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Lewis Milton Larew

Capt. Lewis Larew, Fall of 1943
Note the insignia of the Corps of Engineers
on his lapels.

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Lewis Milton Larew
1916-1944

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Thomas Jefferson

West Virginia today would not be the same state that it is without the selfless men and women that dedicated their lives to serving our country in the armed forces. U.S. Army Captain Lewis Milton Larew was born on December 18, 1916, in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Raleigh County lies in Southern West Virginia, was founded in 1850, and was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, an English adventurer and soldier. The first settlers came in 1792, and the location was once a favorite site for traveling fur traders in search of beaver pelts. The leading industries and chief agricultural products of Raleigh County are health, tourism, coal, coal-related products, timber, mining equipment, electronic parts, building blocks, cattle, potatoes, peppers, corn, strawberries, and show horses. The county seat for Raleigh County is Beckley. Lewis Larew was born and raised here and spent his life in Raleigh County before going into World War II.

His parents were James Edgar Larew and Cynthia Willow “Willia” Larew. The 1930 U. S. Federal Census shows that there were five children in the Larew household: Lewis (the oldest), John, William (“Farmer Bill”), Genevieve (“Geny”), and Ruth, in addition to Cynthia’s sister Margaret.
Lewis and siblings

John, “Farmer Bill,” and Lewis, 1926

Larew family

Larew family

Lewis with his mother Cynthia and his siblings in 1923; Lewis with his father James and his siblings on the Fourth of July in 1924

Lewis’ father, James Edgar Larew, was born on December 7, 1878, in Monroe County, West Virginia, and died on November 29, 1959. James registered for World War II in 1942 in the draft mandated for older men, but was never drafted. James’ wife and Lewis’ mother, Cynthia Willow Christie Larew, was born on October 13, 1889, in Mercer County, West Virginia, to parents Milton W. Christie (where Lewis got his middle name) and Ozello McKenzie Christie. Cynthia passed away on January 12, 1971, in Beckley, West Virginia. James and Cynthia Larew are both buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Beckley, West Virginia.

Lewis Larew attended and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley, West Virginia. After he finished there, he attended Lynchburg Virginia College, the West Virginia Institute of Technology at Montgomery, and the University of Kentucky School of Engineering. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with four years of a college education.
Lewis Milton Larew

Lewis Milton Larew, 1939

Lewis was a Protestant. He took an active role in his local Central Christian Church and made outstanding contributions to the youth program there during his time at home. Before Lewis entered the service, he was a salesman for the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Interestingly, his draft registration indicates he made about $1,300 annually. The Burroughs Adding Machine Company was the foremost vendor of office equipment at that time. Lewis unfortunately never had the opportunity to get married and have children because his life was tragically cut short due to his dedication to our country.

On June 17, 1941, Lewis enlisted in the United States Army. He was promoted to second lieutenant on June 30, 1942, about one year after his enlistment. He attended an officer candidate school at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and after he was commissioned, Lewis was stationed at Camp Bowie, Texas. It was here that Lewis was injured in September 1942 when a jeep he was riding in overturned, but he recovered from his injuries. He was then stationed with the Seventh Army in North Africa and Sicily, where he served as an acting captain. The Seventh Army was a part of the United States Army that was created during World War II that eventually evolved into the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) during the 1950s and 1960s. The Army served in North Africa and Italy in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and France and Germany in the European Theater between 1942 and 1945.

Lewis at home

Lewis dressed in full uniform at home in Raleigh County in 1942

In January of 1943, Lewis went overseas with the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment. This combat regiment was constituted on July 15, 1940, in the regular army as 2nd Battalion, 39th Engineers, in the General Services. The regiment was then redesignated on January 13, 1941, as a combat unit. On April 25, 1942, at Camp Bowie, Texas, the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment was activated and redesignated again on August 1, 1942. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the combat regiment was inactivated on November 15, 1946. Eventually, on March 1, 1945, the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment was redesignated as the 643rd Engineer Combat Battalion. (Source: 39th Engineer Battalion, “History of the Battalion,” Web, accessed 15 Apr. 2015.)

Lewis saw action in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. On April 24, 1944, just after over three years of dedicated service, a bomb from a German plane made a direct hit on Lewis’ company’s headquarters in Anzio, Italy. Lewis was heading a company of Army engineers with General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army when he was killed during this tragic time.

Lewis Larew is interred in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy. In addition, his family erected a marker in Sunset Memorial Park, where his parents are now buried. The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery is a burial place for American military personnel who were killed in World War II and is rich in works of art and literature, expressing Americans’ remembrance of those who gave their life in World War II. The cemetery contains 7,861 of American military war dead. (Source: American Battle Monuments Commission, “Sicily-Rome American Cemetery,” Web, accessed 10 Apr. 2015.)

Lewis Larew received the Purple Heart Award after his devotion and selflessness to the U.S.A. The Purple Heart is an award for members of the armed forces of the United States who are wounded by a weapon of war in the hands of the enemy and awarded to the next relative in name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. The award is a combat decoration and was first awarded in 1932 for the protection and interest of all who have received the award. Today holders of the award are known as the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the only veterans’ service organization made up of strictly combat veterans. (Source: “Military Order of the Purple Heart,” Web, accessed 12 Apr. 2015.)

In Lewis’ short lifetime, the young, brave man accomplished a lot while fighting for our country. After growing up in Raleigh County and graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School, Lewis moved on to go to college and earned a degree from the University of Kentucky. After graduating from college, Lewis worked in his home state, West Virginia, before enlisting in the United States Army. Lewis was eventually promoted to captain, which is where he was ranked when a German bomb hit the headquarters where Lewis was located at the time. Lewis Larew bravely and selflessly devoted his time and life to our country and state. Without Lewis’ and his combat regiment’s courageous and heroic behavior exhibited in World War II, our country would not have been the same.

Photos courtesy Veronica Stasio, Interpretive Guide, Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy.

Article prepared by Jessie Foster, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Lewis Milton Larew

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