In Memory of
U.S. Army Private
William Hamilton Wilcox, Jr.
Hot Springs, South Dakota
Fall River County
June 21, 1924 -- April 26, 1945
Killed in Action on Mindanao, Pacific Islands

    William Hamilton Wilcox, Jr.  William Hamilton Wilcox, Jr.

William Hamilton Wilcox, Jr., was born to William and Margaret Wilcox on June 21, 1924, in Hot Springs, South Dakota. While William attended the Hot Springs High School, he was highly involved with track, football, mixed chorus, men's chorus, and, glee club, and he played the violin in the school orchestra. One of the many things that William excelled in was the mile run; he placed second at the State Meet in Huron his senior year. Wilcox graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1943. He was known to always give his best effort and was “a friend to all who knew him.” William was engaged to Cecelia (Cec) Hiermeier at some point before he went overseas.

In June of 1943, William Wilcox was inducted into the Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After basic training at Camp Roberts, California, he spent a short furlough at home and then reported to Fort Ord, California, to receive orders for overseas duty. After further training in New Zealand, Pvt. Wilcox landed at Aitape, New Guinea, where he was participated in his first battle and was transferred to the 31st (Dixie) Division, 6th Army. After further campaigns in the Mollucca Group and Dutch East Indies, Pvt. Wilcox was sent on to the Philippines.

William Wilcox wrote home many letters while he was stationed overseas. They reflect his love for his family, his hope for the future, and the loneliness of a serviceman’s life, so far from home. Two excerpts are provided here:

From September 15, 1944: Looks like the war in Europe will be over soon. I hear they are in
Germany in two places. Well, Mom & Dad, I went to church Sunday Sept. 3. Thought a lot of
the times we used to go to church while I was there Sunday. Sure hope the war gets over, over
here so I can come back home. I’ll bet it is a wonderful feeling to know you are coming back
after the war is over. It will be a happy day when I sail under that Golden Gate Bridge.

From October 28, 1944: I suppose everything is the same at home. Sure like to be there now.
I’m sick as hell of this place over here. I’d give anything to be back in the states now. I suppose
it will be a long time before I get back. Honest to God, Mom, I feel like an old man. It seems
like I get older by the day. I have a few grey hairs on the top of my head now. Being in the
jungle a lot probably has something to do with it. We still have a few air raids.

On April 26, 1945, Private William Wilcox was killed in action near Aroman, Mindanao, Philippine Islands. His parents received a Western Union telegram dated May 18, 1945, with the words, “THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR PVT WILCOX WILLIAM H JR WAS KILLED IN ACTION ON MINDANO 26 APR 45 CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS=”

The Chaplain of the 124th Infantry wrote to William’s mother in a letter dated July 12, 1945. In that letter were the following words:

I was there that morning he was killed … It was a most important and dangerous assignment…
It was a rather hazy moon lit night, visibility was not too good. As we marched along the men
were very quiet and very tense, we knew the danger. At eleven twenty we hit the enemy, they
opened up with heavy machine gun and sniper fire. I assure you that was a frightful moment.
Many of our men were killed instantly before we could take cover. Wm was not killed at this
time. We had to withdraw and establish a position to meet this resistance. We were able to
dig in, and at one-ten the morning of the 26th the enemy attacked our position. I have never
seen a more fanatical attack, they kept assaulting our line, wave after wave, but our men
stood their ground. Wm was right in the front with a machine gun section. It was while
performing his duty there that he was killed. I was only about thirty yards from the spot
where he was killed. The machine gun fire and grenades were so intense that I do not see
how our men had the courage to stand it. I was very frightened, but I realized that when
the time comes our men can surpass any soldier in the world.

As he did in his civilian life, William performed above and beyond the call of duty; he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, which was given by the direction of the President to the United States, for Wilcox's heroic achievements in connection with military operations against the enemy on the day of his death. The citation read in part:

….During a fierce enemy attack Private Wilcox, an ammunition bearer, armed
with a submachine gun, voluntarily and without regard for his own personal safety,
crossed an open highway in order to guard the left flank of a machine gun position
upon which the enemy was closing in. He remained in his position during intense
enemy fire protecting the gun and covering the movement of the gun crew to a new
position from which more effective fire could be placed upon the enemy….

He also was awarded the Purple Heart, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Five Battle Stars, American Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Expert Infantry Badge.

First buried in a temporary grave on Parang, Mindanao, Private Wilcox’s remains were later moved to the U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery, Leyte, #1. Kenneth, William’s brother, visited his grave in the summer of that year while his U.S. Navy ship was anchored nearby. After the war, William’s remains were returned to the United States aboard the transport Dalton Victory and he was laid to rest at 3:00 P.M., September 10, 1948, at the Evergreen Cemetery, Section K, Block 16, Lot No. 1. On his grave marker are the words “HE STANDS IN THE UNBROKEN LINE OF PATRIOTS, WHO DARED TO DIE THAT FREEDOM MIGHT LIVE.” 

This entry was respectfully submitted by Amanda Weiss, Senior, Hot Springs High School, Hot Springs, South Dakota, March 17, 2002, and revised by Sheila Hansen, Fallen Sons State Coordinator. Information for this entry was provided by the Hot Springs Weekly Star and by Kenneth Wilcox, Hot Springs, SD, brother to Pvt. William Wilcox.