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Vensen Spillman Armstrong

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Vensen Spillman Armstrong

"I don't feel that I'm any kind of hero. To me, the work had to be done. I was asked to do it. So I did. When I lecture kids, I tell them the same thing."

-Private First Class Joe Lesniewski, reflecting on D-Day

Vensen Spillman Armstrong (known by his middle name) was born on February 26, 1914, in Ohio County, West Virginia, to Blanche and Monroe Armstrong.

In 1920, the family was living in Ohio County and, according to the Federal Census, Monroe, Blanche, and their children were joined by a sister-in-law and uncle, who was a farmer. Blanche and Monroe Armstrong moved from Parkersburg, where Monroe Armstrong had worked in a steel mill and where their daughter had been born, not long after Spillman's birth.

In 1930, the family was living in Core in Monongalia County. Monroe Armstrong was working as a coal miner. Their daughter, Thelma Pearl Armstrong, known as Pearl, was no longer in the household, but Monroe's uncle Wilbur was still with them. Another son, Eugene, had joined them. Spillman Armstrong was working as a laborer on a farm at the age of 16. He had completed grammar school in the Hagan School, and, according to his enlistment record, that was the extent of his education.

In 1938, Monroe Armstrong passed away at the age of 65. The 1940 census indicates that Blanche, Spillman, and his brothers Arthur and Eugene still lived in Monongalia County and Monroe's uncle was still in the household. Spillman Armstrong was working as a stonemason. On October 16, 1940, Spillman Armstrong filled out his draft card, and on July 10, 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Huntington, West Virginia. He trained at Camp Gordon, Georgia, and Fort Dix, New Jersey, before heading out to England.

Spillman Armstrong was placed with the 12th Infantry, 4th Division, of the United States Army. The 4th Division landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, with relative ease. The 12th Infantry, however, did not reach its planned objective, instead going ashore in an area where there were swampy areas to avoid areas of heavy enemy protection and overly crowded areas where troops were still assaulting the beach to the north. The 12th went ashore shortly after noon that day, south of Beuzeville-au-Plain. There they stayed for the night. The next day, the 12th pressed north.

An after-action report that describes June 9, D+3, states:

Shortly after Azeville was captured in mid-afternoon, 9 June, General Barton issued an order creating a task force which that same day was to bypass Crisbecq and the other German strong points along the coastal headlands and swing northeast to "capture Quineville and the high ground west thereof." Quineville was the eastern anchor of the German defenses. The task force, which was to have first priority on division fires, consisted of the 22d Infantry, the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalions and the 746th Tank Battalion (less detachments); it was commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry A. Barber. Led by tanks, the 22d Infantry was to advance in a column of battalions (3d, 2d, 1st) on Ozeville, its first objective. Crisbecq was to be contained by a force of tank destroyers and infantry and was to be neutralized by division artillery at the time of the attack. The containing force, commanded by Maj. Huston M. Betty, consisted of Company C, 22d Infantry; Company C, 4th Engineer Combat Battalion; Company C, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

The task force moved out at 1630, but it was stopped by fire from strong enemy positions at the crossroads west of Chateau de Fontenay and forced to dig in for the night. For three days (10-12 June) the task force struggled with little success to overcome the enemy resistance, its right flank exposed to the bypassed enemy strong points at Crisbecq, Dangueville, Chateau de Fontenay, and Fontenay-sur-Mer and its left flank to the German positions in the gap of about a mile and a half that separated the 22d and 12th Infantry Regiments. The task force lacked sufficient strength to protect both of its flanks and at the same time push ahead. Unfavorable weather denied it air support. ("Division Headquarters After-Action Reports: 4th (US) Division: Battle of Normandy-June 1944," D-Day: Overlord, accessed 21 June 2020,

Research did not prove Vensen Armstrong's location on the day of June 9, 1944, but his records of service indicate that he died in service on his country on that day with the 12th Infantry Division.

Pvt. Armstrong was likely interred in France immediately after his death and returned to the United States after the war. He was awarded a Purple Heart medal, the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Medal, the Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. He is interred in Hagans Cemetery, Monongalia County.

Spillman Armstrong's brother, Arthur, also served in World War II and returned home. Their brother, Eugene, was a veteran of the Korean War.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
July 2020


Vensen Spillman Armstrong

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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