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Remembering World War II
Willis Thompson O’Brien
Name: Willis Thompson O’Brien Rank: Private Service Number: 36966869 Service: 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, US Army Awards: Silver Star, Purple Heart Date of Birth: August 27, 1909 Place of Birth: Port Howe, Colchester Co., NS Date of Enlistment: Unknown Place of Enlistment: Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois Address at Enlistment: Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois Age at Enlistment: Unknown Height: 5 feet, 10 inches Complexion: Light Hair Color: Black Eye Color: Gray Trade: Mechanic Marital Status: Married Date of Death: November 30, 1944 Age: 35 Cemetery: Epinal American Cemetery, France Grave: Plot B, Row 11, Grave 44 Willis Thompson O’Brien was the son of John Chase O’Brien (1880-1961) and Nellie Cora Allen (1889-1971). His father was also born in Port Howe, NS; his mother – in New Brunswick. He had an older sister May E. (b. 1899) and an older brother Wiley M. (1906-1986). The family was living in Leicester in Cumberland Co. in 1921. Willis moved to the US on November 29, 1928, crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by train. He settled in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, and worked as a truck mechanic. He initially moved to Aberdeen St in Chicago and then rented with his brother Wiley at South Prairie Ave (1930). Willis applied for US citizenship, completing his Petition for Naturalization January 1, 1934. He met and married Mildred Marie Voss of Chicago (1913-1986) on December 1, 1934. They had a daughter Arlene (Arline on birth record) Louise born May 29, 1936, in Chicago. On June 15, 1939, Willis took his Oath of Allegiance and became a US citizen. He registered for the US Draft on October 16, 1940, in Chicago and was working for Hendrickson Motor Truck Company. Willis was a truck mechanic. Willis, his wife, and daughter were living at 5837 South Winchester Ave in Chicago. A second daughter, Beverly Ann, was born July 24, 1942. Willis’ date of enlistment is not known, but after Basic Training he was assigned to the 315th Infantry Regiment, of the 79th Infantry Division. The 315th Infantry Regiment landed at Normandy, on Utah Beach June 19, 1944. Willis fought with the 315th Infantry Regiment, inland taking Cherbourg, France on June 26, 1944. After successfully capturing Cherbourg, the 315th Infantry Regiment took up defensive positions along the Ollonde River until July 2, 1944. In a driving rain, the Division took La Haye-du-Puits after repelling a heavy German counterattack on July 8. Luneville, France was liberated by the 315th on September 20, 1944. In November, As the 315th Regiment pushed eastward with the 79th Division, throughout the fall of 1944, they found themselves in the Alsace Lorraine region by November. On November 25th, the 315th captured Kreigsheim against stiff opposition from an estimated two companies of infantry supported by infantry howitzers and anti-tank -guns. The town of Gries fell the same day to the 313th Regiment. As the 79th Reconnaissance Troop probed forward, the towns of Neideralldorf, Berstheim, Morschwiller and Grassendorf were cleared while the intelligence and reconnaissance platoons of the 314th and 3I5th Infantry Regiments routed the enemy from the towns of Batzendorf, Wintershausen and Uhlwiller. During the struggle to liberate these French and German border towns and villages in the Alsace Lorraine region, Private Willis Thompson O’Brien was Killed in Action November 30, 1944. He was awarded the Silver Star. Although the exact citation of his Silver Star is unknown, it is awarded under General Orders “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy.” Private O’Brien was initially interred at the cemetery Epinal cemetery (designated as temporary cemetery 3523 by the US Army Grave Registration Service) in Plot W, Row 24, Grave 3306. With grave consolidation, and the reorganisation of the Epinal American Cemetery he was reinterred in Epinal in Plot B, Row 11, Grave 44, to rest in perpetuity. The Epinal American Cemetery which stands on a plateau in the shadow of the Vosges Mountains. Most of the nearly 5300 American buried there, lost their lives in bitter fighting in northeastern France, and into Germany, as the Allies battled toward victory in WWII. “He sleeps far from his family in the gentle lands of France”
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