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Charles Edward Whiteman
Elkins Inter-Mountain
21 August 1945

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Charles Edward Whiteman

"Never fear your enemy, but always respect them."

John Basilone, Marine, Guadalcanal participant

Charles Edward Whiteman was born on November 28, 1924, to Martha Cecilia Gank Whiteman and Thornton Russell Whiteman in Elkins, West Virginia. According to 1930 and 1940 Federal Census records, Mr. Whiteman was a building contractor. In addition to Charles and his parents, the Whiteman household consisted of daughters Vesta Christina, Lila K., Martha Wilma, Grace Eleanor, Mary Madeline, Marguerite, Lois Elaine, and Leona and sons, Ernest Russell, Robert Neil, and Willard Thornton. In the 1930s and 40s, Martha, Ernest, and Marguerite worked for a department store, and Willard delivered dry goods for a local store.

Charles's brother, Robert N. Whiteman, submitted his application to be honored on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial. At the time Robert wrote that his brother had attended grade school, junior high school, and high school in Elkins. Charles enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in November 1942, shortly before his 18th birthday. ("Whitemans Receive Details of Son's Death on Okinawa," Elkins Inter-Mountain, 21 August 1945). He entered service on January 4, 1943. According to his death notice in the Elkins Inter-Mountain, he was eventually placed with the 6th Marine Division, 4th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company E. He received training at Parris Island, South Carolina; Indian Head, Maryland; Quantico, Virginia; New River, North Carolina, and Riverside, California. He returned home on furlough for Christmas 1943 before going overseas in November 1944. He was with the 6th Marine Division during the battle for Okinawa in May 1945.

According to the division history page,

. . .the 6th Marine was formed on the Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on September 7, 1944. The Division fought during the Battle of Guam in 1944. This new division was made up of veterans of other units. They underwent training on Guadalcanal and then sailed for Okinawa. At Okinawa, their first goal was to capture Yontan Airfield and advance. This accomplished, the 6th was then sent to fight in battle to overtake the Shuri Line, a strong Japanese defense line. The Shuri Line crossed three hills that were the location of a Japanese complex and stronghold. The division was ordered to capture the complex, take the hills, and breach the Shuri Line. ("6th Marine Division," Together We Served, accessed 22 November 2020,

The book The Final Campaign: Marines in the Victory on Okinawa by Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret) carries a unique account of the attempts to take the hills. The hills were only a slight elevation, but it was enough of an advantage to make the battle a difficult one. The three hills were called Sugar Loaf, Half Moon, and Horseshoe. Much of the battle in the book is told through the accounts of a Corporal James L. Day, a squad leader, who, along with members of his squad, became isolated on Sugar Loaf in a shell hole. His account of the battle provides a unique perspective of the movement of Japanese and Marine forces until the Marines reached his position and pulled him out. By that time, only Day and one member of the squad survived. (Washington, DC: Marine Corps Historical Center, 1996: 38, accessed 8 December 2020,

The Japanese defended the three hills and the Shuri Line with extreme vigor. To approach the hill, the Marines had to cross an exposed area on difficult terrain. The day that the Marines approached the Shuri Line through this area was described as "the bitterest day of the entire campaign." This was May 16, 1945, and on this day, the 6th lost 600 men. The situation was about to take a turn for the worse with the return of monsoon rains. The fighting was heavy, and the Marines were at a continuing disadvantage. It would be difficult to exaggerate how vicious, bloody and desperate the situation was. On the 19th of May, the 4th Marines were brought in as reserves and lost 70 men solely to getting into place as relief on the front line. However, Sugar Loaf hill was now under the control of American forces and the tide began to turn in the battle on the Shuri Line. During fighting on May 21, Charles Whiteman died, killed in action. Research did not reveal the details of the circumstances of the incident, but the 2/4 was fighting on Half Moon Hill.

The Battle of Okinawa was finally won by Allied forces in June. There were an estimated 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 Allied casualties.

For its performance from April 1 through June 21, 1945, the 6th Marine Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, which reads:

For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault and capture of Okinawa, April 1 to June 21, 1945. Seizing Yontan Airfield in its initial operation, the SIXTH Marine Division, Reinforced, smashed through organized resistance to capture Ishikawa Isthmus, the town of Nago and heavily fortified Motobu Peninsula in 13 days. Later committed to the southern front, units of the Division withstood overwhelming artillery and mortar barrages, repulsed furious counterattacks and staunchly pushed over the rocky terrain to reduce almost impregnable defenses and capture Sugar Loaf Hill. Turning southeast, they took the capital city of Naha and executed surprise shore-to-shore landings on Oroku Peninsula, securing the area with its prized Naha Airfield and Harbor after nine days of fierce fighting. Reentering the lines in the south, SIXTH Division Marines sought out enemy forces entrenched in a series of rocky ridges extending to the southern tip of the island, advancing relentlessly and rendering decisive support until the last remnants of enemy opposition were exterminated and the island secured. By their valor and tenacity, the officers and men of the SIXTH Marine Division, Reinforced contributed materially to the conquest of Okinawa, and their gallantry in overcoming a fanatic enemy in the face of extraordinary danger and difficulty adds new luster to Marine Corps history, and to the traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal for the President

Charles Whiteman died of wounds he received in battle on May 21, 1945.

According to his death notice, published in August 1945, Charles's parents were not informed until August. According to the chaplain's letter, published within the notice, due to the length of the Okinawa operation, the Marines were not able to inform the families of those lost until then. The Whitemans were informed that Charles was buried in a Marines' cemetery on Okinawa. The chaplain wrote that, "Your son lost his life after we had been committed to the southern end of the island on the third day of the drive for Naha. He received shrapnel wounds on his left side and head. Despite the best medical attention possible, the wound was fatal to him. Fortunately, he did not suffer for which we are grateful." The letter went on to explain where and how Charles was buried and assured his family of his devotion to them. "Charles was devoted to his family at home. The boys say of him that he was a generous young man and they greatly respect his ability in combat," wrote the chaplain. And further, "It is difficult to explain why such a promising young man should so suddenly be taken from this life but we can only trust in the infinite wisdom and love of God. May He strengthen and comfort you in your sorrow."

Charles Whiteman's brothers, Ernest, Richard, and Willard also served in World War II and returned home. Willard served in the Army in the European Theater for the Signal Corps and was present for the invasion of Normandy. Richard, like Charles, served in the 6th Marines. Ernest served in the Army in France and Belgium-Luxembourg.

At some point, Charles Whiteman's personal effects were returned to his family. West Virginia Archives holds a transcribed copy of a letter, which is obviously meant for his mother should he die in the war. The letter was written as the 6th Marines were leaving Guadalcanal in March of 1945. In it, he acknowledges that his job was tougher than he'd previously explained and that he didn't want his mother to worry. His heartbreaking letter continues, "I would like to have gotten home again but it just didn't turn out that way. It's all over now so why worry, I'm not. Just you keep praying for me and the rest, and if I'm where I can do any of you any good by praying for you, I'll do my part." Even as he contemplated his own possible demise, Charles Whiteman thought of his mother and his family and God, and he committed himself to doing as much as he could for his family, even if he were no longer living.

Madeline Whiteman Crickard wrote, "Charles was my brother and I can remember the horrible war and the suspense not knowing whether the other three brothers would return."

Charles's remains were returned to West Virginia in March 1949. He was interred in Maplewood Cemetery, Elkins, on March 20, 1949.
Grave marker for Charles E. Whiteman in Maplewood Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Grave marker for Charles E. Whiteman in Maplewood Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
December 2020


Charles Edward Whiteman

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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