We were contacted by Max Poorthuis, the President of the 16th Infantry Regiment Historical Society, informing us that 1LT Thompson’s family (Daughter) was searching for his Silver Star and Purple Heart, which had been separated from the family.  It was our honor to secure replacement medals for the family so that they would have a symbol of his sacrifice and be able to honor his memory.

William Edward Thompson was born at Boyer, Pocahontas County, West Virginia, on December 24, 1912, to Walter Tracy (“Monk”) Thompson and Fannie Susan Robertson Thompson. Throughout his early life, Edward used “William” as his given name. William Edward Thompson attended Lincoln High School at Shinnston in Harrison County. In November 1932 he married Heldreth Heloise Shingleton, the daughter of Howard and Minnie Martin Shingleton. They had two children—Jack Lee and Joann Hazel.

By 1940, William Edward Thompson, his wife, and two children lived in Clarksburg, though his 1935 inferred residence was still at Shinnston. The 1940 Federal Census indicates he was employed as a “motor snapper,” while his draft registration record (U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946) places his employment in the category of “semiskilled miners and mining-machine operators.” In other words, like his father, he was employed in the coal industry, as were many young men in the Harrison/Marion County area at the time. His draft registration record also indicates he entered the service at Clarksburg on January 6, 1941, from the National Guard, where he had attained the rank of first sergeant. He was subsequently married to Lorraine Jody Bowman, with whom he had a third child.

1LT Thompson was killed on January 19, 1945, near Shoppen, Belgium [although his Silver Star citation gives the date as January 17]. The following after-action account notes the degree of involvement of his unit:

Until the 19th of January the company remained in a defensive position about 1000 yards northeast of Faymonville. Contact patrols were sent out nightly. At 0720 hours on the 19th the company jumped off on the attack for Schoppen, Belgium. They had four M-10 TDs for support. However, one of the TDs got stuck in a snowdrift, another was knocked out, and another was damaged. When the company arrived at Schoppen, they had only one TD with them. During the attack there was a blinding snow storm which made it impossible to see farther than fifty yards. They reached their objective at 1030 hours and took 27 prisoners and killed or wounded about the same number. At 1045 hours the enemy counter attacked with a company of infantry and 3 S.P. guns, but the attack was beaten off. The casualties for the day amounted to eight wounded, six missing and one officer killed [this officer would have been 1LT Thompson].

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson, also in the Army, visits the grave of his brother 1Lt. Thompson. Note the temporary crosses.
Photo courtesy Beverly Steinbeck

1LT Thompson received a Silver Star as well as the Purple Heart. His Silver Star citation reads:

William Edward Thompson, 0413741, First Lieutenant, Company L, 16th Infantry. For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Faymonville, Belgium, 17 January 1945. When assault elements were impeded by an intense automatic-weapons and small-arms barrage from a building occupied by the enemy, Lieutenant Thompson courageously led a group across perilous terrain to the strongpoint. Then, with utter disregard for personal safety, he fearlessly engaged the foe and, with accurately directed grenades, compelled the hostile force to surrender. Lieutenant Thompson’s gallant actions and outstanding devotion to duty exemplify the finest traditions of the service.