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Peter Oscar Babich
Young American Patriots

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Peter Oscar Babich

"It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it."

General Douglas MacArthur

Peter Oscar Babich was born in Pennsylvania to Charles and Anna Babich on March 13, 1920. Charles and Anna Babich were immigrants from Czechoslovakia. According to the 1930 Federal Census, the family was living in Monongalia County and engaged in dairy farming. By 1940, the family included sons Stephen, Peter, John, Charles Jr., and Joseph and daughters Annie and Margaret. The family was still operating a dairy farm, and some of the children were listed as helpers.

In 1941 and 1942, Peter Babich could be found on multiple pages of the West Virginia University yearbooks. He's listed among the members of the agriculture club and as a member of the Scabbard and Blade, a national honor society of cadet officers on campus. In 1942, he was listed as a graduating senior, with a B.S. in Agriculture and belonging to the following clubs and societies: Future Farmers of America; Scabbard and Blade; Ag Council; Ag Club; Alpha Zeta (a fraternal organization focused on agriculture, agribusiness, and leadership); and Rowan Rifles.

In June 1942, Peter Babich enlisted in the Army, joining his brother Steve, who'd enlisted in February 1942. According to Young American Patriots, a compilation of the records of many World War II service personnel with photos, Steve Babich also attended WVU and went to Spartan Aeronautical School in Oklahoma.

Peter Babich trained and served in Fort McClellan, Alabama; Fort Benning, Georgia; Hawaii; Australia; and, finally, the Philippines. He was listed as a first lieutenant.

In 1944, in the Pacific, the U.S. and its allies were readying for an epic sea battle. Research did not reveal with which unit Peter Babich served, only that he enlisted in the Army, and was killed in action on November 9, 1944, at Leyte.

The day of his death, November 9, was during a major period of fighting called the Philippines Campaign: The Battle of Leyte, which lasted from October 22 to December 21. Preparations were being made in early October with preliminary air strikes on Japan. Minesweeping operations followed. (U.S. Army Center of Military History, "Leyte," 3 October 2003, accessed 4 April 2018, A landing force of 175,000 soldiers began descending upon Leyte on October 20. General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore with the third assault wave on the same day. (C. Peter Chen, "Philippine Campaign, Phase I, the Leyte Campaign," World War II Database, accessed 4 April 2018, The goal of the campaign was to liberate the Philippines, which had been occupied by the Japanese for three years and ensure for the Allies a strategic location for the remainder of the war. A summary of the actions taken on land during November and December is documented in Chen's article:

On 1 Nov, dismounted American cavalry units spearheaded an offensive on Carigara in northern Leyte. Finding that Carigara had already been evacuated, the troops pushed on into Ormoc Bay in western Leyte to prevent further Japanese reinforcements from reaching the island; to date, the Japanese had delivered 20,000 men via Ormoc Bay. Inaccurate maps and stiff Japanese resistance made the American advance difficult. The Japanese were known to hold position in the many ridges of the rough northern Leyte terrain. The Japanese positioned machine gun nests on the top of ridges, making American advances upwards costly; when the Americans attempted to use mortar fire to attack the machine gun positions, the Japanese quickly fell back to the reverse slop where mortar fire could not reach, and rush back to other, sometimes same, positions as soon as the mortar attack paused. Sometimes American advances were slowed simply by the Japanese rolling down many grenades from the top of hills. Only through successful flanking moves that the Americans were able to make progress. After a series of failed Japanese counteroffensives, which included paradrops and commando raids, the Americans captured the port city of Ormoc on 10 Dec, which stopped Japanese reinforcements as well as giving the Americans control of east-west transportation across the island to ease the logistics difficulties that they had experienced from the first day of the landings.

Weather had an impact on the operations, with documented typhoons occurring in October and on November 8. (Clayton Chun, Leyte 1944: Return to the Philippines, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.) The resulting wind, rain, mud, and landslides had a negative impact on operations and made for a dangerous environment. Whether this directly affected events on November 9 isn't known, but First Lieutenant Babich lost his life on that day.

According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History "Leyte" brochure,

On 7 November the 21st Infantry went into its first sustained combat on Leyte when it moved into the mountains along Highway 2, less than one mile inland of Carigara Bay. The fresh regiment, with the 3d Battalion, 19th Infantry, attached immediately ran into strong defenses of the newly arrived Japanese 1st Division, aligned from east to west across the road and anchored on fighting positions built of heavy logs and with connecting trench lines and countless spider holes. The entire defense complex soon became known as "Breakneck Ridge."

Three days later, American progress was further impeded by a typhoon, which had begun on 8 November, and heavy rains that followed for several days. Despite the storm and high winds, which added falling trees and mud slides to enemy defenses and delayed supply trains, the 21st Infantry continued its attack. Progress was slow and halting, with assault companies often having to withdraw and attack hills that had been taken earlier. Fortunately, the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, had seized the approaches to Hill 1525, two miles east of the road enabling General Irving to stretch out the enemy defenses further across a four-mile front straddling Highway 2.

After five days of battering against seemingly impregnable positions atop heavily jungled hills and two nights of repulsing enemy counterattacks, Irving decided on a double envelopment of the defending 1st Division. He ordered the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, to swing east around Hill 1525 behind the enemy right flank, cutting back to Highway 2, three miles south of Breakneck Ridge. To envelop the enemy left flank on the west side of the road Irving sent the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, over water from the Carigara area to a point two miles west of the southward turn of Highway 2.

Peter Babich was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, as well as other service medals associated with the campaign. Steve Babich returned home. Lt. Peter Babich is interred in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown. His parents are interred next to him.

Headstone for Lt. Peter Babich in Oak Grove Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
December 2017


Peter Oscar Babich

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