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Shirley Eugene Bailey
Courtesy Bailey family

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Shirley Eugene Bailey
1925-1944

"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you."

General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to U.S. troops before the Normandy Invasion

Army Private Shirley Eugene Bailey was born April 17, 1925, in Pocatalico, West Virginia. Shirley, known to his family as Eugene, most likely to distinguish him from his father, was one of twelve children, two of whom are living today. 1930 and 1940 Federal Census records show his older siblings to be Virginia, Benjamin, and Lloyd. His younger siblings were Mary Ann, Louise, Elizabeth, George, and Naioma Lee. They were parented by father Shirley Bailey and mother Margaret J. Bailey. Eugene’s two living sisters, not accounted for in census records and most likely born after 1940, are Helen Francisco of Charleston and Alma Bell of Barboursville. [This accounts for 11 children, the name of the 12th being uncertain.] He went to Sissonville High School during his early teenage years, and at 18 years of age, he entered the U.S Army on August 23, 1943.

Bailey grew up in Pocatalico and Sissonville in West Virginia. He was educated at Sissonville High School, a three-story building that held both junior high and high school students. While he was attending, the gym had just recently been added, showing the changing additions to school life at the time.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, West Virginia reported the “fifth-highest percentage of servicemen during the war, with 218,665 West Virginians, including 66,716 volunteers, serving in the armed forces.” As well as rationing gasoline, sugar, and butter, West Virginians on the home front joined the Civil Defense Corps and grew their own food. The West Virginia Farm Women’s Club “sold $288,997 in war bonds and collected $15,464 for the Red Cross.” Mountaineers supplied more than 600 million tons of coal to help out in the war. The 40s were a time of economic improvement for the United States after the lasting Great Depression of the 30s. When the country entered the war after the Pearl Harbor attack, American industry was stimulated. With the necessity of manpower, men were drafted to fight in the war or enlisted voluntarily, including Shirley Eugene Bailey. He joined the Army as a medic.

Bailey served in the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division as a private. His unit was one of the first Allied units to hit the beaches of Normandy. The Normandy Invasion was an operation that occurred on June 6, 1944, during World War II. The United States, Britain, and Canada participated in the invasion, arriving on five different beaches in Normandy, France. After liberating the north of France in August of 1944, the remaining forces advanced into Germany. There, they would encounter the Soviet forces in the battle to end the Nazi regime once and for all. Bailey’s unit served 299 days in combat.

While attending to a wounded soldier, Eugene Bailey was killed by enemy fire on November 29, 1944, during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. After his death, the battles waged on and his comrades were unable to recover his body. It was expected that his body would soon be found. Miraculously, a German citizen found his body four years after his death and alerted officials. Not long after his death, a team was sent out to document the conditions of the soldiers they found, but they never identified Bailey. For many decades, he was buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium. Eventually, Bailey’s name was recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the Netherlands. It wouldn’t be until October of 2016 when researchers from the POW/MIA Accounting Agency would make a connection between Bailey and where his remains were from then until now. His body was taken to the DPAA laboratory at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska. His family was alerted by an Army representative from Fort Knox of the news that Bailey’s remains might have been found. After conducting some DNA testing on his sister Helen and her two nephews, officials were able to confidently identify Bailey. They were also able to place a rosette by his name on the Tablets of the Missing in the Netherlands indicating that he had been accounted for. He is now buried at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar, West Virginia.
headstone

Headstone for Shirley E. Bailey, Donel C. Kinnard Veterans Cemetery. Courtesy R. Michael “Mike” Lynon, Find A Grave

Shirley Eugene Bailey’s awards include a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf cluster for his service in the war. While his mother never gave up hope of at least finding his remains, she died in 1951, and could not experience closure. Fortunately for the family, Shirley Eugene Bailey’s two remaining sisters were able to experience the return of his remains to his home state and witness a proper burial, exactly 73 years from the date of his death.

Sources

Barbour, Russ. “World War II.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 14 December 2016, accessed 7 May 2018, https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1353.

“History of Sissonville High School.” Accessed 7 May 2018, http://kcs.kana.k12.wv.us/sisshigh/schoolinfo/history/schoolhistory.html.

Keegan, John. “Normandy Invasion.” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed 7 May 2018, https://www.britannica.com/event/Normandy-Invasion.

Kersey, Lori. “WWII Soldier Coming Home.” Charleston Gazette-Mail, 29 November 2017, pp.1C, 4C.

Article prepared by Aya Hobeika and Kalan King, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U. S. History
April 2018

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Shirley Eugene Bailey

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