Charles Henry Wilson Jr.
Hailing from McMechen, Marshall County, where he was born on December 7, 1920, Private First Class Charles Henry Jr. was the son of Charles H. Sr. and Margaret Stephens Wilson. Charles Jr. was one of ten siblings, three of whom died in infancy or early childhood. Charles Sr. and Margaret’s oldest daughter, Mabel, was born and died in 1903. She was followed by Eleanor (b. 1904, later married to Frank Hilson), Edith (b. 1906, later married to Arthur Conley), Clarissa (b. 1913, later married to Homer Hall), Ruth (b. 1917, later married to Louis Fahrion), Charles (b. 1920), Margie (b. 1923, later married to Harold Slie), and Thomas (b. 1928, later married to Yvonne Baker). Meanwhile, two brothers William (1908-1909) and Clyde (1910-1912) did not live to adulthood.
The Wilson family’s first ancestors in West Virginia lived in Wheeling, but Charles H. Sr. and Margaret established their growing family in McMechen, where he located to work for the B. and O. Railroad as a brakeman. Charles Jr.’s sister Eleanor Hilson, writing in the History of Marshall County 1984 points to a long history of military service, with two great-uncles serving in the Civil War, one in the infantry and one as a drummer. Charles’ father and his uncle Daniel served in the Spanish-American War. (Source: Marshall County Historical Society)
After high school, Charles attended West Virginia University, where he was a co-manager of the nationally acclaimed 1942 basketball team that won the National Invitation Tournament. Unfortunately, financial considerations at the university kept all but one of the managers from attending the Madison Square Garden tournament, but it is easy to imagine that Charles was one of the many who celebrated the victory over Western Kentucky by snaking through the streets of Morgantown.
Enlisting in 1942 with an active duty date of May 11, 1943, Pfc. Charles Henry Wilson Jr. was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes, Ohio, with basic training taken at Camp Wolters, Texas, according to postings by his nephew on the National World War II Memorial site. (Source: National WWII Memorial, “Charles H. Wilson Jr.,” World War II Honoree, accessed August 1, 2012, http://www.wwiimemorial.com/default.asp?page= registry.asp.) He was assigned to the Sixty-Third Infantry Division (Company G, 254th Infantry Regiment), the history of which is well chronicled. In November 1944, Task Force Harris (an advance party of the division, consisting of the 253rd, 254th, and 255th) left for New York, with France as their ultimate destination, arriving in Marseille on December 8. By the end of (Source: Sixty-Third Infantry Division, “History of the 63rd Infantry Division,” accessed August 2, 2012, http://www.63rdinfdiv.com/divisionhistorypage.) By the end of December 1944, the task force was disbanded, and the 254th was attached to the Third Infantry Division in the Colmar Region. (The three regiments were reunited with the Sixty-Third Division in February 1945.) Pfc. Charles Henry Wilson Jr., however, had been killed in action by small arms fire on January 26, 1945, near Vesoul, France.
A May 30, 1945, local newspaper article subtitled: “Two County Boys Killed in European War after Death of Other Cager” notes the irony of Wilson’s death, stating, “Charles, the last of the three to go overseas, left this country in December, 1944, and was killed in France just two days after he was under enemy fire.” (Source: “Strange Story of Death of 3 Boys on Same Basketball Squad . . . Fate?” Moundsville Journal, 5.) The other two were tournament hero Roger “Shorty” Hicks and New Jersey native George Rickey, a sub on the 1942 NIT championship team.
With his birth coinciding with what two decades later would be known as Pearl Harbor Day and his death coinciding with the liberation of Auschwitz, the life of Pfc. Charles H. Wilson acquired a certain symmetry.
Article contributed by Patricia Richards McClure.
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. For more information contact Constance Baston at (304) 558-0230.
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