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Ernest Blevins: Biographies of Kanawha soldiers killed in D-Day operations (Opinion)

The 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, will be observed with a variety of coverage looking at the overall picture. Over 40 soldiers from Kanawha County landed in Normandy on D-Day. These are biographies of three who died in Operation Overlord, better known as the Normandy invasion.

James Orel Boggess

James Orel Boggess was born Jan. 30, 1924, in Jackson County to Flem Edgar and Mabel Nellie Fields Boggess. By 1940, he was the second of 11 children.

In 1930, the family lived on White Oak Road, in Washington, Jackson County. The family moved to Kanawha County sometime before 1935. Boggess attended school until at least the sixth grade.

His draft card indicates he worked in Sissonville for Summers & Haddox of Sandyville, although other records show he was employed at Charleston Foundry Co. before joining the U.S. Army.

At age 19, Boggess enlisted as a private on March 29, 1943, at Fort Thomas, in Newport, Kentucky. He was assigned to Company C, 299th Combat Engineer Battalion — the only combat engineer battalion to land on both Omaha and Utah beaches. Company C landed on Omaha Beach, working with Company A under heavy fire.

Boggess was declared missing on June 6, 1944. He received a Purple Heart and is listed on the Tablets of Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

Martin Van Hughes

Martin Van Hughes was born on July 10, 1920 (according to his draft card) or 1921 (according to his military record and headstone application), in Big Chimney to Martin Van Hughes and Betty Ramsey. At some point, Betty remarried to Ralph Carter after August 1929 and before 1930, but he was deceased by 1940.

Van Hughes’ record indicates for distinguishing marks a heart tattoo with the initials E.S. on his right arm. Like many children of coal miners, his education was limited to grammar school.

Hughes was unemployed at the time he registered for the draft on Feb. 16, 1942. Over the summer, he was employed as a farm hand when he enlisted on Aug. 13, 1942, in Huntington with the Branch Immaterial Warrant Officers. He was assigned as a private 1st class in the Army’s 90th Infantry Division. He is listed on the S.S. Hawaiian Skipper arriving from St. George, Bermuda, in New York on May 16, 1943. The ship register notes his residence as 806 Bullitt Street and married, although the West Virginia death record indicates he was divorced. He lived at this house with his mother and brother from 1935 to 1940, according to the census.

Hughes’ cemetery headstone application indicates he was likely in the 90th Infantry Division with the 3rd Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment. This regiment landed on Utah Beach on June 8, 1944. He was killed in action on June 11, 1944, which is when the 90th Division engaged the Germans.

The West Virginia Death Index listed Hughes as buried on April 1, 1949, in France. The 1953 Veterans Affairs headstone request is unclear if the stone for Hughes Cemetery is a memorial stone or if his body was returned to West Virginia in 1953.

William Lanta Mollohan Jr.

William Lanta Mollohan Jr. was born Jan. 25, 1921, in Gassaway, Braxton County, to William L. Mollohan Sr. and Mamie Stock. He graduated from Gassaway High School. In 1940, Mollohan was a dairy hand in Gassaway. Before 1942, he moved to Charleston, where he completed his draft registration on Feb. 16, 1942. He listed his residence as 1110 Bigley Avenue and worked at Libbey Owens Ford, in Kanawha City.

He enlisted in the Army on July 23, 1942, listing himself as single. This suggests he married Virginia L Moyers in Braxton between enlisting and entering the Army on Aug. 6, 1942, with training in Fort Hayes, Ohio. He reported to Camp Forrest, Tullahoma, Tennessee, assigned to the headquarters of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The 2nd Ranger Battalion took volunteers that met the qualifications of strong physical capabilities and high intelligence.

Mollohan died in action at Point du Hoc, which is the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, on June 6, 1944.

He has a VA memorial gravestone with a Purple Heart notation at Sugar Creek Cemetery, near Gassaway. He is listed on the Rangers Memorial Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Department du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France, and the Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Ernest E. Blevins is a Gazette-Mail

historical columnist. He can be reached


Funerals for Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Blankenship, Sharon - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Bourgeois, Cora- 3 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Carver, Donald- 1 p.m., O'Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Chestnut, John- 6 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Freshour, Dexter- 1 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Mace, Orphia- 11 a.m., Centralia Cemetery, Centralia.

Midkiff, Paul- 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Wyatt, Pauline - 11 a.m., St. Anthony Catholic Church, Charleston.