Elmer B. Heath

Pfc Elmer B. Heath

This tribute is very special to me. Elmer B. Heath is one of the very first names I discovered when I first typed different queries on Internet, years ago,  when I started my researches about the 9th Infantry Division. And this found was immediately followed by a great meeting via Internet, with his two lovely daughters, Helen and Nancy, who never stopped to support me and my project.I should have started by writing his tribute actually, but I never took the time to do it properly. Moreover, and thank to his two daughters, Elmer’s story can be found easily on Internet. But this website will never be totally honoring those who sacrificed themselves without a tribute to Elmer B. Heath and his two daughters, who dedicated their life to preserve the memory of their father, and those who fought along him…

Elmer was born on August 4th 1918, along with his twin brother Delmar Ray. Their parents, Scott and Nora Heath, were living in a small community in southwest Virginia, near Chilhowie. Through the years, and despite the Great Depression, they raised a family that was increasing : Elmer and Delmar Ray were the happy brothers of Roy, Marvin, Cecil and Ernest for the boys, and Anna James, Hazel and Dorothy as their sisters.

Elmer and his beloved wife Virginia.

In 1939, Elmer married Virginia Jones and in 1941, their first child was born : Nancy. In 1943, the second daughter was born : Helen. At this time, the United States were at war since December 7th 1941, and like every young men of his age, Elmer accepted without complain to serve his great country. He was inducted at Fort George Meade, MD, on May 30th 1944, just few days before the Normandy landings, and went through his Basic Training at Camp Wheeler in Georgia.

Elmer with his two lovely daughters : Nancy (left) and Helen (right).

He shipped out in October 1944 to Europe, to arrive in Gourock, Scotland, on October 18th. By the time he arrived in Scotland, the Allied were struggling along the German border. After the Normandy success, and the liberation of Northern France and Belgium, the U.S. Army was now fighting hard in the Hürtgen Forest, in the vicinity of Aachen. Elmer arrived along the front line around mid-December 1944, few days before the German launched their last attempt to breakthrough the American lines : the Battle of the Bulge started. He was assigned to Able Company, 47th Infantry Regiment, and at that time, his fellow comrades were fighting in Germany near Düren, to cross the Roer River.

Elmer before he left for Europe.

Elmer went thru the whole Battle of the Bulge, and in early March 1945, the division crossed the Rhine River on the famous Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. The following objectif assigned to the 9th Infantry Division was to break the Remagen bridgehead and sealing and clearing the Ruhr Pocket. On March 8th, the 47th Infantry Regiment passed through Orsberg and attacked toward Bruchhausen where eventually all resistance was overcome. It was during that battle that Elmer and many other brave soldiers lost their lives. Elmer was killed in action at 1500hrs on March 9th, 1945 in Bruchhausen, Germany, during the battle of Remagen that has been well-known thank to the movie ‘A bridge at Remagen’ (1969).

Virginia Heath was notified Elmer’s death on March 21st, 1945. At that time, Helen and Nancy were 3 years and 17 months old. Elmer was buried in Henri-Chapelle American Military Cemetery in Belgium, on March 14th, 1945, where he still rests. Virginia passed on April 20th, 2000, after devoting her entire life to her daughters, and keeping the memory of their father alive. She never remarried. Helen and Nancy also devoted their entire lives to keep the memory of their father alive. They come regularly in Europe to honor their father and the fallen in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, and they are very active in preserving the history of the men of the 9th Infantry Division.

Elmer’s grave at Henri-Chapelle Cemetery during the Memorial Day 2017 (Photo of Martijn Van Haren, who ‘adopted’ Elmer’s grave and work continuously to preserve Elmer’s and other soldiers ‘memory – check his website here).

May Pfc Elmer B. Heath rest in peace. His sacrifice will always be remembered along those made by his comrades. Thank you for your service, thank you for my freedom. 

Nancy (left) and Helen (right) next to their father’s grave at Henri-Chapelle, 2013 (picture R. Villers).

This article was mainly modified from the original article Helen and Nancy wrote for the AWON Community website, you can find here.

Except otherwise mentioned, pictures are from Heath family.