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Harold William Hicks
2nd Lt. Harold William Hicks, courtesy
Roberts Hicks Wilson, his daughter

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Harold William Hicks

"Democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men's enlightened will. It is the most humane, the most advanced, and, in the end, the most unconquerable of all forms of human society. The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase of human history. We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harold William Hicks was born on October 29, 1916, to William Wesley Hicks and Irene Ruth Becker Hicks in Saxman, Nicholas County, West Virginia. Mr. Hicks was from North Carolina and Mrs. Hicks, from New York. The pair met while William Hicks served in the U.S. Army (1912-1915) and his unit protected the ports of New York. His occupation, noted in the Army Register of Enlistments, was as a miner.

Saxman is in the vicinity of Richwood, which was a hub of coal mining, timbering, manufacturing, and finance in the early 1900s, so perhaps the family lived there because of Nicholas County's abundant employment opportunities. Saxman Coal and Coke Co. was incorporated in 1907 and operated in nearby Saxman. Recalling their family history, Harold Hicks' daughter, Roberta Hicks Wilson, recalled Saxman as an isolated coal mining camp, reachable only by railroad. Harold Hicks was born in a cabin beside the river.

The family moved to Preston County before 1920, where Mr. Hicks opened Hicks Grocery Store. Mrs. Hicks operated the store while Mr. Hicks worked in the mines. In 1920, Federal Census records show that the Hicks family lived in the Kingwood District of Preston County. Mr. Hicks was a laborer in a coal mine. Mr. Hicks' brother Caleb lived with the family. He was 18 and also working in a coal mine. In 1930, according to census records, the family was still in Preston County. Caleb was not in the household any longer. Harold Hicks was 13 years old. He was a Boy Scout, according to his daughter. He played basketball and baseball, and, in high school, joined the West Virginia National Guard.

Harold graduated from Kingwood High School in 1934. When the Kingwood mines closed, the Hicks family moved to Barrackville in Marion County, where Mr. Hicks worked in the #7 Mine and Harold attended West Virginia Business College, and later, Fairmont State College.

In 1936, Harold Hicks married Mary Adda Sturm in Oakland, Maryland. In 1940, at the time of the census, the Harold Hicks family lived with Mary Hicks' mother Lecta and Mary's sister Lola. Harold worked as an ad writer for the Fairmont Times. The couple had a daughter, Roberta.

Roberta Hicks Wilson reflected on her father's accomplishments and personality during that time of the late 1930s and early 1940s: "Daddy had a good personality, fun-loving, eager to learn new things. In 1939, at Fairmont State College, he was learning to speak German. With his camera, he took and developed his own pictures."

In his senior year at Fairmont State, in October 1940, Harold Hicks registered for military service. He worked for a time for the Washington Times Herald of Washington, D. C. He left the job with the Times Herald to be home while his mother, Irene Ruth Hicks, was ill. Once home, in West Virginia, he worked for the Fairmont Times. His mother passed away in 1941.

Harold Hicks was called to military service in 1942 and enlisted in Fairmont on October 8. He received his commission at Camp Hood, Texas, in the Tank Destroyer Battalion, and was sent to paratrooper school at Fort Benning, Georgia. However, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a second lieutenant with Co. A, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, 27th Infantry Division, which was the New York National Guard. Harold Hicks wrote home to his wife almost every day. Roberta Hicks Wilson recalled that "through his letters, we know of his military history at Fort Hood. After his commission, mother and I moved to Texas and lived there while he trained recruits."

It is not clear when Harold Hicks joined the 27th Infantry Division, but he joined the unit in time for training in Hawaii for deployment to the Pacific. The unit learned specialized combat techniques for jungle warfare, tropical hygiene, and weapons training. They learned strategic practices, such as perimeter defense, night operations, and the "attack of fortified positions in jungle terrain." However, according to one source, the infantry "never achieved an adequate level of cooperation due, essentially, to incompatible communications systems and techniques." (Charles S. Kaune, The National Guard in War: An Historical Analysis of the 27th Infantry Division [New York National Guard] in World War II, New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, 1990, accessed 6 April 2021,

Roberta Hicks Wilson wrote that Harold Hicks "volunteered to go into the fighting." This may seem like a mystery to some but is no surprise, given the family's history of military service. Harold, the son of Private William Wesley Hicks, who enlisted in the Army in 1911 and who was stationed at Fort Hamilton, New York, in defense of harbor and coastline with the Artillery Corps during World War I, volunteered. Harold Hicks was the nephew of Private Burton C. Hicks, who was inducted into the Army on September 20, 1917, and served with Company I, 322th Infantry and later with the 120th Infantry, died on the Hindenburg Line in France during World War I. Harold Hicks was the great-grandson of Private Thornton Hicks, who was conscripted July 25, 1862, into Stokes Company, 21st Regiment of North Carolina troops. He fought at Gettysburg and in the Wilderness Battle. He was captured in or near Charles Town, West Virginia, on August 22, 1864, and confined at Old Capita Prison in Washington, D. C., until he was transferred to the prison at Elmira, New York, on August 28, 1864. There he died on February 13, 1865, of illness. (Email from Roberta Wilson, March 28, 2021.) It was no wonder at all that Harold Hicks volunteered to go into the fighting.

When he shipped out to the Pacific, he wrote of his island hopping and the experiences he had on the islands. Wrote Roberta Wilson, "The letters were censored, so we never knew the name of the island he was on. He wrote about Hawaii and another island, where the military was building an airstrip."

