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Pete John Sotirakis
Clarksburg Exponent, August 29, 1944

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Pete John Sotirakis

"Hell is on us."

Mamoru Shigemitsu (Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs at the end of World War II) on the capture of Saipan

Pete John Sotirakis was born in Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia, on July 6, 1917, to John and Anthipi (in some sources spelled Anthepe or Anthepi) Sotirakis, who were born in Greece. The 1930 Federal Census indicates that the Sotirakises were living in Clarksburg and Mr. Sotirakis was listed as a shoe shop proprietor. A member of the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, Pete attended Tower Grade School, Central Junior High, and Washington Irving High School. The 1932 edition of Reminiscences, the high school yearbook, includes Pete Sotirakis as a member of the string section in the orchestra. In 1935, Anthipi passed away suddenly. She left a widower her husband John and motherless their children Pete, Christopher, and Mary.

In 1939, the Clarksburg City Directory lists them all living on Jarvis Street. Mr. Sotirakis's employment was listed as New York Hat Cleaning and Shoe Shine Parlor. Mary and Chris were listed as students. Pete was listed as a waiter at Park Plaza. The 1940 census lists the remaining Sotirakis family living with V. William Cotsoradis and his wife Fontini. According to the same record, they'd all lived in the same house since 1935. Mr. Sotirakis and his children were all listed as lodgers, along with Mr. Sotirakis's brother James. Though it's not clear when the marriage occurred, James was married to Cleopatra Cotsoradis.

The 1940 census lists Mr. Cotsoradis as the proprietor and manager of a confectionary. Mr. Sotirakis was listed as the owner and manager of a shoeshine and hat cleaning business. Pete was listed as a salesclerk in a dairy store. James was listed as a cook in the confectionary. That same year Pete Sotirakis registered for military service on October 16. He listed V. Cotsoradis as his employer at a business on Pike Street.

According to a death notice in the local newspaper, Pete Sotirakis was an athlete in high school and had been attending [West Virginia] Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, but didn't graduate. ("Local Marine Dies in Saipan," Clarksburg Exponent, 29 August 1944.) He volunteered for the Marines and joined them in January 1942. He is found listed in the Marine muster roll as stationed at the Naval Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, Virginia, in April 1942. He was transferred to San Diego, California, in October 1943. From there, he was sent into the Pacific Theater during World War II on November 2, 1943. He served as a submachine gunner. The January 1944 muster rolls recorded him to be with headquarters 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Forces in the field. The July 1944 muster roll lists Pete Sotirakis with a note that says to delete his name from the roll. A casualty card indicates that he died of wounds on June 21, 1944; however, he is also listed among the missing or lost at sea.

The circumstances of Pfc. Pete Sotirakis's death are not clear. The death notice says that he was first listed as missing but later was confirmed to have died that same day on June 17, 1944. Interviewed for a 2000 newspaper article, Chris Sotirakis is quoted as saying that Pete Sotirakis survived a battle in Saipan, but was wounded. ("Fallen Heroes: Memorial Day Often Gets Lost in the Shuffle of Summer Fun," Clarksburg Exponent Telegram, 28 May 2000.) Chris Sotirakis said that his brother was placed on a ship headed back home, but he died on the way to his destination and was buried at sea. The dates and circumstances are not reconciled in any single record.

The Battle for Saipan is described in many sources. The battle began on June 15, 1944, when U.S. forces stormed the beaches, with the goal of taking the strategic island and gaining an airbase location. The U.S. faced fierce resistance from the Japanese. The battle was described as brutal and chaotic. Many Marines died before reaching the shore, and those that did faced bombs and gunfire from the cliffs over the beach. Eight thousand troops reached the shores on June 15 and continued spreading inland in the days following. Though the records indicate that Pete Sotirakis died on June 21, it's not clear whether the wounds were received that day or earlier, or for how long he was in a missing status. ("Battle of Saipan,", 17 November 2009/updated 21 August 2018, accessed 18 January 2020,

Mary Sotirakis Nicholas died in 1949, as did her infant son. John Sotirakis died in 1979. All are interred at Elkview Masonic Cemetery in Clarksburg. A cenotaph is placed there for Pete Sotirakis. Pete's brother Chris Sotirakis died in 2007. His obituary describes a rich and varied life, including his involvement with the Cotsoradis's businesses, graduation from Harvard in Economics and Law, his service in the army, and his law practice in Hawaii. ("Christopher John Sotirakis," Clarksburg Exponent Telegram, 18 April 2007, accessed 23 January 2020,

Cenotaph for Pete Sotirakis in the West Virginia National Cemetery; note the wording of

Cenotaph for Pete Sotirakis in the West Virginia National Cemetery; note the wording of "in memory of." Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Pete Sotirakis is memorialized with cenotaphs in the West Virginia National Cemetery at Grafton and in Elkview Masonic Cemetery in Clarksburg, which, along with other documents, indicates he was a Purple Heart recipient. Additionally, his name is listed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
Headstone for Pete J. Sotirakis in Elkview Masonic Cemetery, Clarksburg, among others in the Sotirakis plot. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Headstone for Pete J. Sotirakis in Elkview Masonic Cemetery, Clarksburg, among others in the Sotirakis plot. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
January 2020


Pete John Sotirakis

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