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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Kennie Cummings

"As a Korean War veteran, I know firsthand and understand the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform."

Charles B. Rangel

Kennie Cummings was born on December 22, 1922, to Amy Spencer Cummings and Dave Cummings in Fenwick, Nicholas County, West Virginia. In the 1920s and 1930s, Dave Cummings worked in a tannery. At the time of the 1940 Federal Census, he was working on a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.

According to the information recorded for the censuses, Kennie Cummings had siblings John, Orla, Herbert, Hoyt, Harry, and David, all listed in the 1930 census. In 1940, only John, Hoyt, Kennie, and Harry were at home, although Herbert was married, had children, and lived next door.

Kennie Cummings first enlisted in the U.S. Army for World War II and fought in the European theater. No records were found that describe his duties or indicate the regiment or division to which he belonged, but his 1945 enlistment record says that he enlisted in Georgia, had been a farmhand, was single, and had no dependents. He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, after the war and was assigned to the Honor Guard. One of his duties was to escort the bodies of dead servicemen home. He met and married Tennessean Leona Vaughn in 1946 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell and attained the rank of sergeant that year. Not long after his marriage, he was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, for about a year to participate in Task Force "Frigid." In 1947, Task Force "Frigid" was an Army training and observational exercise during which the force gained experience operating in the cold and snowy climate in the north. During this operation, 1500 men were involved, along with special observers, technical experts and reporters. Temperatures were commonly at -50o F, which proved a challenging temperature for men, tanks, ammunition, clothing and other equipment to meet for normal operations. During Task Force "Frigid," the army gained valuable experiences for coping and modifying standard practices to meet the harsh demands. ("United States Task Force "Frigid": 1947," Polar Record, 5[December 1947], accessed 18 March 2020,

At home, Leona Cummings gave birth to their son David.

Kennie Cummings was in Alaska until the exercise ended toward the end of 1947. He was stationed again in Fort Campbell until he was deployed to Japan in 1949 as a private. ("Pvt. Cumming's [sic] Body en Route Home from Korea," The Leaf-Chronicle [Clarksville TN], 24 May 1951.) The change in duty and assignment perhaps explains the reduction in rank. He was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, 10th Engineers as a replacement in Japan. The 24th was part of an occupying force in Japan after World War II and had begun downsizing by 1950 when the Korean War began on June 25, 1950.

The 24th was among the first into Korea when the U.S. joined the conflict, understaffed and underequipped. ("A Summary History of the 24th Infantry Division,", accessed 18 March 2020,

As described in an overview of the division's history, the goal of early fighting for the U.S. forces was to delay and hinder the North Korean forces until the United Nations forces could be deployed and the U.S. forces built. The delaying tactics worked, but at great cost. By July 16, 1950, the 24th was attempting to protect individual cities and strong positions but were overwhelmed by North Korea's numbers and tanks.

During the battle for Taejon, on July 16, 1950, Kennie Cummings lost his life. In his book South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu [United States in the Korean War], Roy E. Appleman writes:

In any deployment of his forces against the North Koreans in front of Taejon, General Dean faced the fact that he had only remnants of three defeated regiments. Each of them could muster little more than a battalion of troops. Osan, Chonui, and Choch'iwon had reduced the 21st Infantry to that state; P'yongt'aek, Ch'onan, and the Kum River had left only a decimated 34th Infantry; and 16 July at the Kum River had sadly crippled the 19th Infantry. In addition to numerical weakness, all the troops were tired and their morale was not the best. General Dean braced himself for the job ahead. He himself was as worn as his troops; for the past two weeks he had faced daily crises and had pushed himself to the limit. (U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1961, 1992, accessed 18 March 2020,

Kennie Cummings's status was first reported to Leona Cummings as missing in action that August 1950. Later it was reported in The Tennessean, January 16, 1951, that Kennie Cummings was killed in action.

Kennie Cummings's body was returned to the United States in May 1951 and arrived in West Virginia in June for interment in Richwood, where his parents still lived. He was survived by his parents and five of his siblings. Brothers Hoyt and John were also noted to have served in and survived World War II. Hoyt had been a prisoner of war of Japan for three years, and John had lost a leg in the war. ("Pvt. Cumming's [sic] Body en Route Home from Korea," The Leaf-Chronicle [Clarksville TN], 24 May 1951.)
Headstone for Kennie Cummings, Richwood Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Headstone for Kennie Cummings, Richwood Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Kennie Cummings was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United States Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. His unit was awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
March 2020


Kennie Cummings

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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