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Lee Edward Waugh
Portrait from the Lee Edward and Nancy Waugh
Collection, West Virginia State Archives
(Ms2016-014), via Charlotte Spangler Chessman

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Lee Edward Waugh

"Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival."

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Lee Edward Waugh was born on September 28, 1918, in Wytheville, Virginia, to Charles S. and Margaret C. Waugh of Montgomery in Fayette County, West Virginia. The 1930 Federal Census shows that, in addition to his parents, he had three older sisters living in the family home: Margaret, Esther, and Julia. He also had three brothers: Charles, Porter, and Stuart. Growing up in Fayette County, he graduated from Gauley Bridge High School and the West Virginia Institute of Technology. On September 6, 1942, he married Nancy Lou Morris of Williamson, West Virginia, whom he had met while attending college. Prior to entering the service, he was employed by the Electro Metallurgical Company in Alloy, West Virginia. When Lee registered for the draft in 1940, he listed Stuart as his next of kin; Stuart had remained in the area and was also employed at Electro Met. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, show that Lee enlisted at Huntington on April 4, 1941, at which time he stated that he had three years of college and his civilian occupation was that of "semiskilled furnaceman, smelter, or pourer." According to an entry in Young American Patriots, Captain Waugh was trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, was sent to Panama, and saw action in Africa and Sicily before he was killed in action in Normandy.

In 2016, Charlotte Spangler Chessman, Nancy's daughter by a subsequent marriage, donated to the West Virginia State Archives a collection of materials pertaining to Lee's life and military service saved by his wife Nancy Morris Waugh. Among the materials were the medals Lee acquired during his service, which found their way to the state museum. Above and beyond any documents in the public record (such as census and enlistment records), the textual documents serve to inform us of the daily life and accomplishments of members of the military and their families. Of special significance is the booklet His Service Record, carefully documented and preserved by Nancy. The back of the title page states: "This Book is published for the purpose of being filled in by a relative or friend of a man who is serving his country. When it has been completed, it will serve as a record of his experiences and observations during the war which the United States entered on December 8th, 1941." The following page notes that the record was kept by Mrs. Lee E. Waugh from January 1, 1943, to August 30, 1944.

Lee Edward Waugh in uniform

Lee Edward Waugh in uniform. Lee Edward and Nancy Waugh Collection, West Virginia State Archives (Ms2016-014), via Charlotte Spangler Chessman

In her initial entries, Nancy duly notes that Lee was inducted into the service on April 4, 1941, and reported to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Branched to infantry, he became a member of the150th Infantry, 38th ("Cyclone") Division. He was transferred to Fort Clayton in the Panama Canal Zone in January of 1942; to Fort Benning, Georgia, in May of 1942; and to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in August of 1942. From there, he departed to "parts unknown." Starting as a "buck private," he quickly rose through the ranks to corporal (July 1, 1941), sergeant (April 13, 1942), second lieutenant (August 20, 1942), first lieutenant (April 1943), and captain (March 5, 1944). It is worth noting that Captain Waugh was already in the service of his country at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nancy's notes indicate he came home on furlough from July 1 through 11 in 1941 and again in October of that year. Also, she was able to visit him at Fort Bragg in September and again in October of 1942.
Certificate showing Lee's promotion from sergeant to second lieutenant

Certificate showing Lee's promotion from sergeant to second lieutenant. Lee Edward and Nancy Waugh Collection, West Virginia State Archives (Ms2016-014), via Charlotte Spangler Chessman

Among her personal notes, Nancy writes that the couple were married on September 6, 1942, at Dillon, North Carolina, while he was a second lieutenant in the 60th Infantry at Fort Bragg. October 12 of that year was the last day they would spend together.

In her meticulous handwriting, Nancy Waugh duly notes that Capt. Waugh had met some "interesting and prominent people" as he rose through the military; among them were General George C. Marshall, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

In October of 1942, Capt. Waugh went overseas on the USS Henry T. Allen. He was in Africa from November 7, 1942, through July of 1943; in Sicily from July 1943 through November of that year; and in England from November 1943 through June 1944. Poignantly, Nancy writes that he was in France from June 1944 (with no specific date listed) through July 25. Lee shared with his wife comments about the places he visited; of Africa (Casablanca, Bizerte, Tunis, and Oran) he mentions that it was very beautiful and the people were friendly, but the nights were cold. Of Sicily, he had "nothing good to say." He apparently was captivated with London, England, reporting he was back in civilization and it was very much like home. Nancy's last entry for the page "Places He Visited" indicates he was in Cherbourg, France, in June of 1944. Given that the last letter she received was from "somewhere in France" on July 8, and she knew he was in Cherbourg in June, it seems likely he was part of the invasion of Normandy, D-Day.
This page from <i>His Service Record</i> shows how carefully Nancy Waugh recorded her husband's movements throughout the war.

