from service on July 18, 1919. After the war, he was employed as a policeman at Elkins. Later he worked on the Western Maryland Railway as a repairman. When war was declared in December of 1941 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Otha Sr. again answered the call to serve his country by registering for the World War II draft on April 27, 1942, at Huntington.

Richard Pfau

Richard Pfau. Courtesy Michelle Schohn, niece

Mabel Ann Isner Pfau, Richard’s mother, died on February 14, 1999, and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Elkins, West Virginia, beside her husband, Otha Dellas Pfau Sr., who died on November 2, 1979.

Otha Dellas Pfau Jr., Richard’s younger brother, was born at Elkins on June 10, 1927, and also served in World War II. At 16 years of age, Otha graduated from Elkins High School, Class of 1944, where he was class vice president and valedictorian. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served from April 1945 through August 1946. Otha Jr. graduated from Strayer College of Accounting in Washington, D.C., and moved to Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1950, where he met and married Osie Owens. He was an Internal Revenue agent for 32 years. When he died on January 8, 2015, he was buried in Bluefield Grandview Memorial Gardens at Bluefield, Virginia.

Richard’s Elkins High School yearbook photo

Richard’s Elkins High School yearbook photo. Courtesy Michelle Schohn

Richard Henry Pfau graduated from Elkins High School in 1941 and found employment in Baltimore as a welder and flame cutter. On March 10, 1943, he enlisted at Baltimore in the U.S. Army.

Upon entering the Army, he was assigned to Company F of the 331st Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 83rd Infantry Division. After basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and maneuvers in Tennessee, the 83rd departed from Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, in early April 1944 for Europe. After a brief period of training in Wales, the 83rd Infantry Division landed at Omaha Beach on June 18, 1944. They entered the conflict at the hedgerow south of Carentan on June 27, and for 244 days they engaged German forces in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe.

Company F

Company F, photo taken before they shipped out. Courtesy Dave Curry

Richard Pfau

Courtesy Michelle Schohn


The Battle of the Bulge commenced on December 27, 1944. On January 11, 1945, while making an attack at dawn, two assault squads of the 331st Infantry were caught in heavy machine-gun crossfire in what became known as the Massacre at Ottre. When the fighting ceased, the only survivor, Platoon Sgt. Harry Shoemaker, watched as two German SS soldiers searched the clothes of the dead Americans and shot those who were still alive.

Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery

Current photo of Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

On that fateful day, Pvt. Richard Henry Pfau lost his life and was buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. That cemetery was established in 1945 as a temporary burial site for Americans who died during the U.S. Army’s campaign beginning in September 1944 and advancing through France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg into Germany. It also included the Americans who died during the Battle of the Bulge.

A site a few hundred yards south of the original temporary Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery was chosen because of its more attractive setting to become the permanent burial place for 7,992 Americans who lost their lives in the cause of freedom. The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery is located 2 miles north of the village of Henri-Chapelle, about 18 miles west of Liege, Belgium. The permanent cemetery was dedicated in 1960.

Dave Curry, historian of the 83rd Infantry Division Association, honored his father, Pfc. Thomas D. Curry, and other members of F Company buried at Henri-Chapelle with the following poem:

White Death

I cannot bear to look upon him in this lonely place
That turns men’s hearts to hate as bitter as this cold
And do such deeds as were done here in their disgrace.

So bring Spring’s warm caress to melt away this snowy shroud
And lift him up on sunshine beams
To kinder rest than this, somewhere beyond the clouds.

Carry him away from this mortal place
To that nearby star where brothers wait
To wrap him in their sweet embrace.

Its soft light shines down and sparkles in the snow
To bring God’s gentle peace at last to Bihain’s field
Where the evergreen trees grow.

(Quoted with permission)

At the request of family members, the remains of some of the soldiers who had been buried in temporary cemeteries in Europe were repatriated for permanent burial in the United States. More than 5,500 American war dead from Henri-Chapelle left Antwerp, Belgium, during the first week of October 1947. At the request of his parents, Richard Pfau was brought home for reburial. At 2:00 P.M. on December 10, 1947, Dr. William Ward, pastor of Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church, conducted his funeral service. Following the church service, Pvt. Pfau was reburied in Maplewood Cemetery at Elkins, West Virginia, where his parents would eventually be laid to rest.
grave marker

Photo courtesy Robert Pfau

Combat Infantryman Badge
Sharpshooter Medal
Purple Heart
European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Battle of the Bulge Commemorative Medal
American Campaign Medal

For his service in the U.S. Army, Pfc. Richard H. Pfau earned the following medals (pictured from left to right): U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge, Sharpshooter Medal, Purple Heart, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three battle stars, Battle of the Bulge Commemorative Medal, and American Campaign Medal.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout, whose mother was a second cousin to Richard, with editorial assistance from Patricia Richards McClure
March 2017

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Richard Henry Pfau

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