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Joseph Reid Wilmoth

"Pearl Harbor caused our Nation to wholeheartedly commit to winning World War II, changing the course of our Nation’s history and the world’s future."

Joe Baca

Joseph Reid Wilmoth was born on January 3, 1925, at Elkins in Randolph County, West Virginia. His parents were Howard James Wilmoth and Gypsy Maude Grove Wilmoth, who were married at Elkins on December 10, 1918.

Joseph’s siblings were Ruth Beatrice (married name: Mrs. Joe C. Ivey), Harry Randolph, Ralph Eugene, and half-sister Mildred Kathleen (married name: Mrs. Clinton Raymond “Bud” Pingley).

The Wilmoth families were among the early settlers in Randolph County. In 1774, four Wilmoth brothers and their two sisters traveled from Augusta County near Staunton, Virginia, and settled on both sides of Shavers Fork of the Cheat River, formerly called Wilmoths River. The Wilmoth brothers were the beneficiaries of an act passed in 1777 by the Virginia General Assembly giving 400 acres of land to each family that had settled west of the Alleghenies prior to June 24, 1776.

The Wilmoths also were well represented in the early military struggle to establish and defend the newly formed United States. Thomas Wilmoth II, son of Thomas Wilmoth Sr., served in the Augusta County Virginia Militia during the American Revolutionary War. His son Nicholas was a private in the 2nd Regiment, Virginia Militia, during the War of 1812. Other family members were involved on the side of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.

Joseph Reid Wilmoth, fifth great-grandson of Thomas Wilmoth Sr., was drum major in the Elkins High School marching band, a tradition carried on by his brother Ralph. He was voted “most likeable” by his senior class, graduating in 1942.
Joseph Wilmoth

High school senior photo. Courtesy Ralph Wilmoth, brother of Joseph Wilmoth

When the United States entered World War II, all men between the ages of 18 and 64 were required to register for the draft. Upon reaching the age of 18, Joseph Reid Wilmoth registered for the draft on January 4, 1943. His U.S. WWII draft card shows he was five feet eleven inches tall and weighed 155 pounds. His eyes were blue, and his hair was red. He listed his brother-in-law, Clinton Pingley, as a person who would always know where to get in touch with him.

Rubber was an important commodity in the war effort against Germany and Japan. By 1943, Japan had captured most of the areas that supplied natural rubber. Ford, Bacon & Davis was engaged in 1942 to construct a synthetic rubber plant on Wertz Field, the site of the original airport for Charleston, West Virginia. His draft record indicates that Joseph was employed there at the time he registered for the draft.

According to U.S. Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, on March 17, 1943, Joseph enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes, Columbus. Ohio. He was assigned to Company L, 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division.

As part of the Sixth Army, the 40th Infantry Division departed from Borgen Bay in Papua, New Guinea, on December 9, 1944, and made an assault on Luzon on January 9, codenamed “S Day.” While under attack by Japanese kamikaze pilots, the Sixth Army engaged in fierce and frenzied fighting. Combat losses were 10,380 killed and 36,550 wounded. Non-combat casualties, mostly from disease, exceeded 93,000.

Philippine President Unit Citation Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal Purple Heart Victory Medal

Joseph Reid Wilmoth’s military awards


Gravestone for Joseph Reid Wilmoth in Elkins Memorial Gardens. Courtesy Lynda Davis

Sgt. Joseph Reid Wilmoth was killed by mortar fire on February 26, 1945. Posthumously, he was awarded the Philippine President Unit Citation, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the Purple Heart, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was returned for burial in the family plot in Elkins Memorial Gardens, formerly known as the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Randolph County, West Virginia.

Article prepared by Leon Armentrout, with assistance from Ralph Wilmoth and Lynda Davis
January 2018


Joseph Reid Wilmoth

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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