|Wilmington, Delaware||Shipping clerk for the General Chemical Company|
|U.S. Army||Enlisted 32167420 / Officer O-1305141|
|Mediterranean||Company “A,” 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division|
|Military Occupational Specialty||Campaigns/Battles|
|1542 (infantry unit commander/platoon leader)||Naples-Foggia, Anzio, and Rome-Arno campaigns|
Author’s note: This article incorporates some text from my previous article about another member of Weldon’s battalion, Captain William W. Galt.
Early Life & Family
William Barr Weldon, Jr. was born at 1602 West 16th Street in Wilmington, Delaware, on the morning of November 23, 1916. He was the third child of William Barr Weldon (who worked for Joseph Bancroft and Sons, 1882–1942) and Sarah A. Weldon (née Price, 1884–1943). He had an older sister, Mildred Ethel Weldon (later Guessford and eventually Knappenberger, 1908–1986). His older brother, Raymond, was born prematurely on February 5, 1915, and died six hours later on February 6.
Weldon was recorded on the 1920 and 1930 censuses living at 1306 Lancaster Avenue in Wilmington. He graduated from Wilmington High School. Journal-Every Evening reported that he “received a scholarship in music to the Wilmington Music School.” Weldon was recorded on the next census on April 24, 1940, living with his parents and maternal grandmother on Concord Pike north of downtown Wilmington (in the Blue Ball area according to newspaper articles). His occupation was listed as shipping clerk for a chemical company.
When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, Weldon was living on Rural Delivery Route No. 2 near Wilmington and working for the General Chemical Company in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. The registrar described him as standing about six feet tall and weighing 157 lbs., with brown hair and eyes.
Military Training & Marriage
Weldon was drafted before the American entry into World War II. He was inducted into the U.S. Army at Trenton, New Jersey, on August 8, 1941. His wife’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission indicated that Weldon was briefly stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then attended basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina.
When his father died on February 16, 1942, Weldon was stationed at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Weldon’s wife stated that Weldon was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, and somewhere in Oregon prior to attending Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.). His wife wrote that Weldon attended O.C.S. at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on December 22, 1942. She wrote that he was subsequently stationed at an unidentified camp in Florida.
Weldon married fellow Delawarean Mildred U. Mink (1920–2001) on March 6, 1943, at Camp Livingston in Alexandria, Louisiana. Journal-Every Evening reported that the wedding was “in the post chapel of the 152nd Infantry. Chaplain Ralph S. Hamilton officiated. Mrs. William McNamara of Boston and Lieut. James M. Cruze of Texas were the attendants. A reception followed at the Officers’ Club.” Presumably, Lieutenant Weldon was a member of the 38th Infantry Division at that time. If he was, he must have been transferred shortly thereafter, since Weldon ended up serving in the Mediterranean Theater with the 34th Infantry Division, while the 152nd Infantry and the rest of the 38th Infantry Division shipped out for the Pacific in early 1944.
Weldon’s wife wrote that Lieutenant Weldon was stationed at Fort Hamilton, New York, and then Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, before going overseas to the Mediterranean around April 26, 1943. He was stationed in North Africa when his mother died on June 9, 1943.
Combat in Italy
Lieutenant Weldon’s wife stated that he first went into combat in Italy during the fall of 1943. Weldon may have already been with Company “C,” 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, his unit by January 1, 1944. Weldon was a platoon leader.
The 168th Infantry, was an Iowa National Guard federalized in 1941. The regiment had participated in the invasion of French North Africa in late 1942 and the Tunisian campaign in early 1943, where 2nd and 3rd Battalions had been encircled and virtually annihilated at the battle of Battle of Sidi Bou Zid. The unit did not participate in the invasion of Sicily, but arrived in mainland Italy on September 21, 1943, about two weeks after the landings at Salerno. As Allied forces fought their way north, the regiment was involved in grueling combat along the Volturno and Rapido Rivers.
New Year’s Day 1944 saw the 168th Infantry off the line prior to a planned offensive by II Corps along the Gustav Line near Cassino. As a prelude to this offensive, 3rd Battalion of the 168th Infantry entered the Rio di San Vittore gorge on the night of January 4, 1944. Weldon’s Company “C” was attached to 3rd Battalion during the operation, which began poorly when Company “I” was ambushed in the gorge and many of its men captured. Company “K” was similarly pinned down when it moved to assist. The following afternoon, Companies “C” and “L” “attacked successfully on the right flank to the vicinity of Hill 425. Possession of this commanding ground” forced the Germans to withdraw from the gorge.
