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Elmer Adkins (of Kanawha)

"Freedom lies in being bold."

Robert Frost

Army Private Elmer Adkins was born in Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia on October 14, 1919, the son of John Louis and Judy Mitten Adkins. He was one of four children born to this union, the others being Helena (who later married W. T. Sloan), Stanton ("Buck"), and Mrytle (who married J. L. Pfost) While the 1920 U.S. Federal Census shows the Adkins family living together in Spring Hill, West Virginia, it appears that John and Judy were divorced by 1930, at which time the Census shows Helena and Stanton living with their father. It appears that both parents subsequently remarried, and a Charleston Daily Mail account of Pvt. Adkins' death refers to his mother as Mrs. L. J. Smith.

Although little can be determined of the early life, schooling, and work history of Elmer Adkins, various documents note he was married to Virginia Lee Toothman, and they had two children, Patricia Florence (Pat) and William Ray. Prior to his Army enlistment, he was employed by Westvaco Chlorine Products Corporation. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, indicate that he enlisted on March 11, 1944, at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, at which time he stated that he had completed three years of high school.

Pvt. Elmer Adkins was assigned to the 15th Armored Infantry Battalion, 5th Armored Division. Fifth Division history has been well chronicled, as at one point it became attached to General George S. Patton's 3rd Army. During two intense days of fighting from December 12 through 14, 1944, the 15th Armored Infantry Battalion reported heavy casualties, and the total losses for the 5th Armored Division for the month of December included nine officers and 158 enlisted men, in addition to a number who were reported wounded or missing in action. (Source: 5th Armored Division Association, "After Action December 1944," accessed January 11, 2013,

Pvt. Adkins died of wounds received in battle on December 14, 1944, in Germany. The place and time indicate it was just prior to the Battle of the Bulge and most likely on the border between France and Germany. His remains rest in the American Cemetery Henri-Chapelle in Belgium, Plot A, Row 6, Grave 51. For his sacrifice, he was awarded a Purple Heart. His children--William and Patricia--were just three years and one year old at the time of his death. William Ray has been to Belgium to see the memorial to his father at henri-Chapelle.
American Cemetery Henri-Chapelle

American Cemetery Henri-Chapelle,
Belgium. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

In her letter of application for the inclusion of her father's name on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial on the campus of the Capitol, daughter Patricia Adkins Welborn says,

My Father, Elmer Adkins was killed in World War Two in Germany in 1944. At the time of my Father's death, I was one year old. My Mother had very little records on my Dad other than their marriage certificate and a few copies of letters that he mailed to her while in the Army. When I [was] growing up in Charleston, I made weekly trips to downtown just to see the Veterans Memorial with my Dad's name listed on that memorial..

My Mother has passed away and I know that it would really mean so much to her if my Dad's name would be placed on your memorial.. I wish I could tell you how very much it would have meant to me to have known my Father and to have him there while I was growing up, however, I know from his letters to my Mother, that he gave his life for his Country and was willing to [do] that so that others would not suffer.


William Ray and Patricia Florence Adkins placing flowers at Charleston Veterans Memorial.
Courtesy Adkins family

Pat Welborn remembers placing flowers yearly at "the old memorial that used to be in downtown [Charleston--veterans memorial at the Lee Street Triangle]." In 2013 she writes that after the war her mother married Romie Shaffer, himself a disabled veteran of World War II. The family eventually relocated to South Carolina, but Pat remembers returning to West Virginia for the dedication of the state's Veterans Memorial at the Capitol, which she described as "just beautiful."

Family information provided by Patricia Adkins Welborn. Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure.


West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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