Skip Navigation
West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Robert Ray Perry

"We're going to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line.
Have you any dirty washing, mother dear?
We're gonna hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line.
'Cause the washing day is here."

Jimmy Kennedy, Captain in the British Expeditionary Force

Robert Ray Perry was born at Dry Branch in Kanawha County, West Virginia, on February 27, 1926. His parents, Lillie Jarrell Perry and William Perry, had children born from 1909 until 1926, so there was, in some of their cases, quite a difference in age among the siblings. According to the 1930 Federal Census, the family was living in Cabin Creek, Kanawha County. Mr. Perry was working for a coal company. With them were daughters Tressie, Hellen, Leona, and Noble and sons Thomas and Robert. The Find A Grave listing for Robert Ray Perry indicates there was another daughter, Lottie, who lived only from 1914-1922. By 1940, the family had moved to Barbour County and were living next to an older son, named Thomas, and his family. With William and Lillie were Robert, Noble, and Anna Arbutus, who was known by her middle name. Robert, also, was known by his middle name and appeared in the census as Ray.

According to military records, Robert attended Philippi schools. Though his enlistment records indicate he had finished only grammar school, a later obituary stated that he'd attended Philippi High School.

Robert Perry was living in Galloway in Barbour County when he registered for military service on February 28, 1944. He was employed by a coal company and his employer's name was recorded as Theodore Iaquinta. He worked in Pruntytown, West Virginia, not far from Grafton. He enlisted in the military on April 27, 1944, at Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky. According to a later obituary, Robert Perry trained in Texas and in Wisconsin and then was sent overseas in December 1944. He was placed with the 417th Infantry Regiment of the 76th Infantry Division. ("PFC Robert R. Perry," Clarksburg Telegram, 31 March 1949.)

The 417th spent January and February of 1945 at the Luxembourg-Germany border. They crossed the Sauer River and were there for the final crossing of the Siegfried Line. According to a website dedicated to the division, the 417th Infantry Regiment lacks a written history simply due to the heavy losses of men during that time period; in fact, the division website has issued a call for someone to compile a comprehensive history of the regiment. ("Request for Information," 76th Infantry Division, accessed 13 December 2020

What remained of the regiment after were mainly replacement troops who were not there in January and February. This implies a staggering loss. A further description of the Siegfried Line demonstrates just how impenetrable this barrier was to the Allies:

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,", updated February 2020, accessed 15 December 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. ("90th Infantry Division [United States]," last edited 21 November 2020, accessed 15 December 2020,

Private First Class Robert Ray Perry was killed in action on February 15, 1945, only a few days before his 19th birthday. He was awarded a Purple Heart Medal.

After the war, Robert Perry's remains were returned to West Virginia, and he was interred at Mary's Chapel Cemetery, near Philippi.
Headstone for Pfc. Robert Ray Perry in Mary's Chapel Cemetery, Barbour County, West Virginia. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Headstone for Pfc. Robert Ray Perry in Mary's Chapel Cemetery, Barbour County, West Virginia. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
December 2020


Robert Ray Perry

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