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Marvin Everett Bales

Courtesy Shelby Jean Clark

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

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Marvin Everett Bales
1918-1945

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."

Helen Keller

Technician Fifth Grade Marvin Everett Bales was the son of Everett M. and Lennie Hall Bales. Born on April 27, 1918, this “youngest brother” joined a large group of older siblings: Henry, John Crockett, Magdalina Lee (“Maggie”; married name: Marshall), George Walter, Grace Ellen (married names: Mosely/Staton), Stella Agnes (Phillips/Norcross), and Sam M. Marvin grew up in Filbert, McDowell County, where he attended Gary High School.
Bales family

Sam Bales, George Walter Bales (kneeling); (back row) Stella Bales Phillips (later Norcross), John Crockett Bales, Grace Bales Mosley (later Staton), Henry Bales, Lennie Bales (Mother), Marvin Bales, Magdalina (Maggie Lee) Bales Marshall. Courtesy Shelby Jean Clark

Marvin and Winnie Bales

T/5 Marvin and Winnie Anderson Bales. Courtesy Shelby Jean Clark

On December 21, 1936, the Reverend G. K. Patty presided over the marriage of Marvin Bales and Winnie Maiers Anderson. Interestingly, their McDowell County marriage application states that he was twenty-two and she twenty-one at the time, although birth and census data would indicate he had not quite reached that age. Additional information on the marriage application includes the names of his parents, his birthplace (Tazewell, West Virginia [sic]), and his occupation ([coal] miner). Also provided are the names of Winnie’s parents (Allen and Martha) and her birthplace (Bristol, Tennessee). A death notice in the Welch Daily News (March 22, 1945) staes that he was employed by United States Coal and Coke Company. This corroborates the information on the marriage certificate.

The Welch Daily News article reports that T/5 Bales joined the army in June 1943 and was sent overseas in May 1944. He was a tank driver in the 9th Armored Division; this unit followed up the June 1944 invasion of Normandy in August and then branched out north and east. It is well known for its offensives at Bastogne and along the Rhine River.

The day-to-day occurrences of many army units in World War II are well chronicled, so we can get some idea of what life was like for the regular soldier. From a human interest point of view, a small online booklet details the history of the 9th Armored Division. It is part of the series G. I. Stories published by Stars & Stripes in Paris in 1944 and 1945. Thomas Herrald (Brigadier General, Commanding, of the 9th “Phantom” Armored Division) had this to say of the men who made up the unit, when he prefaced the story:

The Ninth Armored Division’s brilliant achievements were made possible by the actions of brave men fighting as a united team. This, then, is the story of that team. It is a team in which every member can justly feel the deepest pride.

Every man, I am sure, is aware of the personal sacrifices that were required to win the war. The deeds of our comrades who fell at Bastogne, Remagen and on the road to Leipzig will burn forever bright in our memories as we continue to uphold the principles in which we believe. [Source: Lone Sentry, “The 9th: The Story of the 9th Armored Division,” accessed April 15, 2013, http://www.lonesentry.com/gi_stories_booklets/9tharmored/.]

A more comprehensive and statistical, but less personal, summary of the contributions of the 9th Armored Division can be found at the site “9th Armored Division: World War II.” [Accessed April 15, 2013, http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/cbtchron/cc/009ad.htm.]

Few families have been able to preserve the history of previous generations to the degree that the Bales family has been able to do, thanks largely to Marvin’s niece, Shelby Jean Clark, who provided numerous pictures, letters, and remembrances for this biography. In a letter to his sister Maggie from England dated July 5, 1944, Marvin writes that he is well and expresses optimism that his nephew “Junior” [Enoch Bales], who is missing in action, will be found: “Please Oh Please don’t worry over Jr. They will find him and he will be alright too.” He asks her also not to worry about him, writing: “…I am getting along fine. But am working pretty hard. I am in a pretty safe place yet.” The long, newsy letter is both upbeat and chatty, relating news from his mail from other family members and expressing his relief that his beloved Winnie is now living with her parents, which is a good place. Like many of his comrades in arms, he makes this simple request: “Try to send me candy and gum if you can. I would really [appreciate] getting it. For sweets are hard to get over here.”