This page from His Service Record shows how carefully Nancy Waugh recorded her husband's movements throughout the war. Lee Edward and Nancy Waugh Collection, West Virginia State Archives (Ms2016-014), via Charlotte Spangler Chessman

Correspondence of Lee with Nancy during the years of 1942 through 1944-extremely personal letters-represents much of the archived collection. Capt. Waugh's letters to Nancy prior to their marriage reveals much about what life was like for an officer-in-preparation in the army. On a Sunday in July, he writes:

My dearest Nancy,

I received your letter this morning and was so pleased to hear from you. It has also been very long since I had heard a word from you.

We have just completed our first week of school, map reading, administration, tactics, attacks and defense and what have you, my head is spinning around so fast this letter may not have much sense to it. I really didn't know I was such a dumb soldier until I got here. We get everything 10 hours a day for classes and study hall four nights a week that includes Saturday. It is the most work I've done since I've been in the army, but it is very interesting.

Darling: the fourth of July comes on Saturday so we will possibly get two days off that weekend, I will try to find out something by that time. If I am lucky enough to pass this school, I will get 10 days leave before I am assigned, I may be lucky and get an assignment in U.S. Then maybe we could get married, that's all I've hoped for since this thing started. Do you believe you would like to be a 2nd lt. wife, my pay will be $150 per month and $40 subsistence which will amt. to $190. I believe we could live on that, I have saved near $250 since Jan. and can save more since I am down here and no time or any place to spend it.

Dearest: I must close now and will try to write tomorrow. Remember I love you.

All my love,

Among her personal notes in His Service Record, Nancy writes that the couple were married on September 6, 1942, at Dillon, North Carolina, while he was a second lieutenant in the 60th Infantry at Fort Bragg.

Lee Waugh's correspondence in the early months of 1944, when his unit was billeted in England, shows the ups and downs of daily life that deeply affected the morale of the troops. Excerpts from a letter dated March 16, 1944:

I am very proud of the way you have been writing lately. I have received four letters this week and about your raise, you are doing nicely. Don't ever worry about being a spend-thrift. Buy anything you like, you know I got a little raise recently too about $50, which makes my salary around $353 now. I intend to have my allotment increased to $250 in the next few days. So you see between us we make a half a thousand dollars a month. Sounds big doesn't it? [A death notice for Capt. Lee E. Waugh in the Williamson Daily News, 2 March 1945, reports that "Mrs. Waugh is employed with the local office of the Appalachian Power company."]

My moral [sic] has improved somewhat since your letters have started to come in more often, and maybe my captaining helped a little too. I guess I shouldn't be the one to complain.

Lee's last few letters contain several recurring themes: He repeats his wish that she invest some money, asks her to keep his family informed as most of his letters go to her, tells her she should visit his family as they hold her in high regard, and reiterates his belief that the war is about to be won. From June 12: "It looks like this thing is in its last phase. I feel like every step forward is another step home, so the faster the better." From July 4: "We have been in the fight since we landed, chasing Jerry from coast to coast. For the last two years I have been doing the same thing. Won't it ever end." From July 8: "The war from where I sit seems to be going favourably. Jerry's still running, in fact so fast we are wearing ourselves out trying to catch him. The super race (Phooey). By the way, my outfit seems to be getting quite some praise.... It's about time someone knew who was and is winning the war. A great bunch of men." All his letters include his desire to get back to Nancy as quickly as possible and express how much she means to him. Again, from the letter of July 8: "If my letters sound a little unhappy at times think nothing of them. It wears off. All I worry and think of is getting back to the one I love. Just how long that may take, I can't say, but regardless of time I am sure it will be worth it."

According to the Williamson Daily News article ("Bronze Star Medal Is Awarded Posthumously to Capt. Lee E. Waugh"), "At the time of his death, Captain Waugh was company commander of the 60th infantry unit, Ninth division. He was killed on the same day the American General McNair met his death, and in the same action against the enemy." The Bronze Star was awarded for heroic action between March 22 and April 9, 1943, not for his action in the breakthrough from the Normandy beachhead. Capt. Waugh also received the Purple Heart posthumously.

Capt. Waugh was originally buried in the American Military Cemetery at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, but in 1946 his remains were returned to the U.S., and he now rests in Highland Memorial Park in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Nancy Morris Waugh remarried in 1947 and had three children.

Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure, who grateful acknowledges the assistance of Nancy Spangler Chessman
January 2020


Lee Edward Waugh

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