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Elmer Adkins (of Wayne)

"A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle."

George William Curtis

Army Private First Class Elmer Adkins was born in Stiltner, Wayne County, West Virginia, on February 29, 1920, the son of Parker and Chloe Clark Adkins. According to Elmer's great-niece Donna Edwards, the family consisted of Maryetta (married Henry Napier), Golden (married Alberta Watts), Cora (married Charles Bradshaw), Dorothy (married Basil Spence), Charity (married Harve Fry), Noah (married Thena Noe), Parker (married Kathern Mahon), Martha (married Luther Day), Izella (married Hubert Maynard), and Ira B. Adkins. At the time of the 1930 Federal Census, one-year-old Ruth, Maryetta's daughter, was also living in the household. Ira had not been born at the time of the 1930 census; he is the one member of the family who is still living at the time of this writing. Like Elmer, Parker also enlisted in the Army and served in World War II, but Parker served in the European Theater, most likely in France.

Little is known of the early life, schooling, and employment history of Pfc. Elmer Adkins, but at the time of his Army enlistment at Huntington, West Virginia (August 7, 1943), he stated that he had obtained a grammar school education and had worked in the occupational category of "semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor," according to U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. He indicated too that he was single, but with dependents. Because of the size of his family and the fact that he had several younger siblings, it is easy to infer that he might have listed younger brothers and sisters as dependents.

Pfc. Elmer Adkins was assigned to the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. The history of the 35th is chronicled on its website (25th Infantry Division, 35th Infantry Regiment [the Cacti]), providing a detailed description of the liberation of the island of Luzon. General Douglas McArthur chose to strike first at the northwest coast. While the Sixth Army pursued a strategy that would ultimately lead to Manila, the 35th was held as the Sixth Army's reserve, joining the campaign as it pushed toward the town of Umingan. The 27th attacked from the north on February 1, while the 35th approached from the south on the following day. The enemy held out for a week and it was not until February 8 that the Cacti liberated the town. (Source:, accessed January 17, 2013.) It was during this assault that Pfc. Adkins lost his life.

Elmer died of wounds received in battle on Luzon in the Philippines on February 6, 1945; as a result, he was awarded the Purple Heart. He is buried in the Manila American Cemetery, Plot F, Row 7, Grave 64.
Manila American Cemetery
Manila American Cemetery.
Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

It was the expectation in many large rural families that a son or sons would return from the war and assist the parents in their old age. Donna Edwards adds the following poignant remembrance of her mother's family:

The only employment I know of for Elmer is that he was a coal miner before he went away for war. He was my mom's favorite uncle. She had a hard time dealing with his death because a body was never returned for burial. She told me she thought that some day he would walk through the door and be home again. My husband spent 20 years in the Air Force, including two years in the Philippines. I am the only family member who has actually been to the cemetery in Manila to see his gravestone. It was a beautiful, peaceful visit when I was there in 1972. I have a letter signed by General Douglas MacArthur to the family regarding his service and death. I go back to his date of death and compare that day to what was going on with the war and wonder where/how he died. The Philippines is a very hot place, year around. It is hard for me to think about what it was like to be in combat in that heat!

My mom told me that Elmer's mother received some kind of check each month [after his death] that probably kept the family from going hungry. It was a hard life back then!

Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure, with assistance from Donna Edwards
Revised October 2017


West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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