Fallen Heroes: Private Wesley A. Little

American Prisoners of War - Tunisia 1943

I will admit that the stories of fallen heroes lost on battlefields in North Africa during World War Two always captures my attention. My own grandfather served in North Africa during that war and every soldier’s story on those battlefields remind me of him. This fallen hero’s story is one of those reminders.


The family of Archibald Little (1761-1826) was the first Irish immigrants to settle in what became known as “Irish Ridge” in Guernsey County, Ohio in the 1810s. Archibald and his wife Isabella (1768-1853) brought with them their twelve children, leading to the firm establishment of the Little family as landholders in Guernsey County. Their youngest son, Edward Little (1816-1869), married Eleanor Shannon (1824-1855) around 1847 and they began their family on land to the southeast of Irish Ridge church.

Eleanor Little died in 1855, but not before she birthed and started to raise two daughters and a son with Edward. Their son, Amon Little (1847-1890), was one of the “Heirs of E. Little” listed in the 1870 Atlas of Guernsey County, Ohio following the death of his father in 1869. Amon married Sarah Braniger (1850-1879) in 1872 and the couple had four children before her death in 1879. Amon remarried, less than a year after Sarah’s death, to Hannah Newburn (1850-1933) and she gave birth to four children before Amon’s death in 1890. One of those children, a son, was named Wesley A. Little (1884-1940).

The numerous landholdings of the Little family scattered in what became known as “Irish Ridge” in Monroe Township, Guernsey County, 1870. (Source: Atlas of Guernsey County, Ohio : from actual surveys, 1870. https://archive.org/details/atlasofguernseyc00lake)

Wesley learned the trade of masonry and, by the 1910 census he was working in that field and helping support his mother and siblings. Wesley, sometimes referred to as Lonnie due to his middle name of Alonzo, married Bessie M. Lewis (1889-?) in November 1910 and moved to Newcomerstown, Tuscarawas County shortly after. Wesley found work as an auto mechanic there and he and Bessie started to raise their own family in Newcomerstown. The family grew to include three children before Wesley and Bessie divorced sometime after 1930.

Wesley and Bessie’s children included two daughters and a son, with the son being the youngest of the three. The two daughters married during the 1930s, around the same time that their parents divorced. The son, also named Wesley Little (1919-1942), lived with one of his sister’s families in Newcomerstown. Their father died in the spring of 1940 when he was struck by a passing train near the College Street crossing in Newcomerstown while walking to his daughter’s home.

American Infantrymen in Kasserine Pass, Tunisia, February 1943.

The younger Wesley was working as a truck driver for the Black Diamond Coal Company when he registered for the World War Two draft in July 1941. It would be over a year before he was called up, in January 1942, and sent for basic training. Following his initial training, he was assigned to the United States Army’s 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. Private Wesley Little visited home in August 1942, a month before being shipped overseas in preparation for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

Soldiers of the 39th Infantry Regiment, Private Little among them, were some of the first soldiers to land in North Africa when they came ashore in Algiers in November 1942. After the successful landings, detachments of the 39th were used to defend the Allied supply line between Algiers and Tunisian front. It was on that front where the regiment played a more active role. During the infamous Battle of Kasserine Pass at the end of February 1943, in which Allied forces suffered their first defeat at the hands of the German army, elements of the regiment were soundly defeated and some captured. Among those captured was a badly wounded Private Wesley Little.

Private Wesley Little never made it to a German POW camp, his wounds were to severe and he died in the few days after his capture. It was late March 1943 when the family received news that Private Little was missing-in-action and it was June 1943 when they received confirmation of his death. Private Wesley A. Little is interred at the North African American Cemetery near Carthage, Tunisia.

Private Wesley A. Little is interred at the North Africa American Cemetery near Carthage, Tunisia. (Source: https://www.abmc.gov/North-Africa)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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