Sunday, September 13, 2015

Killed in Belgium in Heavy Fighting

Wallace Jennings Horton was my 3rd cousin once removed. He was born on 30 April 1925 to Richard White and Virginia "Jennie" Ellen (Jennings) Horton. Jennie was a daughter of John William Jennings, III, a first cousin of my great grandfather. Wallace's family lived in Clifton Forge, Virginia, where they owned a home valued at $1,200 in 1930. His father worked as a conductor for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

Wallace's father died of coronary sclerosis at the C&O Hospital in Clifton Forge on 14 March 1939. The next year, when the census was enumerated, widowed Jennie lived at 112 Seventh Street in Clifton Forge with five of her children. Wallace attended Clifton Forge High School and was on the school's boxing team, which went 2-2-1 that year.

1939-1940 Clifton Forge High School Boxing team; photograph courtesy of
Ancestry.com

Three years later, at the age of 18, Wallace was drafted. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on 17 August 1943 in Roanoke, Virginia and served with the 119th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division. He likely spent the remainder of 1943 in Camp Blanding near Starke, Florida, training. The division sailed for Europe on 12 February 1944 and continued training on the south coast of England. They entered Europe four days after D-Day at Omaha Beach and were almost immediately thrown into action. Germans called the division "Roosevelt's SS" because of the constant pressure the unit brought to bear on their enemy's elite 1st SS Division.

During Operation Cobra, the breakout of the hedgerows, in late July, the division experienced devastating friendly fire by U.S. bombers. They broke up the German's spearhead during its drive to Avranches. After the liberation of Paris, the division drove east through Belgium crossing the Meuse river at Vise on 10 September. Maastricht fell the next day. Wallace Jennings Horton died on 13 September 1944 near Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. He received a Purple Heart so we do not know if he was killed in action or died from wounds sustained earlier.  He was 19 years old.

He was interred at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial.

Headstone for Wallace Jennings Horton; photograph courtesy
of FAG volunteer Des Phillippet

To read about the conditions in which Wallace and his fellow soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division fought, read my brother's guest blog.

15 February 2016 Update: As I continued my research into the descendants of my three times great grandfather, John William Jennings, Sr., I discovered Nathaniel Thomas Miller, a third cousin once removed of Wallace, served in the same infantry regiment. He died just 16 days after Wallace.

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Cousins: Served Together, Died Together
When Pursuit Comes to an End

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