Corporal Elwood F. Bourgeois
– Company E, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment –
MIA April 23rd, 1943
Elwood was born in 1915 in Mississippi, where he lived in Waveland, Hancock County together with 11 brothers and 1 sister. During World War 2, 5 of his brothers also served in the US Army. Elwood’s father was a mayor for the town of Waveland for 23 consecutive years.
Before the war, Elwood worked as a grocery clerk and was enjoying a peaceful life, being happily married in 1941 to his beloved Isabelle.
On October 7th, 1941, exactly 2 months before the attack on Pearl Harbour, he enlisted at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, ready to serve his country. After extensive training, he was assigned to Company E of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. He landed in North-Africa as part of Operation Torch in November 1942, and continued to fight in the Tunisian campaign as the weeks went on. With the relief of the British swiftly completed, the 9th Infantry Division was now ready as a unit, and on April 23rd 1943, the attack was launched in the Sedjenane sector.
The 9th Infantry Division commander soon decided that a frontal attack on the Green Hill-Bald Hill position would be too costly. He therefore decided to employ the bulk of the Division in a wide flanking movement through extremely difficult terrain north of the main road, to outflank enemy positions and cut lines of communications north and northeast. Such a maneuver would be hampered by an almost total lack of communications throughout the area to be traversed.
In the campaign which followed, the soldiers of the 9th proved that they could take advantage of the lessons they had learned the hard way. The first proof was a brilliant envelopment of the Green-Bald Hill positions which the British had assaulted unsuccessfully for months. At Djebel Dardys and Djebel Mrata the 60th Infantry Regiment massacred a German counter-attacking force. Djebel Cheniti was a brilliant demonstration of Infantry “leaning up against” artillery preparation.
However, this “brilliant demonstration” was not that brilliant for Corporal Bourgeois. On the 23rd of April, 1943, Sergeant John A. Derby and Sergeant Leon R. Grahm both served alongside Elwood Bourgeois in Company E. Their were with him the last moments he was known to be alive.
“We were advancing down one hill, the Djebel Mrata, with our objective to take the next hill, Djebel Dardys. Corporal Bourgeois was directing his squad when a sniper bullet hit him in the stomach, penetrating through his body and coming out of his back. Private Sidney E. Brown, ASN 14030705, dressed his wound and left the Corporal lying there. The rest of the squad continued the attack. Later that evening, when the men returned to the place Corporal Bourgeois was left earlier, he was gone. The men assumed he was evacuated by the battalion medics. It turned out that Private Brown and Joseph Rivera, ASN 32001179, carried him to the medics, but I don’t know where“.
The company “sick report” stated that Corporal Bourgeois was evacuated to the 77th Evacuation Hospital, but he never arrived there.
Elwood was the first Waveland Resident to go missing in action, and in 1972 a park was dedicated in his honour, carrying the name “Elwood Bourgeois Park”, which is still there today.
Corporal Elwood Bourgeois name can now be found on the Wall of Missing at the North-African Cemetery at Carthage.
His actions will never be forgotten.
We are still researching Corporal Elwood F. Bourgeois, and will add more information to this page as we find out more. Please contact us through our Missing In Action Project Page if you can provide additional information or pictures.