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James Columbus Kerns

Courtesy Kerns family

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

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James Columbus Kerns
1918-1944

“It is my earnest hope—indeed the hope of all mankind—that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”

General Douglas MacArthur

Pvt. James Columbus Kerns was born at Evenwood, Randolph County, West Virginia, on December 24, 1918. His parents were John Smith Kerns and Hettie Adamson Kerns. Private Kerns had four brothers: Edgar Roseve, Willard Mason, Charles Lester, and Preston John. There were also six sisters: Susan Jemima Ware, Opal Beatrice Murphy, Bessie Marie Pritt, Elsie Virginia Paugh, Daisy Maxine Price Hawkins, and Nellie Elaine Kleiss.

A death notice for Pvt. James C. Kerns in the Randolph Enterprise (28 Sept. 1944, p. 4) states that prior to his military service, James C. Kerns was employed in Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 7, 1942, and took basic training at Camp Meade, Maryland; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Camp Pickett, Virginia. He was assigned to the 77th Army Infantry Division (Statue of Liberty Division). The proud soldier’s photo clearly shows an arm badge indicating this assignment! On March 31, 1944, the Division landed in Hawaii to train for amphibious landings and jungle warfare.

The 305th Regiment Combat Team of the 77th—joined with the First Provisional Marine Brigade—made the first landing on the Asan and Agat beaches of Guam on July 21, 1944. The 305th was the only Army unit to join the Marines in this assault. Both beaches were secured by the end of the day. Over the next three days the 306th Regiment and the 307th Regiment went ashore. During the weeks that followed, the 77th waged a fierce fight on Guam against the Japanese forces. Private Kerns lost his life in combat on July 26, 1944. The 77th suffered over 1,000 casualties. While American forces lost over 7,000 men during the recapture of Guam, the Japanese deaths totaled more than 17,500.

The Randolph Enterprise notes that Pvt. Kerns’ brother Edgar was also “somewhere in the South Pacific” at the time of the casualty. The body of Pvt. Kerns was returned to the United States and was interred in the Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, West Virginia, in Plot A, Row O, Grave 95.
Gravestone of Pvt. James C. Kerns
Gravestone of Pvt. James C. Kerns in Grafton National Cemetery. Used with permission; posted by jc, accessed 9 July 2014 at findagrave.com.

Photo of James Columbus Kerns provided by his sister, Daisy Maxine Price Hawkins. Article by Leon Armentrout

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James C. Kerns

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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