Staff Sergeant Winford J. Poore (1921–1944)

Winford J. Poore (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareTelephone lineman
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32367390
TheaterUnit
EuropeanCompany “B,” 35th Signal Construction Battalion
Military Occupational Specialty (Presumed)Campaigns/Battles
238 (team chief, telephone and telegraph)Exercise Tiger (Battle of Lyme Bay)

Author’s note: This article incorporates some text from one of my previous articles about Staff Sergeant Clarence O. Deakyne, Jr., another victim of the Exercise Tiger disaster.

Early Life & Family

Winford Joiner Poore was born in Middletown, Delaware, on November 29, 1921. He was the son of John “Jack” R. Poore (a laborer and later a carpenter, 1890–1964) and Nellie Virginia Poore (née Joiner, 1892–1974). Poore was recorded on the census on April 2, 1930, living in Middletown with his parents and two older brothers, William Bradford Poore (1915–1961) and Clifford Lee Poore (1917–1931). Tragedy struck the family on April 6, 1931, when Clifford died after he fell out of a boat on Silver Lake in Middletown. He was just 14 years old.

Winford Poore was a Boy Scout. He was recorded on the next census on April 13, 1940, living with his parents at 27 West Lake Street in Middletown. The census gave his education as three years of high school, although his enlistment data card described him as a high school graduate.

When Poore registered for the draft on February 16, 1942, he was living with his parents and working for the Diamond State Telephone Company. The registrar described him as standing approximately five feet, 10½ inches tall and weighing 155 lbs., with blond hair and blue eyes. In her statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Poore’s mother started that her son was a lineman for the Bell Telephone Company working in Georgetown prior to joining the service. Indeed, his enlistment data card gave his occupation as “Skilled linemen and servicemen, telegraph, telephone, and power.”


Military Training

Poore was drafted. According to a digitized enlistment data card, Poore was inducted into the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey, on October 21, 1942. That date was also listed in the report of death in his Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.). His mother stated that he was inducted at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on October 22, 1942. Regardless, that was probably the first place he was stationed at, since most men who entered the U.S. Army from Delaware spent their first few days at Fort Dix before beginning their basic training elsewhere.

The wording of Poore’s mother’s statement is a little confusing, but appears to indicate that beginning November 5, 1942, he was stationed at Camp Crowder, Missouri. Journal-Every Evening reported on April 6, 1943, that Poore had been promoted to sergeant. His mother wrote that he was promoted to staff sergeant around June 1943. She added that he was stationed at Camp Ellis, Illinois, from July 1943 until he went overseas the following month. The only unit she listed was Company “B,” 35th Signal Construction Battalion.

Camp Crowder was the site of a Signal Corps Replacement Training Center, so Private Poore presumably went to basic training there. A document in his I.D.P.F. confirms that Poore was stationed at Camp Crowder as of March 1943. According to a unit history published at the end of the war, the 35th Signal Construction Battalion was activated at Camp Crowder on February 15, 1943, and moved to Camp Ellis on May 27, 1943.

Based on Table of Organization and Equipment No. 11-27, Staff Sergeant Poore most likely had the duty of team chief, telephone and telegraph. Under the T/O&E, each company had 12 construction teams, with 11 enlisted men in each team.

Men of the 35th Signal Construction Battalion at Camp Ellis on July 4, 1943 (35th Signal Construction Bn)

It is possible that Poore joined 35th Signal Construction Battalion at Camp Crowder. If his mother’s statement is accurate about her son moving to Camp Ellis in July 1943, then Poore presumably joined the unit there. In August 1943, the main body of the 35th Signal Construction Battalion moved to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, to prepare to go overseas. The unit boarded the U.S.A.T. Argentina on August 20, 1943, at the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation in Virginia. The unit arrived in Liverpool, England, on September 3, 1943. After about a week in Hungerford, the unit moved to Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England, on September 12, 1943.

During the next seven months, the unit conducted training as well as general work installing cable, both above and below ground. The unit history stated:

          Most of the battalion’s time in Britain was spent working for the British Post Office Telephone System. Our working with it gave us added experience and training, and the work we did enlarged the British communications network making it better able to handle the loads placed on it during the days of the European invasion. Many new men were trained to perform additional jobs in schools operated by the battalion.

35th Signal Construction Battalion men, presumably during their training (35th Signal Construction Bn)

Exercise Tiger

Staff Sergeant Poore boarded LST-531 along with other members of the 35th Signal Construction Battalion to participate in Exercise Tiger. Held at Slapton Sands, England, Exercise Tiger was a dress rehearsal for the landings at Utah Beach. The ship, part of Convoy T-4, departed Plymouth, England, with four other L.S.T.s on the morning of April 27, 1944. They rendezvoused with their escort, the corvette H.M.S. Azalea.

