Wilton’s Five World War II Fallen Heroes
John Foster Huntley Jr. 1920-1942 John Foster Huntley Jr. joined the US Navy in September of 1941. Following basic training and a ten day furlough, “Bud” headed to the USS Jacob Jones in Boston Harbor. On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States. On December 12, the destroyer, USS Jacob Jones, patrolled along the New Jersey coastline to protect the oil refineries and the shipping lane essential to our ally, Great Britain. On january 28, Huntley was aboard the destroyer when it was sunk by the German submarine, U-578. A grave marker recognizes his service to our country in Battery Park, New York City.
Clinton L. Oakley 1922-1943 The 1940 census listed Clinton as an actor. Following graduation from Saratoga Springs High School, Clinton enlisted in the Army Air Corp on May 21, 1941. He was stationed in the Philippines. Only ten hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thirty thousand Japanese began the invasion of the Philippine Islands. The Filipinos were not free until 1945. Clinton Oakley, a member of the 48th Air Squadron served one and a half years in the Philippines. He was killed by enemy forces on the Island of Panay on April 9, 1943. A headstone for the family’s only son was placed in St. Peters Cemetery in Saratoga Springs.
William Jelens 1924- 1944 On July 25, 1944, S/Stg William Jelens on his 41st mission was reported missing in action over Linz, Austria. Jelens was a B-24 ball turret gunner. His mission was a part of Operation Cobra that targeted the area near Herman Goering's tank factory. The German investigation of the American aircraft frame reported the B-24 on fire when it cracked and crashed. The U.S. War Department Missing Air Crew Report listed an eleven man crew. William Jelens was one of three crew members identified as KIA. Jelens had enlisted in March of 1943. A grave marker was established for him in the Tablets of the Missing, an American cemetery in Epinal, France.
Hugo Grubb 1917-1944 Hugo Grubb, a member of Co. L of the 81st Division, lost his life in a Pacific campaign, Operation Forager. At the age of 27, he had completed two years of military service. Operation Forager was a thirty six day campaign to take an island that was 3 miles in length. Like many islands in the Pacific, Anguar Island was a strategic location for an air base. His widowed mother received a telegram indicating that he had been wounded and then a second telegram, on September 18, 1944, that reported his death. His younger brother Ralph was serving in the USMC. Today, both sons are laid to rest in the Gurn Springs Cemetery.
Maynard L. Varney 1909-1945 For distinguishing himself by gallantry in action on 26 March and 12 April 1945, Pfc. Maynard Varney was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Pfc. Varney, an assistant tank driver, remained in hazardous forward positions that helped crush German resistance to the American advance. Pfc, Varney was a bow gunner in the tank of his platoon leader. He aided in the destruction of three German tanks, numerous armored vehicles, four cannons and the capture of more than 3,000 prisoners. He lost his life in the Neuernrade action on April 12, 1945. Maynard had enlisted in January, 1944. He was assigned to the Armored Division of the First Army. He left his widowed wife with a young son and daughter. Pfc. Varney was killed in action 18 days after Hitler committed suicide and 25 days before the formal German surrender. For decades, the grateful people of Belgium placed flowers on his grave in the American cemetery in Neuernrade.