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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Bill W. Richardson
1921-1943

"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Abraham Lincoln

The fourth child born to Jack Lewis and Barbara Ellen Fields Richardson, with older siblings Mary Alice, Jack Lacey and Asa R., and younger siblings Thomas Junior and Augustine, Bill W. Richardson (born September 15, 1921) would be the only son not to return home from World War II. His father was a farm operator, only going to school through the third grade, and his mother was a homemaker and farmer to support the family. The family lived in Chloe, Calhoun County, West Virginia. All sons attended basic grammar school, and all helped on the farm. This biography will look into the lives of each of the Richardson boys, but will ultimately end with Bill’s Army service, believed to be in Alaska, and his sacrifice there.

All four brothers enlisted in the military in World War II, all going their separate ways.

The oldest son, Jack Lacey, was born in 1914 and was inducted into the United States Army in 1942. He served until the date of his honorable discharge in 1945, re-enlisting a day later and, again, honorably discharged, as a private first class, on February 19, 1946. He was missing in action for 183 days when on tour of duty in Germany, and he received a medal for this as well as a Victory Ribbon for his military service. He was discharged from the United States Army, returning to West Virginia and settling in Glen, Clay County, working as a construction worker as well as marrying and having three children, one son and two daughters. Jack Lacey Richardson died on April 5, 1990, at the Veterans’ Hospital in Beckley, West Virginia, and is buried at Hoover Cemetery in Braxton County.

Asa R. Richardson, the third oldest, but the first to be inducted into the U.S. Army, was born in 1919 and entered the United States Army in 1941, serving his country as a private first class until the date of his honorable discharge in 1945. While serving in the Army, Asa R. Richardson was a scout paratrooper, a combat infantryman, and a rifle expert, serving in campaigns in the southern Philippines and in New Guinea. He received several awards and decorations including the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, the Bronze Arrowhead, the American Defense Service Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with Bronze Star and, not least of all, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster. Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army, Asa R. Richardson returned to Calhoun County, West Virginia, and later relocated to Norton, Virginia. He was employed in the timber industry, married, and fathered six children, four boys and two girls. Asa died in 1963 and is buried in Stone Gap Military Cemetery in Virginia.

Thomas Junior was born in 1924 in Calhoun County, was inducted into the United States Army in 1942, and received an honorable discharge, as a private, in 1945. While in the United States Army, Thomas Junior served in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, and the Rhineland. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the European-African Eastern Theater Medal. Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army, Thomas Junior Richardson returned to West Virginia, resided at Dille in Clay County, and worked in the coal mines, marrying and having four children: two sons, one stepson, and one stepdaughter. He passed away in the year 2006.

Bill Richardson, the subject of this biography, entered the United States Army on October 6, 1942, and was the only Richardson brother who did not return from the war, dying in action on May 14, 1943. On June 19, 1943, a brief mention of Bill’s death (which had occurred on May 14) was recorded in the Pt. Pleasant [WV] Register: “The name of Pvt. Bill W. Richardson, son of Jack Richardson of Quick, W. Va., was included today in a list of 140 additional soldiers reported by the War Department as killed in North African fighting.” However, because he is buried in Sitka, Alaska, and died just days after the Aleutian battles to win Attu and Kiska back from the Japanese, it appears more likely that he fought and died there. This theory is consistent with information on an application for a headstone, which indicates he would be buried in the Sitka National Cemetery. This application indicates he was assigned to Company G, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and his participation in the Alaskan campaign would be consistent with the movements of that unit.
Manila American Cemeteryn

Application for a headstone for Pvt. Bill W. Richardson in Sitka National Cemetery. Source: Ancestry.com, U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 1928-1962 [database online]; digital image of original document at National Archives and Records Administration.

During World War II, Japan attempted to divert attention from its major Pacific operations by attempting to take a string of islands—the Aleutians—near Alaska, an attempt to invade the United States through Alaska, it is believed. The Japanese took two islands, and, in response, a U.S. campaign was undertaken to win Kiska and Attu back, an ultimate success. On May 11, 1943, the United States made three landings on the island of Attu on Massacre Bay. (Source: History.com (2009), “Battle of the Aleutian Islands,” accessed 30 May 2014, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-the-aleutian-islands.) It was just three days later that Pvt. Bill Richardson met his death. This date would seem to reinforce the theory that he lost his life fighting the Japanese to win back the island.

Manila American Cemeteryn

Grave marker for Pvt. Bill W. Richardson, Sitka National Cemetery. Permission of "ronzoni"; accessed March 19, 2014, at findagrave.com.

Pvt. Bill Richardson was awarded the Purple Heart for Military Merit and for Wounds Received in Action. In 2013, the West Virginia Legislature enacted a resolution naming a stretch of road beginning at the county line of Clay and Calhoun Counties and the junction of West Virginia Route 16 and U.S. Route 33 for Pvt. Richardson and his brothers who served their country in World War II.

Article prepared by Adila Fathallah and Juliana Spradling.

Honor...

Bill W. Richardson

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