|Home State||Civilian Occupation|
|Delaware||Projectionist at the State Theater|
|European||Company “L,” 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division|
|Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge||Battle of the Bulge|
|Military Occupational Specialty|
|745 (rifle noncommissioned officer or assistant squad leader)|
Early Life & Family
Woodrow Wilson Gravenor was born on January 4, 1918 in Newark, Delaware, the son of Sewell and Florence Evelyn Gravenor (née Payne). As of April 5, 1930, when Gravenor was recorded on the census, he was living at 106 Wilbur Street with his parents, two sisters, and two brothers. A January 6, 1949 article in The Newark Post stated that “he attended Newark High School” but his enlistment data indicates that he dropped out after two years.
When he was recorded on the census on April 12, 1940, Gravenor was living with his family at 109 East Cleveland Avenue; his occupation was listed as assistant manager at a “retail [novelty?] store”. A January 7, 1949 article in the Wilmington Morning News stated that he “was employed in the A. and P. Store in Newark before entering the service.” It’s not clear if he changed jobs that year (or whether he had two jobs at the same time), but by October he was working as a projectionist at the State Theater on East Main Street. When Gravenor registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was described as standing five feet, nine inches tall and weighing 147 lbs., with red hair and gray eyes.
Gravenor was drafted before the U.S. entered World War II and was inducted into the U.S. Army in Trenton, New Jersey on August 8, 1941. The January 6, 1949 article in The Newark Post stated that “He was stationed first at Camp Croft, South Carolina, in 1941”; a June 11, 1942 article in same paper stated that “Familiarly known as ‘Pinky’ to his friends, before being inducted into the army eleven months ago, Corporal Gravenor is now stationed at Camp Sewell, Alabama.”
A September 10, 1942 article in The Newark Post reported: “Corporal Woodrow Gravenor, 6th Bn., Co. D., 2nd Reg., Fort McClellan, Alabama, has returned to camp after a ten-day furlough spent with his parents”. (That was a training unit, not the 2nd Infantry Regiment, which was already overseas.) Most of his military history is unclear, although he had been promoted to sergeant by December 1944. Apparently, Sergeant Gravenor had not seen combat yet, since he wasn’t awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge until January 1, 1945.
According to a December 24, 1944 company morning report, Sergeant Gravenor was one of 43 enlisted men who joined Company “L,” 137th Infantry Regiment on December 21, 1944 from the 14th Replacement Battalion. His Military Occupational Specialty (M.O.S.) was listed as 745 (rifleman or rifle noncommissioned officer). Based on Table of Organization and Equipment No. 7-17 (Infantry Rifle Company), taking his M.O.S. and grade into account, he was likely an assistant squad leader. With the Battle of the Bulge underway, Sergeant Gravenor didn’t have very much time to get acquainted with his new unit. The 137th Infantry Regiment departed the vicinity of Metz, France on December 26, 1944 and entered combat in nearby Belgium.
On December 28, 1944, Sergeant Gravenor was severely wounded by an artillery shell in the vicinity of Livarchamps, Belgium. The 137th Regiment after action report for that date stated: “3rd Bn was pushing northeast toward Livarchamps. At 0620 [hours] the companies began to move into the woods and the 3rd Bn hit Livarchamps at 0715 and sent companies ‘I’ and ‘K’ 500 yards past the town. Co ‘L’ had a strong patrol on the road. At 0845 the 3rd Bn was receiving heavy small arms, rocket and artillery fire from Villers-la Bonne-Eau. Two hours later the fire had increased, and the enemy was delivering machine gun fire and direct fire from self-propelled 88s on the 3rd Bn positions. […] The 3rd Bn launched its attack at 1230 with the mission of getting into Villers-la-Bonne-Eau. […] At 1745 the 3rd Bn, after a bitter battle, was in the town of Villers-la Bonne-Eau.”
Sergeant Gravenor was initially treated at the 110th Medical Battalion’s clearing station and transferred to the 16th Field Hospital in France that same day. According to a digitized hospital admission card with Sergeant Gravenor’s service number, he suffered injuries to his chest, leading to a hemothorax. Surgeons performed a thoracotomy to drain the blood from his pleural cavity, but Sergeant Gravenor died of his wounds on December 29, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge (the latter per General Orders No. 1, Headquarters 137th Infantry, dated January 1, 1945).
After the war, Sergeant Gravenor’s body was returned to the United States. He was buried at the Newark Cemetery in January 1949. It is likely that Gravenor Lane in Newark was named after him, but that is unconfirmed at this time.
Click to any document to view a larger copy. All are courtesy of Robert Russo.
Special thanks to Roberta Russo (webmaster, 134th Infantry Regiment Website and historian, 35th Infantry Division Association) for the use of records which were vital in telling Sergeant Gravenor’s story. Thanks also go out to the Delaware Public Archives and The Newark Post for their photographs.
“A and D Report, Clearing Station, 110th Medical Battalion, 28 December 1944.” National Archives. 134th Infantry Regiment website. http://www.coulthart.com/134/110ad-44-12-28.pdf
“Report After Action Against Enemy covering the period 1–31 December 1944.” Headquarters 137th Infantry, January 1, 1945. 35th Infantry Division Memory website. https://35thinfantrydivision-memory.com/site/view_content.php?lang=en&page=44
Applications for Headstones, compiled 01/01/1925 – 06/30/1970, documenting the period ca. 1776 – 1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 –1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_520307095_0381-01423
Combat History of the 137th Infantry Regiment World War II. 134th Infantry Regiment Website. http://www.coulthart.com/134/137chapter-4.htm
“General Order No. 1, Headquarters 137th Infantry, January 1, 1945.” Courtesy of the 134th Infantry Regiment Website. http://www.coulthart.com/134/go-137-ir/go-137-45-1.pdf
Gravenor, Florence. Woodrow Wilson Gravenor Individual Military Service Record, circa February 27, 1947. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/18891/rec/2
“Military Services For Sgt. Woodrow Gravenor To Be Held Saturday.” The Newark Post, January 6, 1949. Pg. 1. https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/19178/np_039_41.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Morning Reports for Company “L,” 137th Infantry Regiment, December 1944. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri. 134th Infantry Regiment website. http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-137-l-company/mr-137-l-1944-12-24.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-137-l-company/mr-137-l-1944-12-28.pdf
“News About Local Boys in Service.” The Newark Post, September 10, 1942. Pg. 5. https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/18840/np_033_34.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
“Pfc W. W. Gravenor.” Wilmington Morning News, January 7, 1949. Pg. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/57402549/woodrow-wilson-gravenor/
“Serving Uncle Sam.” The Newark Post, June 11, 1942. Pg. 1. https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/18827/np_033_21.pdf
“Table of Organization and Equipment No. 7-17: Infantry Rifle Company.” War Department, February 26, 1944. Military Research Service website. http://www.militaryresearch.org/7-17%2026Feb44.pdf
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00838
United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00193
U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/704709460-gravenor-woodrow-w
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/86038276-woodrow-w-gravenor
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_09_00004-01339
Last updated on June 6, 2021
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