On This Day 22-OCT 1944, We Remember a Fallen Hero

Wiley James Winfrey was born in Knob Noster Missouri 1-AUG 1920. He later lived at 218 Pike St, St Charles MO.  His parents were Wiley Victor Winfrey (1892-1961) and mother was Martha Ellen Jenkins Winfrey (1893-1963).  His father was a farmer.  He had two sisters; Thelma and Lois.  He had two brothers; Chester and Kenneth.  Wiley worked at Fraser and Brace, a TNT Plant in Weldon Springs.  He married Marian Dorothy Schmidt on 23-FEB 1941, in Portage Des Sioux, Missouri.  

Wiley enlisted at Jefferson Barracks in St Louis 9-SEP 1942.  He was a PFC in 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division.  Wiley James Winfrey and the 91st Infantry Division arrived in North Africa and trained intensively 18-APR to 10-MAY 1944 at Arzew and Renan, French Morocco.  Leaving by units, the entire Division was in Italy, 19-JUN 1944.  Meanwhile, the 361st RCT landed at Anzio, 1-JUN, and fought near Velletri south of Rome from 3-JUN. The 363rd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) entered combat near Riparbella, 4-JUL. On 12-JUL, the Division fought as a unit near Chianni, Italy, for the high ground dominating the Arno River. By the 19th it had reached the river. The 363rd participated in the capture of Livorno, 19-JUL, and in a quick thrust to the north, two units entered Pisa, 24-JUL. From 24-JUL to 12-SEP 1944, the 91st held their positions along the Arno while they underwent extensive training.  On the 13th, the Division attacked the Gothic Line, took Monticelli on 18-SEP and advanced to the Santerno River through stubborn resistance, 23-SEP. Moving through rocky escarpments and other natural barriers as well as heavy opposition, the 91st occupied Livergnano, 13-OCT. The offensive was canceled and the division assumed defensive positions below Pianoro sending out patrols.  

A second factor slowed the advance and made the life of the individual soldier miserable. Late in September the famous Italian rain, cold, and fog set in. Intermittently during October, fog blanketed the Apennines concealing the enemy, hampering communications, and reducing the effectiveness of the artillery. The almost constant rain drenched the infantryman and turned the roads into rivers of mud and installations into quagmires.

In a gated clearing on a hill on the east side of the SP 503 road heading north out of Ponzalla Italy, there is a large stone monument. There is a semi-circular wall around a bronze sculpture, and two lower walls extending from the side containing the names of 436 soldiers from the 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division, killed while fighting in the area.  On the wall is the name of Wiley James Winfrey.  Wiley James Winfrey was killed in action 22-OCT 1944 in Italy. 

Wiley was brought home and reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on 7-JUL 1949.  

Wilbert Irvin Merx in the same regiment, also from St. Charles was killed in the same area in mid-September. 

Wiley James Winfrey is honored and remembered at the St. Charles County Veterans Museum.  

Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at sccvetsmuseum@gmail.com or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.