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Earl Junior Sanders

Courtesy Patricia Sanders Hamilton

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial


Earl Junior Sanders

"Earl was a beloved son, brother, cousin, friend, and fianc´┐Ż, who left us much too soon in the service of his country."

Patricia Sanders Hamilton, sister

Earl Junior Sanders was born March 31, 1930, in Rhodell, Raleigh County, West Virginia, to parents Coy and Lena Sanders. His name on military records is incorrectly listed as Earl Sanders Jr. ("Junior" is his middle name.) But everyone knew him by his nickname "Pete." He was the oldest of nine children. His brothers were Bob, Douglas, and Jeffery. His sisters were Joyce, Wanda Raynell, Juanita, Colette, and Patricia.

As a teenager, Earl took responsibility with helping with siblings, finding work, and organizing activities. He attended Rhodell Elementary and Stoco High School and worked as an auto mechanic before enlisting in the army at the age of 16 by saying he was a year older.

He served 18 months with the armed forces in Japan. He served as a member of General Headquarters Guard Company in Tokyo. He received an honorable discharge in March 1948.

Earl Sanders

Pvt. Earl J. Sanders, stationed in Japan. Courtesy Patricia Hamilton

After returning home, he worked as a miner and asked the love of his life, Virginia Smith, from Fireco, West Virginia, to marry him. Before plans were finalized, he was recalled to active service on October 21, 1950, and deployed to Korea. Virginia received a New Year's greeting telegram from him from the ship in route to Korea.

He arrived in Korea facing front line action on January 3, 1951, assigned to the 1st Calvary, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. While taking part in a major U.N. offensive known as "Operation Ripper," he was killed on April 4, 1951, at Kumji-ri, North Korea, along with several of his fellow soldiers in E Company. On April 16, 1951, his parents received a telegram notifying them that Earl had been killed in action. On September 14, 1951, another telegram was received informing the family that the body was en route to the United States. Upon arrival in October, a funeral was held, and he was laid to rest at Wildwood Cemetery in Beckley, West Virginia.

Private Earl Sanders was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart. Other medals awarded were the WWII Victory Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. His Purple Heart is now in the possession of John Earl Sanders, his nephew and namesake.

Article prepared by Patricia Sanders Hamilton, sister
October 2018


Earl Junior Sanders

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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