PFC Melvyn C. Woolover
– 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division –
Melvyn Cornell Woolover was born on October 1st, 1913, in Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey. The original birth certificate mentions his name as William, but a request for correction was filed on October 3rd, 1934 to have the name changed to Melvyn. Also, the name Woolover and Woolever seems to have been used both.
Before the war he worked as a manufacturer of various finished lumber products.
Melvyn enlisted in Hudson, Newark, New Jersey on January 16th, 1941. When he went overseas to fight the war,he left behind his pregnant wife.
Private First Class Woolover took part in the invasion of North-Africa, and fought his way to Tunisia. Here he took part in the Battle at El Guettar.
At El Guettar, the 9th Infantry Division fought for the first time under the command of Major-General Manton S. Eddy. The enemy was well entrenched and possessed air superiority. The mass of steep, rugged hills and eroded gorges provided a natural fortress. The 9th and 1st Divisions were to seize opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass, enabling the 1st Armored Division to roll through without being fired on from its flanks. At “H-Hour”, 6 A.M. on March 28th 1943, the 47th Infantry Regiment was in position to take that day’s objective, being Hill 369. Although the objective area was reached quickly, darkness and poor maps had led the 47th Infantry Regiment astray to El Hamra Ridge. 1st Battalion of the 39th Infantry Regiment was committed to help out but became lost in the maze of hills. With Hill 369 still in German hands, the attack bogged down. Off on the edge of the Ninth’s zone, another Hill dominated the area, Hill 772. It had been occupied by American troops but these had been moved off just before the El Guettar offensive began. The German troops then re-occupied the hill, but none of the other commanders thought to tell this important information to any members of the Ninth Division! So, General Eddy soon realized that Hill 369 could only be taken by gaining Hill 772 again. For five days the battle raged in an attempt to break through the El Guettar Pass. Each attack was a coordinated push of “Benson’s Force”, an Armored Task Force and the 3rd Battalion of the 39th Infantry Regiment.
It was during these series of attacks that PFC Woolover went Missing In Action on March 29th, 1943. He got hit and later died of his wounds, his body nowhere to be found.
On April 6th, 1943 it became apparent that the enemy was going to withdraw and head north for a last stand in Tunisia. The 9th Infantry Division attacked to seize Hills 772 and 369. “Benson’s Force” moved through the Pass and met the Eighth Army coming up from the South. Finally, the El Guettar Pass was taken, but it came at a high price.
Melvyn was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.
Today, Melvyn’s name can be found on the Wall of Missing at the Tunisian Cemetery at Carthage.
We will never forget his service and sacrifice in order for us to live in freedom today.
Special thank you to Angelo’s Angels Researcher Karan Ciotti and Melvyn’s Nephew and godson Stewart J.A. Woolever Jr. and Frederic Blais.