Wendy Lawrance wrote in her book, Exercise Tiger: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Silent Few:

The ships containing the men and equipment would take a circuitous route from their embarkation points, rendezvous and then continue to Slapton Sands in order to replicate the amount of time they would spend at sea during the Channel crossing.

That night, three L.S.T.s—which had departed Brixham the same day—joined the convoy. LST-531 was fourth in the column of eight L.S.T.s, sailing at a leisurely five knots in Lyme Bay. The convoy was scheduled to hit the beach at 0730 hours on April 28, 1944.

The sole escort, H.M.S. Azalea, led the column by 2000 yards. A failure of planning meant that the American ships were not in radio contact with the British escort. That same night, a force of nine German fast boats (Schnellboots) departed Cherbourg and slipped past Royal Navy forces patrolling the area. Referred to by the Allies as E-boats, these small, speedy vessels had a powerful armament of torpedoes.

According to report written by LST-531’s senior surviving officer, Ensign Douglas G. Harlander, the ship’s executive officer, there were 142 sailors and 353 soldiers aboard. The first sign that something was amiss was around 0130 hours on April 28, 1944, when mysterious gunfire erupted astern. The ship went to general quarters, but “secured from general quarters” around 0150 hours when nothing else happened.

Although unaware that E-boats had been sighted in the area, the reports indicate a puzzling lack of response to the mysterious gunfire on the part of the officers aboard the L.S.T.s. The convoy did not immediately change course or increase speed. The report by the commanding officer of the sole escort, leading the column by 2000 yards, indicates he was unaware of the tracer fire. The L.S.T. Group 32 commander was puzzled by the gunfire even in hindsight, suggesting that “Attacking enemy craft may have used gunfire to (1) Start fires on the targets or (2) Invite return fire in order to locate targets.” He added:

Because of its position and in the absence of any indication to the contrary, it was concluded that the firing camp from a sourse [sic] on the shore or one totally unconnected with the Convoy.  No reports had been or were received of enemy craft in the area.

LST-507 at Brixham, England, on April 27, 1944, the day before she was torpedoed and sunk during the Exercise Tiger disaster. (Courtesy of Eugene Kyle and NavSource)

Around 0204 hours, the last ship in the column, LST-507, was torpedoed by an E-boat. Although crews of the other ships noted an apparent underwater explosion and saw something afire astern, they did not realize it meant the convoy was under attack. Ensign Harlander wrote that aboard LST-531:

          Approximately 0204B [2:04 a.m. local time] a ship was reported afire in the distance off our starboard quarter.  Ens. CANTRELL and the originator of this report observed the fire and we were puzzled as to its identity.  About the time we decided it was an LST, (Approximately 0218B) this ship was torpedoed on the starboard side by two torpedoes separated by about one minute of time.  First torpedo hit amidships, the second torpedo hit in the vicinity of #3 boat.  The ship immediately burst into flames and #1-40mm gun immediately commenced firing to starboard.  All electric power failed, telephones were inoperative, and the engines stopped.  Fire fighting was attempted but was futile,  the apparatus used failed to function.  It was apparent the fire could not be controlled and efforts were made to release #4 boat, those efforts were not successful due to the  flames–boats #5 and 6 were demolished by the explosions.

LST-531 began to capsize. Ensign Harlander continued:

Approximately 0224B, the ship rolled over and originator gave the command to abandon ship; it is estimated that not more than 15 men were in the vincity.  Some men had previously jumped overboard.  The personnel observed appeared to be calm and not unduly excited.

Ensign Harlander wrote that of the 496 men aboard, only 28 sailors and 44 soldiers were rescued, for a total of 424 dead. Of all the vessels involved in Exercise Tiger, the loss of life was heaviest aboard LST-531—over twice the number killed in the sinking of LST-507. The primary factor was that LST-531 sank in 15 minutes, about half the time that LST-507 remained afloat after being torpedoed. Other factors likely include the fact that LST-531 carried more men aboard, was hit by two torpedoes rather than one, and LST-507’s crew was able to launch two boats and two life rafts.

According to the 35th Signal Construction Battalion history, 22 members of the unit were killed during Exercise Tiger. In 1946, Staff Sergeant Poore’s mother wrote to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, stating that she was told by another member of her son’s company that Staff Sergeant Poore made it off the ship and was last seen swimming in the water. If accurate, presumably he either drowned or succumbed to hypothermia or wounds.

LST-289 limps back into Darmouth after she was torpedoed during the Exercise Tiger disaster (National Archives via Naval History and Heritage Command)

In total, two L.S.T.s were sunk and another two damaged in the attack, killing over 600 Americans. More men died in the Exercise Tiger disaster than on Utah Beach on D-Day in Normandy. The German fast boats returned to Cherbourg without loss.

The Wilmington Morning News reported that Staff Sergeant Poore’s parents were notified that their son was missing on May 10, 1944, and were informed of his death on February 11, 1945.

