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George W. McConnell

Courtesy Michael Traubert

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


George W. McConnell

"We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

George W. McConnell was born in the small town of Wellsburg in Brooke County, West Virginia, on July 5, 1920, to his mother Nina Higgens McConnell and his father Frank McConnell. George grew up in a house at 1109 Commerce Street, Wellsburg, with his parents and one sister, where he simply enjoyed baseball and "penny candy," as well as movies shown in his local theaters. Georgie, as he was known to his three nieces Mary Annabelle and twins Kathleen and Catherine Maloney, enjoyed putting on puppet shows for the family. As an amateur magician, he was well known in his neighborhood for putting on his magic shows. As an avid ham radio enthusiast, he and his best friend Ray Taylor talked to ham stations around the world. George was also an accomplished artist, with paintings displayed in the window of the Wellsburg Banking & Trust.

Although he came from a small town, George's home county was busy. In the early 1900s, Brooke County experienced a growth in population as new towns popped up near places such as coal mines, chemical and steel plants, and glass factories. Later in the century, the county was also affected by the growth of immigrants in the country, as well as the Great Depression in the 1930s and the strong economic growth in the 1950s. As all of West Virginia's economy diversified, so did Brooke County's.

After training at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, George joined the Army as a technician 4th grade in the Signal Corps on August 27, 1942. The Signal Corps managed accurate communication for air, ground, and naval units during World War II, and they also heavily used radar to detect approaching aircraft. Along with creating training films for army and civilian personnel, the Corps took many photographs of the war, visually documenting it for American civilians to see.

In the few months before George entered the Army, the pivotal naval Battle of Midway took place in June in the Pacific Theater. This battle, being an American victory, severely damaged the Japanese fleet and proved nearly impossible to recover. The Battle of Guadacanal took place shortly after in February 1943. This allowed for the Allies to start gaining more control in the Pacific, using the strategy of island-hopping to methodically conquer islands. In late 1944, American forces liberated the Philippines in order to take immense air strikes on Japan. This was most likely when George was moved from his original station in Hawaii to the Philippines. On August 6, 1945, President Harry Truman ordered the United States to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city Hiroshima. Three days later, he ordered a second atomic bomb to be dropped on Nagasaki. Japan then surrendered on August 14 of that year, three months after Germany did, effectively ending the war.

George died of a heart attack on October 27, 1945, in the Philippines. He was at first buried there, but was moved to the Brooke County Cemetery in his beloved hometown as his final resting place. Although combat had ended in August, he died during the defined period of conflict, which for World War II continued until the end of 1946. The sleeve patch in the photo may indicate he was a member of the 25th Infantry Division, which moved to Tarlac in July 1945 for training and then on to Japan in September. The reason why he stayed behind in the devastated Philippines is unknown; family lore says he had written a letter to his mother saying he would be home soon. For his service, George McConnell was awarded the World War II Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.

Two days after George's death, the war crimes trial of General Tomoyushi Yamashita, military governor of the Philippines during World War II, began. Yamashita's trial was important in that it established the concept of "command responsibility." The prosecution of the general was based on the fact he had failed to prevent his forces from committing atrocities, yet it is unclear whether he knew about those atrocities. The Yamashita Standard implies that the commander is responsible for the actions of his troops regardless of whether he knows the details of their actions. (Yamashita was executed in February 1946.) George McConnell's family has always believed that somehow his death was related to the war crimes trial, but they have been unable to document that link, indicating that further research into the matter is needed.


"Cpl. Geo. McConnell Dies in Philippines." Brooke News. 23 November 1945.

Dilger, Robert Jay and Steve Kovalan. "Brooke County History." Brooke County, West Virginia, 1 August 2000, accessed 13 February 2018,

Helms, Nathaniel R. "General Tomoyuki Yamashita." HistoryNet, 12 June 2006, accessed 30 April 2018,

"The United States Army Signal Corps." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed 13 February 2018,

"World War II Casualty George McConnell Remembered." Brooke County Review. 21 June 2001.

"World War II in The Pacific." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed 12 March 2018,

Michael Traubert, great nephew of George McConnell, contributed to this article.

Article prepared by Sarah Marzouk and Addison Riley, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History
March 2018


George W. McConnell

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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