Skip Navigation
West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Artice Cleo Estep

"Sometimes I think you don�t know how good you are. You are the best soldiers in the world. It was a great honor to command you."

General George S. Patton

Artice Cleo Estep, known as Cleo, was born February 23, 1921, in Alcott, Boone County, West Virginia, to Garrett Hobert and Audrey Pearl Miller Estep. The 1930 census taker recorded that the family was living in the Peytona District and Mr. Estep was a coal miner. Mr. Estep was born Garrett Hobert but seems to have been known usually as Hobert. Living with the family were Argle, Dallas, Cleo, Abolene, and Kessell. A daughter, Mary, lived and died in 1925. After the 1930 Federal Census enumeration, Garrett Bliss, Hannah, Denzil, Melvin, Floyd, Brenda, and Daymond were born.

Cleo Estep married Virginia Kinder on December 6, 1941.

When military registrations began in the early 1940s, Garrett H. Estep registered as part of the young man's draft. Mr. Estep was born in March 1897 and registration was required for those born after February 1897. Mr. Estep, who registered in February 1942, was working at the American Rolling Mills Company. Cleo registered on the same day as his father and also was working at American Rolling Mills Company in Nellis, West Virginia. American Rolling Mills Company was also known as ARMCO Coal. In 1943, it would be the site of a mine explosion that killed 11 people. Cleo was not among them, and he enlisted at Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky, on March 27, 1944.

Cleo attained the rank of private first class and was placed with the 90th Infantry Division, 358th Infantry. Given Cleo Estep's enlistment date of March 27, 1944, it would seem that he was with the 90th for a series of milestones that included landing in England in April 1944, landing on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944, and taking Pont l'Abbe in June. By August, the division moved across the Sarthe River and was part of the fighting force that took Chambois. Travel through France after that was much quicker until Metz, France, was reached. Some sources call it a siege and others a battle, but it lasted from September 1944 through mid-December. The division ended a defensive posture in January in the Ardennes. In February, it broke the Siegfried Line and moved on to the Prum River. ("90th Infantry Division: Tough Ombres," U.S. Army Divisions, accessed 26 May 2020,
The insignia of the U.S. Army 90th Division highlights their nickname,

The insignia of the U.S. Army 90th Division highlights their nickname, "Tough Ombres," but also indicates that the division originated in Texas and Oklahoma

Penetration of the Siegfried Line held a special significance:

The Siegfried Line was the name given by Allied troops to fortifications erected before World War II along Germany's western frontier. The name derived either from a German defensive position of World War I, the Siegfriedstellung, or from the Siegfried legend celebrated in Richard Wagner's operas; it was popularized by a British music hall tune, "We're Going To Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line." Known to the Germans as the Westwall, it was begun in 1938 as a short belt of fortifications opposite France's Maginot Line but later was extended to the Swiss and Dutch frontiers. It was a band three miles deep of more than three thousand concrete pillboxes, troop shelters, and command posts. Where no natural antitank obstacles existed, a belt of pyramidal concrete projections called "dragon's teeth" barred access across the terrain. Touted by German propagandists as impregnable, the line contributed to German success in bluffing France and Great Britain at Munich in 1938.

The line was neglected following German victory over France in 1940; but as Allied armies approached in September 1944, Adolf Hitler decreed that it be held. American attacks concentrated near Aachen penetrated the line, only to be contained by German reserves. An attempt to outflank the line with an airborne attack in the Netherlands failed. Not until early spring of 1945, after German strength had been dissipated in a futile counter-offensive (the Battle of the Bulge), was the line pierced along its full length. ("Siegfried Line,", accessed 26 May 2020,

While many sources say only that the line was penetrated in early February, perhaps acknowledging that the campaign was a war of attrition and not accomplished all at once, a Wikipedia page devoted to the 90th Infantry Division states that the 90th broke through on February 19, 1945:

On 6 December 1944, the division pushed across the Saar River and established a bridgehead north of Saarlautern (present-day Saarlouis), 6-18 December, but with the outbreak of Gerd von Rundstedt's (Army Group A) drive, the Battle of the Bulge, withdrew to the west bank on 19 December, and went on the defensive until 5 January 1945, when it shifted to the scene of the Ardennes struggle, having been relieved along the Saar River by the 94th Infantry Division. It drove across the Our River, near Oberhausen, 29 January, to establish and expand a bridgehead. On 19 February, the division smashed through Siegfried Line fortifications to the Prum River. ("90th Infantry Division," 9 April 2020, accessed 26 May 2020,

This day is doubly significant, if so, for it is the day that Artice Cleo Estep died, four days before his 24th birthday. The after-action report for the 358th on that day describes heavy shelling but only five men were lost when they ran into a mine field. Their mission was not described.

Headstone for Pfc. Artice Cleo Estep. Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery

Headstone for Pfc. Artice Cleo Estep. Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery

No record was found that would document where Pfc. Estep was initially buried or when his remains were returned to the United States, but he was eventually buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Two of Pfc. Estep's brothers also served during World War II. Argle Estep survived the war and returned home. Hobert Estep died in December 1944 when he was lost at sea during the sinking of the SS Leopoldville.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
August 2020


Artice Cleo Estep

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.

Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History