On the morning of January 6, 1944, 1st and 3rd Battalions launched unsuccessful attacks on Hills 396 and 487. 2nd Battalion, committed to the attack that night, broke through the exhausted German defenders.
The regimental history for January 1944 stated:
In order to secure the 1st Battalion’s position, it was found necessary on the morning of January 7 to clear Hill 820 to their right rear. Company “C”, in a remarkable action, captured this hill, killing 20 of the enemy, capturing 11, and destroying 3 machine guns, 2 mortars, and 2 bunkers.
During the next two days, Lieutenant Weldon’s Company “C” remained on Hill 820 while the rest of 1st Battalion captured several more hills in the area. On January 9, 1944, Company “C” was ordered to capture Hill 552 in preparation for an assault on Cervaro scheduled for the following day. A patrol had erroneously reported the hill to be unoccupied. The regimental history stated that Company “C” “was obliged to take Hill 552 by a bayonet assault shortly before dawn.”
Around 0200 hours on January 10, 1944, Lieutenant Weldon suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest, presumably during reconnaissance for the assault on Hill 552. Journal-Every Evening later reported on the incident in detail:
The wound he received Jan. 10 was suffered while on a reconnaissance patrol near the German lines in Italy. He was shot high in the lung by a small calibre rifle or pistol.
Buddies on patrol with the wounded officer, who was in a helpless condition, wrapped him in as much shelter as possible by the roadside while they hiked off to get medical aid.
Meanwhile Lieutenant Weldon, as he described the day in a letter to his wife, heard voices and believing them to be members of his own outfit and medical corps men looking for him, called out, “Here I am!” But two surprised German soldiers walked over and captured him, carrying him back to their own lines where he received first aid. Then at dawn the counter-attack — for which Lieutenant Weldon had been gathering data—was launched and about 8 a. m. American buddies liberated him. He was warmly wrapped in German blankets.
Weldon was evacuated for medical treatment, eventually moving to a hospital in North Africa where he slowly recovered from his wound. On May 16 or 22, 1944, Weldon joined Company “A,” 168th Infantry, 34th Infantry Regiment, now assigned to VI Corps at the Anzio beachhead. The Allies had launched an amphibious operation at Anzio four months earlier in order to flank the German Gustav Line near Cassino.
Though the Anzio offensive had quickly bogged down into what resembled World War I-era static warfare, the situation was about to change. On May 11, 1944, the Allies launched Operation Diadem, finally cracking the Gustav Line. Nearly two weeks later, on May 23, 1944, VI Corps began their own offensive, finally breaking out of the Anzio beachhead and threatening to encircle German forces retreating from the Gustav Line. Then, in the most controversial decision of his career, the commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark (1896–1984), shifted the bulk of his forces northwest to capture Rome. As a result, VI Corps faced strong German positions in what was known as the Caesar Line.
On May 26, 1944, the 168th Infantry was ordered to capture Lanuvio and the nearby heights. That day, Company “A” was initially in reserve but later captured several lightly defended hills. The unit, however, had not yet reached the enemy’s main line of resistance.
On May 28, 1944, 1st Battalion began a series of unsuccessful assaults against Villa Crocetta, (located at approximately 41° 39’ 45” North, 12° 42’ 49” East along the present day Via di Colle Crocette, southeast of Lanuvio). The Fifth Army History Part V: The Drive to Rome stated that:
On the right the 168th Infantry faced two particularly nasty strongpoints: Gennaro Hill and Villa Crocetta on the crest of Hill 209. As our troops approached either point, they had to cross open wheat fields on the neighboring hills, then make their way across the draws formed by the tributaries of Presciano Creek, and finally attack up steep slopes to their objectives. The German line was marked by a trench five to six feet deep which ran across Hill 209 and on past the southern slopes of Gennaro Hill. Based on this trench and its accompanying dugouts, machine guns were emplaced to command the draws, and mortars were located in close support. At Hill 209 the enemy also had wire nooses, trip wire, and single-strand barbed wire to break the impact of our charge.
The men of 1st Battalion left their assembly area southeast of Villa Crocetta at 0345 hours. American artillery bombarded German positions for 15 minutes before the battalion began its attack at 0530. The unit history for the month stated:
The battalion attacked with Company “A” and Company “B” in the assault and Company “C” in reserve. Artillery shorts inflicted two casualties on Company “A” as it crossed the line of departure and twelve casualties on Company “C” while it was still in a reserve position behind the line of departure. In the vicinity of hill 203 at 932403, the assault companies received machine gun, sniper, and mortar fire. Despite this opposition, the 3rd platoon of Company “A” reached a point just short of the ditch at 930404, and the 1st platoon of Company “A” and machine gun section from Company “B” reached the forward slope of hill 209. The force on the hill received only slight resistance from twelve to fifteen Germans, which inflicted most of the sixteen casualties which Company “A” suffered during the day, but friendly artillery fire drove them off the hill.
