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Remembering Henderson County's D-Day casualties

Army Private 1st Class Ray Wilford McGraw died on D-Day 75 years ago. Army Private 1st Class Ray Wilford McGraw died on D-Day 75 years ago.

Editor’s note: June 6 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal landing at Normandy, France, that turned the tide in World War II. The largest single amphibious assault in military history, Operation Overlord was made up of 31,000 members of the U.S. armed forces along with British and Canadian troops. Of the estimated 9,400 casualties suffered by Allied forces on the first day, some 5,400 were members of the U.S. forces. The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Monday thanked those who served and asked citizens to honor them with a moment of silence at noon Wednesday, June 6. “The dedication and sacrifice displayed by the allied forces on D-Day changed the course of the war, beginning the liberation of France, which ultimately contributed to the destruction of the Nazi regime on May 7, 1945,” said a resolution the board adopted.

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Victor McGraw remembers when an Army buddy of his older brother Ray came to the family’s home in Tracy Grove Road and told his dad how Ray died.
“He made it to the beach,” Victor said. “He was in a foxhole and got his throat cut by shrapnel and bled to death before he could get help.”
RayMcGrawArmy Private 1st Class Ray Wilford McGraw died on D-Day 75 years ago.Victor McGraw, who now lives in Buncombe County, was 8 years old when his brother died. The second to youngest of the 11 children of Manning Geter McGraw and Cora Cornwell McGraw, Victor McGraw, 83, recalls one vivid memory of his brother on their Tracy Grove farm.
“I can remember seeing him in uniform,” he said. “Somebody pulled up a boar hog and the hog bit a chunk out of his hand.” He recalls Ray as a handsome six-foot-two man with curly blond hair. “I’ve got a picture of the (Army) company he was in Georgia.”
Military ran in the family. Manning Geter McGraw, the father, drove an ambulance for the Army in World War I. Another of Victor’s older brothers, Joe, served in the Navy, Army and Air Force in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Victor served in the Navy from 1953 to 1956. Another brother, Loren, died in a car crash on Asheville Highway where Bay Breeze.
“We lost him (Ray) in 1944, lost a mom in ’45 (at age 45) and lost a brother in ’48,” he said. “I’m the last one left.”
Born in 1923, Ray Wilford McGraw was a private first class in the Army’s 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He died on D-Day at Utah Beach. His gravestone is at Tracy Grove Baptist Church Cemetery. He was working on a farm at the time of his enlistment in 1941.

Other deaths related to D-Day:

• Bradley, Lee Roumles – (1915-1944) Army, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, corporal. He was killed in action July 12, 1944, in Operation Cobra of the Normandy Campaign, seven weeks after the D-Day invasion. His gravestone is at the Bearwallow Baptist Church Cemetery in Gerton. He was born in Rutherford County, the son of Eli Grady Bradley and Minnie Johnson Bradley. He lived in Henderson County on all censuses. He was working at Sayles Bleacheries in Biltmore when he enlisted in 1941 from Henderson County.

• Burgess, Jack Lee – (1925-1944) Army, 10th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, private first class. He died of wounds Aug. 10, 1944. His regiment took part in the D-Day Invasion at Utah Beach. He was wounded either in the invasion or during the Normandy Campaign immediately following the invasion. His gravestone is at Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville. He was born in Buncombe County but was a resident of Henderson County from the early 1920s until about 1940. He lived in Buncombe County at the time he enlisted. He was the son of Harley Lee Burgess and Alma M. Moore Burgess. His father was living in Henderson County (mother was deceased) at the time of his death.

• Henderson, Glenn Witherspoon – (1918-1944) Army, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, sergeant. He was wounded in battle and died of wounds July 7, 1944. The date he was wounded is not known, but his unit landed at Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day. The division took Fort du Roule after a heavy engagement and entered Cherbourg, France. It held a defensive line at the Ollonde River until July 2 and then entered La Haye du Puits the day after his death. His gravestone is at Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville. He was born in Kentucky, the son of Fred Henderson and Nellie Bright Henderson. The family moved to the Balfour community of Henderson County in the 1920s. In 1940 he was married to Martha Henderson and living in Gaston County, where he worked at a textile mill. At the time of his enlistment he was living in Gaston County. His parents were living in Henderson County at the time of his death.

• King, Judge Dick – (1922-1944) Army, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. He was killed in action July 10, 1944, in combat near Periers, France. His unit spearheaded the assault landing on Utah Beach at D-Day. His gravestone is at Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was born in Henderson County, the son of William K. King and Ann Esther Garren King. He was a farmer at the time of his enlistment.

• Rhymer, Harry Cray – (1916-1944) Army, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, private first class. He was killed in action July 31, 1944, during Operation Cobra, an effort to break out of the Normandy hedgerows in France. He had taken part in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. His gravesite is at Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was born in Henderson County, the son of Clarence Nelson Rhymer and Nellie Gray King Rhymer. He listed his occupation as architect when he joined the Army in January 1942.

• Rice, Clayton Dock – (1916-1944) Army, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, private. He was killed in action July 12, 1944, during combat following the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach. His unit crossed the Vire River on July 7 and was moving toward St. Lo. His gravesite is at Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was born in Buncombe County, the son of James William Rice and Vista Viola Edmunds Rice. He lived in Buncombe County until moving to the Mills River community in Henderson County after 1930 and before 1940. He was living in Henderson County at the time of his enlistment in 1941.

• Sherman, Horace – (1909-1944) Army, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division, private first class. He was killed in action Aug. 23, 1944, in Melun, France, during combat following the D-Day invasion. His gravesite is at Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville. He was born in Henderson County, the son of James Belvin Sherman and Martha Mae Hyder Sherman. He was working as a salesman in Hendersonville at the time of his enlistment in 1942.

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Jennie Jones Giles, a Henderson County native, former teacher and reporter, is a local history researcher. She has documented 91 WWII deaths of men from Henderson County. They are listed on her county history website, hendersonheritage.com.