In 1945, the Allied forces in the Pacific were pushing toward the Japanese mainland. The Japanese were cleared from the Aleutian Islands, the Solomon Islands and the Gilbert, Marshall, Palau, and Mariana Islands. The Philippines were nearly secured, and other areas were isolated or neutralized. As one source worded the situation,

It was obvious to everyone what was coming next. For the invasion of the homeland, the Japanese knew the Americans would need a large base as a staging post from which to strike. On the other side, the Americans knew that an attempt to land on the main Japanese islands (the overall codename for which was Operation Downfall) would be met by several million soldiers, militia and civilians all of whom would offer fanatical resistance in the same vein as Tarawa, Peleliu and Iwo Jima. Careful preparation and a large logistical base were therefore necessary. The question was, would it be Formosa off the coast of mainland China or would it be Okinawa, part of the Ryukyu Islands? (P. Antill, Operation Iceberg: The Assault on Okinawa - The Last Battle of World War II [Part 1] April-June 1945," Military History Encyclopedia on the Web, 2003, accessed 22 March 2021,

Leadership had determined the likely course as early as July 1944. The population of Okinawa was around 435,000. Shuri was the traditional capital, but the seaport of Naha was larger, with 60,000 people. There were airfields and large markets and cities with modern buildings, as well as rural and mountain villages. The terrain varied but could be severe in the mountains. The temperatures were moderate, but during the rainy season, starting in May, the rain could be excessive and cause hazardous conditions. They would head to Okinawa, through Makin and Saipan. After Saipan, the division "was short 117 officers and 2508 enlisted men. Between 1 January and 25 March 1945 it received 101 officers and 2692 enlisted men" and was still short 1968 personnel. (Kaune, work cited.) The assault on Okinawa began on April 1, 1945 with the Marines and the American 10th Army.

The last letter that the family received from Harold Hicks was written on the deck of the troop carrier. Roberta Hicks Wilson recalled, "He wrote that he was watching Japanese kamikazes hit ship after ship in the waters off Okinawa. He said the troops waited on the board carriers to replace killed or wounded troops taken out of action."

The 27th was assigned to XXIV Corps to break the Shuri Line, the main Japanese defensive line that ran near Shuri Castle. The 105th, to which Harold Hicks was assigned, was not with the 27th then, having been diverted to another island to defeat the enemy there, but was on Okinawa by April 13. Together, they went to the Shuri Line, where the fighting was brutal and casualties heavy. The terrain was extremely rough and fighting included heavy artillery. The 27th was credited with killing 200 of the enemy on April 22 but could not gain ground on a ridge called Kakazu, where there was a heavy concentration of the enemy. The frustration with the inability to break the Shuri Line resulted in a combination of units being teamed under Brigadier General Bradford to execute a stronger assault on April 23 and 24. During this battle, 2nd Lt. Harold Hicks lost his life.

There is an account of that terrible day from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency:

The force was placed under the command of Brigadier General William B. Bradford, and was known as the Bradford Task Force. Late at night on April 23, the Japanese conducted a protracted heavy artillery barrage that struck the Bradford Task Force, which had moved into position to attack the next day. When the task force attacked the Japanese defenses at Kakazu on April 24, they found that the enemy had withdrawn to secondary defensive positions under the cover of the previous night's artillery barrage and heavy fog.

Second Lieutenant Harold W. Hicks entered the U.S. Army from West Virginia and was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. 2LT Hicks was lost on or before April 24 during the fighting for Kakazu Ridge, though the precise circumstances of his loss remain unknown. He was either lost during the artillery barrage on April 23 or the fighting that took place the next day. His remains could not be identified among those returned to the U.S. following the war, and he is still unaccounted-for. ("Personnel Profile," accessed 22 March 2021,

Harold Hicks remains missing though confirmed dead. Roberta Hicks Wilson still hopes to bring her father home. She is working with a military case officer to exercise every opportunity to identify her father's remains.

Ms. Wilson wrote,

Daddy was leading a platoon up Kakazu Ridge Okinawa when he was hit by a tree burst. His men withdrew leaving him for dead. When they returned the next day, he was gone. Four years ago, the Army got in touch with me wanting DNA for their data bank. Daddy's first cousin and myself supplied the DNA. I understood that after the war the military swept the islands for remains and took them to Honolulu, Hawaii, and placed them in unknown graves. Daddy is named in the Garden of the Missing at the Punch Bowl, National Cemetery of the Pacific. I understand the Military is disinterring the remains of the missing at Honolulu and trying to match DNA. Also, years later, remains found on Okinawa were sent to a Military Cemetery in Manila Philippines, with no date of disinterring.

She remains hopeful and determined to bury the remains of Harold Hicks in West Virginia, between his parents.

Memory of a Fallen Soldier. Courtesy Roberta Hicks Wilson

Memory of a Fallen Soldier. Courtesy Roberta Hicks Wilson

Memorial headstone in Beverly Hills Memorial Gardens, Morgantown, West Virginia. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Memorial headstone in Beverly Hills Memorial Gardens, Morgantown, West Virginia. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Harold Hicks is not forgotten and his heroic fighting with the 27th are not forgotten. He was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He is memorialized in Hawaii in the Courts of the Missing, and there is a cenotaph placed for him in Beverly Hills Memorial Park, near Morgantown, West Virginia. His former employer also remembers him with a memorial on a wall in the offices of the Fairmont Times. The Hicks family bore much to serve in the military across family generations during multiple wars, and after. William Hicks spent the rest of his life pressing the military to find Harold and bring him home. William Hicks died in 1949. Roberta Hicks Wilson wrote that her father is remembered in her family, among a grandson, a granddaughter, three great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter, and his two great-great-grandsons.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens with information provided by Roberta Hicks Wilson
April 2021


Harold William Hicks

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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