At 1800 hours that evening, Companies “A” and “C” launched another attack against the now reinforced German line. Company “A” did not make it far before it “was pinned down by mortar and machine gun fire on the forward slope of hill 203 and was unable to advance.” Company “C” made better progress, only to again be driven back again by friendly artillery.
During one of the assaults on Villa Crocetta on May 28, 1944, Lieutenant Weldon was shot in the chest and right shoulder and killed. It is uncertain whether his death occurred during the first or second assault that day, though the regimental history suggests that he was most likely killed during the first.
Additional attacks on Villa Crocetta during subsequent days also failed. The casualties included Captain William W. Galt (1919–1944), who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor following his death during the fourth assault on May 29, 1944. Eventually, the Germans were forced to retreat the neighboring 36th Infantry Division discovered and exploited a gap in the Caesar Line. Rome fell one week after Weldon’s death, a victory soon overshadowed by the successful landings in Normandy.
Journal-Every Evening reported that Weldon’s wife was notified of his death on July 6, 1944.
On February 24, 1946, Weldon’s widow remarried in Rockland, Delaware, to Robert Bradford Morris (1909–1982), with whom she raised two children.
Lieutenant Weldon was initially buried at the American Military Cemetery Nettuno, Italy, on June 3, 1944. After the war, Weldon’s sister requested that his body be repatriated to the United States. He was buried next to his parents and older brother at Silverbook Cemetery in Wilmington. Weldon is honored at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware.
Some later records have the elder William Barr Weldon as born on September 11, 1881, but his birth certificate establishes that he was born on that date in 1882. His occupation was variously recorded as laborer or carpenter (and ship builder on the 1930 census), but his obituary stated that he had been working for Bancroft for approximately 25 years prior to his death in 1942.
The exact date that Lieutenant Weldon transferred from Company “C” to Company “A”
is unclear. The Company “C” morning report on May 22, 1944, suggests that Lieutenant Weldon rejoined the unit from the hospital and transferred that same day since no backdating is indicated. However, the Company “A” morning report from that same day has a backdated entry indicating that Weldon transferred on May 16, 1944.
Special thanks to The News Journal for permission to reprint photos originally published in a predecessor, Journal-Every Evening.
Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61368/images/TH-267-12666-61346-67
“Delaware Officer, Wounded, Captured, Freed, Killed in Italy.” Journal-Every Evening, July 7, 1944. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/97632376/weldon-and-klonowski/
Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531894_00867
Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295771-00581
“The History of the 168th Infantry Regiment from May 1, 1944 to May 31, 1944.” World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://32ndstationhospital.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/168th-infantry-regiment-history-may-1944.pdf
“Mildred M. Morris.” The News Journal, November 10, 2001. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109301894/weldon-widow-obit/
Morning Reports for Company “A,” 168th Infantry Regiment. May 1944 – June 1944. U.S. Army Morning Reports, c. 1912–1946. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.
Morning Reports for Company “C,” 168th Infantry Regiment. January 1944, May 1944. U.S. Army Morning Reports, c. 1912–1946. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.
Morris, Mildred Weldon. William Barr Weldon, Jr. Individual Military Service Record, April 20, 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/21309/rec/1
“Narrative of the Action of the 168th Infantry Regiment January 1, 1944 to January 27, 1944.” World War II Operations Reports, 1940–1948. Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1905–1981. National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Raymond Weldon death certificate. Delaware Death Records. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6X8Q-HMN
“Sarah A. Weldon.” Journal-Every Evening, June 9, 1943. Pg. 23. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109300681/sarah-weldon-obituary/
Silverman, Lowell. “Captain William W. Galt (1919–1944).” Delaware’s World War II Fallen website, January 30, 2022. Updated September 10, 2022. https://delawarewwiifallen.com/2022/01/30/captain-william-w-galt/
Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00545-00271
William B. Weldon, Jr. Individual Deceased Personnel File. Courtesy of U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
“William Bar Weldon.” Journal-Every Evening, February 18, 1942. Pg. 22. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109298838/william-barr-weldon-sr-obit/
Wm Barr Weldon Jr birth certificate. Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth certificates. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XCMQ-Y21
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=32167420&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=2814010
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_04_00009-00760
Last updated on January 9, 2023
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