It is not uncommon for multiple sons to serve their country in a time of need and sacrifice. One local family provided three sons for service during the Second World War, but only two of their sons would survive the conflict. This is the story of that fallen son.
The West family was living in the Harrison County region of Ohio as early as 1800 when Thomas John West (1800-1902) married Elizabeth Tipton (1812-1893) in 1831. The couple then moved to Lafayette Township in Coshocton County shortly after their marriage. There they raised eleven children, including a son named John H. West (1841-1916). Thomas West’s property was located just southwest of the village of West Lafayette along modern route 541.
John West married Elizabeth Norris (1846-1935) the day after Christmas in 1870 in Coshocton County. Shortly after marriage the couple started their family that comprised five children, two daughters and three sons, including one son named Emanuel West (1876-1939). Emanuel married Etta Belle Wiggins (1883-1971) in November 1898 and relocated to property near that acquired by his grandfather just north of the Tuscarawas River near the crossroads of Fresno. There they would raise two sons, Russell (1899-1975) and Walter West (1902-1974).
Russell and Walter worked their father’s farm in their youth but Russell, around the time of his marriage to Ethel Wilden (1899-1976) around 1921, was hired on as a laborer for the State of Ohio. It is possible that his work necessitated the couple’s move to their new home on West High Street in New Philadelphia after their marriage. The couple welcomed six children in ten years there, including the subject of this story, Harold Dean West (1924-1944).
The West family appeared in the New Philadelphia newspaper sporadically during the 1920s and 1930s, mostly when Mrs. West took part in social activities or when one of the children fell sick or were in an accident. West High Street was a busy road even then and one of Harold’s brothers fractured his skull when he darted out into traffic and was struck by a passing truck. The children, including Harold, attended school in New Philadelphia and all graduated from New Philadelphia High School. When World War Two began, three of the four sons entered the United States Army.
Harold West, often referred to by his middle name Dean, graduated high school in 1942 and less than a year later enlisted in the United States Army. After boot camp he was assigned to the 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division then training in the United States. The 30th Division departed for Europe, and the preparation for the invasion of France, in February 1944. Harold and his regiment landed in Normandy a few days following D-Day and were thrown into combat almost immediately. During the July effort to break out of Normandy, Harold was seriously wounded in combat and sent briefly to England to recover.
The record is not clear about when Harold rejoined his unit, but it was before the 30th Division’s efforts to break through the German Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944. The 30th Division’s mission at the beginning of October 1944 was to break through between the towns of Rimsburg, Holland and Mariensburg, Germany by crossing the Wurm River and neutralizing German defenses there. The after action report for the subsequent battle recorded that the 120th Infantry encountered heavy artillery fire as they crossed the river and advanced through the heavy woods to their front. German pillboxes and artillery continued to challenge their advance, but the 120th was able to achieve their objective by nightfall on October 5, 1944.
The following morning the regiment received heavy barrages of artillery fire and was counterattacked by a company of German infantry. The counterattack was repulsed but among the 120th’s killed that day was Private Harold Dean West. Private West was temporarily buried in Holland, but his remains returned home to Ohio for burial in December 1947. He is laid to rest at Evergreen Burial Park in New Philadelphia. Harold’s brothers survived the war.
A great site for more information on the 30th Infantry Division and the 120th Infantry Regiment is: https://www.oldhickory30th.com/.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.