Willie Ray Stollings
Army Private First Class Willie Ray Stollings was born February 21, 1919, in Boone County, near Madison, West Virginia, to Grover C. Stollings and Daisy Florence Hager Stollings. At the time of his death, he was survived by five brothers: Jesse, Arvil, Frank, Dennis, and Ardith, and three sisters: Goldie, Daisy, and Alma. Another child, Hobert, died at a very young age of pneumonia, and the 1930 U.S. Federal Census shows another daughter, Violet (age 9), living in the household. Willie was never married.
Willie attended grammar school and held a job as a coal miner at Winding Gulf Collieries previous to his enlistment. It was said that Willie worked very hard at various jobs during the Depression. He was drafted into the U. S. Army and was inducted July 11, 1941. He was trained at Camp Gordon, Florida; Fort Benning, Georgia; Camp Wheeler, Georgia; and Fort Dix, New Jersey. Stollings was a private first class in the 12th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, and served in the European Theater.
|The 4th Infantry Division was reactivated on June 1, 1940, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Selected as an experimental unit, the 4th Motorized Division began a three-year, wide-open experiment. From August 1940 through August 1943, the division participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, and then moved to the newly-opened Camp Gordon, Florida, where they participated in the Carolina Maneuvers and finally moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where they scrapped the motorized experiment and were re-designated the 4th Infantry Division. (Source: National 4th Infantry Division Association, “Division History,” accessed March 1, 2014, http://www.4thinfantry.org/content/division-history.) The Division arrived in Great Britain in early 1944 during the buildup and rehearsals for Operation Overlord, the Invasion of Normandy. The 4th Infantry Division landed at Utah Beach, with the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Division being the first surface-borne Allied unit to hit the beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 4th relieved the 82nd Airborne Division at Sainte-Mère-Église, cleared the Cotentin peninsula, and took part in the capture of Cherbourg on June 25, 1944. After taking part in the fighting near Périers, France, in July, the division broke through the left flank of the German Seventh Army, helping stem the German drive toward Avranches. (Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History, “4th Infantry Division,” accessed March 20, 2014, http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/cbtchron/cc/004id.htm.)|
|Private Stollings embarked for Europe in January 1944. Private First Class Stollings participated in the June 6 D-Day Invasion of France, where he was injured in action just after the Normandy Invasion at St. Lo. He died eleven days later on June 22, 1944. Willie received the Purple Heart for his service. He died when he was only twenty-five years old after three years and eleven months of service. His remains were eventually returned to the U.S., and he is buried in Madison Memorial Park, Boone County, West Virginia.|
To honor Pfc. Stollings for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country and state, in 2011, the West Virginia Senate passed a resolution naming a bridge in his memory. Bridge Number 03-119-16.22 in Boone County will hereafter be known as the “PFC Willie Ray Stollings Memorial Bridge.”
Article prepared by Grace Morris.
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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