James J. Waters
Army Private First Class James J. Waters was born December 22, 1918, to James and Victoria Mitchell Waters. He grew up on a family farm near his hometown of Sharples, West Virginia. According to U.S. Federal Census records from 1920, 1930, and 1940, his father was a miner, having only completed up to the third grade. James had three older siblings—Floyd, Gladys, and Thomas Waters. James also had a younger sister, Orpha. He finished grammar school; however, he did not go on to higher education. Prior to enlisting in the military, he was employed by a mining company as a semiskilled miner and mining machines operator. According to U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, he entered the military unmarried and had no children before his deployment.
Waters was enlisted in the Army on March 27, 1942, in Newport, Kentucky. He trained at several places in the eastern United States: Fort Thomas in Kentucky, Camp Claiborne in Louisiana, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Embarked on April 23, 1943, he served in the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a private first class. (Source: “Gold Star Boys: James J Waters,” Service Record Book of Men and Women of Madison, W. Va.)
The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (GFAB) was active in the first and second World Wars. During the second month of World War II, the 319th Field Artillery became the 319th Field Artillery Battalion. Along with the 82nd Airborne, the 319th was the first airborne unit to be sent overseas. The 319th men were the first airborne troops to liberate a formerly occupied city in Europe and among the first U.S. soldiers to enter Naples. Out of a total of 337 men, the battalion had fifteen killed in action and 58 wounded in action during the glider landings of D-Day. (Source: “The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion,” The 82nd Airborne, accessed 19 Feb. 2014, http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/319/319.html.)
James traveled through many different places while serving in the war—Italy, Africa, England, and France. After fighting in World War II for two years, two months, and 11 days, Waters was killed in action during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, at the age of 25.
Pfc. James J. Waters was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal and is buried in Clothier, Logan County, West Virginia. In 2012, West Virginia delegates Joshua Barker, Ralph Rodighiero, Greg Butcher, and Josh Stowers sponsored a resolution to name bridge number 3-17-0.53 the “PFC James J Waters Memorial Bridge.” The bridge is located in Ottawa, Boone County, on West Virginia Route 17.
Article prepared by Amber Biel.
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