Army Sergeant First Class Jesse Muncy was born in Mingo County, West Virginia, on September 15, 1921, the son of Jeff and Sally [Sallie] Muncy. Growing up in Kermit with his sisters Lucy (later Marcum), Dicie (Hodge), and Mary (Waller) and his brother Birdie, he attended local schools through the elementary grades. Sometime after his 1941 army enlistment he married Loda Lowe, with whom he had three children—Clyde, Sally (“Dot”), and Peggy Carol.
According to U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Jesse enlisted on July 17, 1941—even before the attack on Pearl Harbor—at which time he stated that he was single, without dependents, had a grammar school education, and had been employed in “unskilled sawmill occupations.” His separation papers from the army—at the end of World War II—in October 1945 list his civilian occupation as “Block Setter II.”
Serving with the Company G, 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry, Staff Sergeant Muncy received a Silver Star for gallantry in action on April 9, 1945, when in the vicinity of Olpe, Germany, his company encountered two German tanks during an attack, and Sergeant Muncy, along with four other men, knocked out the tanks. His citation reads, in part:
Under direct enemy small arms, machine gun and tank fire, Sergeant Muncy, after directing his men to give him covering fire, maneuvered to within fifty yards of an enemy tank and, firing three rounds from his bazooka, knocked out the tank, captured seven enemy soldiers and wounded five others. Moving alone to another position, Sergeant Muncy placed fire upon a German convoy, capturing 23 enemy soldiers. Sergeant Muncy’s outstanding courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
In addition, Sergeant Muncy received the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal, as well as a Bronze Star for heroic or meritorious service.
Now a Technical Sergeant, Jesse Muncy was honorably discharged from the Army on October 18, 1945, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. And that might have been the end of the story, except that the horrible but often forgotten episode of our national history—the Korean conflict—got in the way. After World War II, Jesse Muncy returned to southern West Virginia and the coal mines and settled into a seemingly normal life. But life in the mines had its ups and downs, and when fighting erupted in Korea, Jesse willingly re-enlisted. As a decorated WWII soldier and experienced infantryman (9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division), he became a participant in what is now known as “Bloody Ridge” in North Korea (August-September 1951). Fierce fighting—undoubtedly as harrowing as anything Sergeant Muncy had seen in World War II—had been going on for months, as reported in the following account:
After securing Hill 773 on the last day of August, it [the 9th Infantry] struck anew at the two remaining peaks on “Bloody Ridge,” Hills 983 and 900. Both the heights were bare now. All vegetation had long since withered under the constant pounding of artillery and tank fire….
The hilly terrain made any forward movement difficult, to say the least, and the intense fighting had scorched the earth. But the 9th Infantry persevered:
Dirty, unshaven, [and] miserable they backed down, tried again, circled, climbed, slid, suffered, ran, rolled, crouched and grabbed upward only to meet again the murderous fire, the blast of mortar and whine of bullets and jagged fragments. Minutes seemed like hours, hours like days, and days like one long, terrible, dusty, blood-swirled night-mare. Shiver at night, sweat clogged at day, racked with chills one minute, [and] stewed in their own juices the next. [Source: “History of the 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean War: Bloody Ridge,” accessed March 19, 2013, http://www.2id.org/bloody-ridge.htm.]
|It was in this hard-fought battle that Jesse lost his life on September 1, 1951. SFC Muncy received another Silver Star for his service in Korea, as well as the Purple Heart. Within the year, his remains were returned to the States, where he was interred in a family cemetery near Kermit on December 18. His funeral notice in the Williamson Daily News (December 17, 1951) describes him as a “professional soldier.”|
Although the United States forever owes a debt to soldiers like Jesse Muncy, he is perhaps best remembered as a family man. In a letter dated May 21, 1951, he expresses his love for Loda and his “babies,” describing his condition as “lonesome.” At the time, he is hopeful that his situation in Korea is but a temporary station in his life, saying “Someday I will come back to you, so don’t worry about me.…” Over and over, he states his love for his wife, and he calls his children “the best in the world.”
Time, of course, would wear away at his optimism, and less than a month before his death (August 10, 1951), he wrote a letter to his wife and children reiterating his love for them but inserting his uneasy concern for what his unit was about to face:
I will drop you a few lines tonight to let you know I am well and I miss you and the babies a lot.
Honey, I am moving up tonight and we are all pretty quiet. Nobody has got anything to say, but you can tell [what] they’re thinking. Some of them are worried some, and I am for one, but they don’t know it, and honey I am thinking of you and the babies and if I will get to see you any more….
Well, honey, if this should be the last letter, take good care of the babies and keep them together and tell them that I love them.… So tell all the family hello and ans[wer] real soon, and tell Mom hello for me.…
So I will close with all my love.…
P.S. Take good care of my pup.
|Loda Muncy never remarried, preferring to raise her “babies” in the home where she and Jesse planned to spend the rest of their lives. In a 2013 interview, Sally (“Dot”) explained that she and Peggy Carol worked for many years at an Ohio packing plant, and Peggy still lives in that state, while Dot has returned in her retirement to the old home place on Jennie’s Creek in Wayne County. Clyde, not yet retired, still works at a Kenova, West Virginia, machine shop. The family is determined that the legacy of Jesse—and Loda—not be forgotten, and they recall with pride that anyone who claims to have met SFC Muncy during his years in the service has offered thanks for his selfless sacrifice.|
Family information provided by Dot Muncy. Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure, who gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Randy Marcum of the Archives staff.
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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