In her 1946 letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Nellie Poore wrote with evident agony: “I am so lonely without him & h[e]art broken […] as he was a lovely boy & so nice to me. I just can’t be happy any more.” Jackie and Nellie were destined to outlive all of their children.

In 1948, a board ruled that Staff Sergeant Poore’s body was non-recoverable. He is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in England, at the Exercise Tiger Memorial in Torcross, England, and at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware.


Notes

Siblings

Winford Poore’s birth certificate stated that he was his parents’ fifth child. If accurate, two siblings may have died at a young age, as the 1930 census shows only two older siblings: William Bradford Poore (born October 18, 1915) and Clifford Lee Poore (born January 22, 1917). John and Nellie Poore married in Wilmington on February 17, 1915, so it seems unlikely that there were any children born before William and Clifford. Presumably, there were two children in the nearly five years between Clifford and Winford who were either stillborn or who died at an early age. Neither John nor Nellie’s obituaries mentioned their children.

Military Occupational Specialty

The unit history, 35th Signal Construction Bn, confirms that the unit was organized under Table of Organization and Equipment No. 11-27: Signal Light Construction Company. Each company had 15 staff sergeants. 12 of them were telephone and telegraph construction team chiefs. There was also a mess sergeant, a motor sergeant, and a supply sergeant. Considering Staff Sergeant Poore’s background as a telephone company lineman, it seems probable, if not proven, that he would have been a construction team chief rather than one of the other three positions.

L.S.T.s

Other vessels involved in Exercise Tiger are pictured above in the article, as there do not seem to be readily available high quality images of LST-531, even on such excellent sites as NavSource.

Mother’s Letter

Full text of Nellie V. Poore’s 1946 letter to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission:

I wrote to the War Dept, but they never answered back about what ship my boy went over on & the way he was killed but I heard from some one in his Company he was on a convoy & it was struck & they jumped out in the water & some of the fellows on the other [convoys?] saw my Son last swimming around in the water so they just went on & left them to Drowned. I judge from what I heard and I am so lonely without him & hart [sic] broken & nerves [kicked?] as he was a lovely boy & so nice to me. I just can’t be happy any more.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Leonard H. Cizewski of the Unofficial Archive of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in WWII website for obtaining a history of Staff Sergeant Poore’s unit. Thanks also go out to the Military Research Service for a copy of Table of Organization and Equipment No. 11-27 and to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo of Staff Sergeant Poore.


Bibliography

“3 From State Die in Action; 3 Wounded.” Wilmington Morning News, February 27, 1945. Pg. 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91611061/winford-poore-kia/

“23 Middletown Boy Scouts To Participate in Exercises.” Journal-Every Evening, December 3, 1935. Pg. 22. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91611388/winford-poore-boy-scout/

35th Signal Construction Bn. Publisher unknown, 1946. Courtesy of the Controvich Library.

Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1673/images/31297_212281-00943

Doyle, J. H. “Report of Action on 28 April 1944.” May 3, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/279750212

Giddes, G. C. “Report of Proceedings of H.M.S. ‘Azalea’ during the attack by E-Boats on Convoy T4.” April 28, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/279750363

Harlander, Douglas G. “Loss of Ship – Report on.” May 2, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/279750317

Lawrance, Wendy. Exercise Tiger: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Silent Few. Fonthill Media Limited, 2013.

“Middletown Boy’s Body Recovered in Lake.” Every Evening, April 7, 1931. Pg. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91613258/clifford-poore-death/

“Middletown Man Missing in Action.” Wilmington Morning News, May 23, 1944. Pg. 13. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91610401/winford-poore-mia/

Milford, Phil. “WWII mystery lingers for grieving families.” The News Journal, July 3, 1994. Pg. B7. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/90557631/deakyne-and-poore-exercise-tiger/

Murdock, J. F. “Loss of Ship – Report of.” May 2, 1944. World War II War Diaries, 1941–1945. Record Group 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/image/279750325

“Our Men and Women In Service.” Journal-Every Evening, April 6, 1943. Pg. 20. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/91610722/poore-promoted/

Poore, Nellie V. Winford Joiner Poore Military Service Record, April 15, 1946. 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/20334/rec/9

Silverman, Lowell. “Staff Sergeant Clarence O. Deakyne, Jr. (1917–1944).” Delaware’s World War II Fallen website, January 10, 2022. Updated January 22, 2022. https://delawarewwiifallen.com/2022/01/10/staff-sergeant-clarence-o-deakyne-jr/

“Table of Organization and Equipment No. 11-27: Signal Light Construction Company.” War Department, December 10, 1943. Courtesy of Military Research Service.

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/4531891_00829

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-t0627-00546-00788

Winford Joiner Poore birth certificate. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6FX7-D25

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=32367390&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=2990028

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_13_00006-00446, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_13_00006-00460


Last updated on January 25, 2022

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