Tuesday, October 31, 1944, finds him in Holland on a two-day pass from the front for a rest. His V-mail laments that he can’t understand what the locals are saying, but he is well and enjoying the respite. He again asks that the family not worry about him, for he will be careful and will be home when the war is over. Again, he expresses his concern for his missing nephew.
V-mail

Marvin Bales’ 31 October 1944 V-mail from Holland. Courtesy Shelby Jean Clark

In a November 25, 1944, letter from Germany, Marvin remains optimistic: “This letter leaves me well & getting along very good…. I will be home some day.” He runs through a list of family members he has heard from and those he cares about, saying, “I sure am glad Mother came to stay with you. I know you will take good care of her.” Of his nephew Enoch (“Junior”), he writes: “I hate to hear that you haven’t heard from Jr. yet. But I haven’t given up hope for him. I pray for him every night. I still believe they will find him.” Speaking of his wife, he notes: “I received alot of letter[s] from Winnie today. I really am a happy man. When I know that she & all of the rest are getting along fine.” And Marvin includes his brother-in-law (Maggie Marshall’s husband) in his thoughts: “Tell Stanley hello & not to work too hard. To be real careful in those old mines.” He expects a lot to be cut from the letter by the censors, but surprisingly, nothing was scissored out. Over and over in his letters he asks his family not to worry about him, “…because I have a darling wife & alot of brother[s] and sister[s], & a darling old mother to come home to.”

T/5 Bales was killed in action in Konigshoven, Germany, on February 27, 1945 (possibly the 7th), and Winnie Bales was notified in March. He was twenty-six years old at the time of his death. When it became possible for servicemen’s remains to be returned to the States, he was interred at Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton, Augusta County, in Everett and Lennie’s plot. Shelby Jean Clark describes how Marvin came to be buried there, noting that her grandfather did not buy burial plots for the entire family, although Marvin’s brother Sam eventually was laid to rest in that cemetery as well:

He [Everett] purchased only two.… [These were for himself and Lennie.] Grandpa died just months before Marvin was killed in action and was buried in his [Everett’s] plot at Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia. After Marvin’s remains were shipped back to the States, Grandma decided to use her plot for Marvin. Later, when she passed away, the family purchased her plot in Waynesboro, Virginia, at Augusta Memorial Park.

Other members of Marvin’s immediate family in addition to Lennie interred at Augusta Memorial Park include sisters Maggie Lee Marshall and her husband Stanley and Stella Norcross and her husband Roy. Others are in Oak Lawn Memorial Park in Staunton or Bluewell Cemetery, Bluewell, Virginia (where Maggie’s son and Marvin’s nephew, Enoch Bales Jr., is memorialized).

Mrs. Clark remembers a great deal about her father George Walter Bales’ family. Recalling that her father was the fourth child and third youngest son and Marvin the youngest, she stated that her Aunt Maggie was like a second mother to the younger children in the family. Shelby Jean commented that Marvin was “handsome, nice, particular, and clean”…a real gentleman. A glance at Marvin’s picture reveals his deep, shining eyes, something everyone noticed about him, and those eyes seem to reflect his optimism. One of her memories is of her father, Marvin, and her mother’s brother riding Harleys together. She laughed as she noted that back in those days, men often dressed up in suits to ride their motorcycles, far different than what is seen today. She said that the three family men talked about taking her for a ride on their motorcycles, but she was afraid of that and declined.

According to Mrs. Clark, Winnie Bales moved to Florida after Marvin’s death and eventually remarried. Shelby Jean indicated that the last time she heard from Winnie was in the 1980s.

Everett and Lennie Bales’ family had already suffered one loss, grandson Enoch Bales Jr. (who was never found, despite Marvin’s optimistic predictions), when they received word of the latter’s death. Uncle and nephew, they became part of the larger band of brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the global conflict we know as World War II.

Family information provided by niece Shelby Jean Clark in an interview on May 9, 2013, and numerous e-mails. Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure.

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