World War II hero remembered
HUTTONSVILLE — On Memorial Day weekend, a native of Huttonsville is being remembered for his heroism and remarkable military accomplishments for the United States during World War II.
Boggs Collins, a Huttonsville native, served in the United States Army during WWII, from 1942 until 1945, as part of the 1st platoon of “C” Company of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion.
The highest rank Collins earned was staff sergeant, said Jake Roberts of Elkins, a longtime friend of Collins who described the veteran as a “giant among men.”
“He was just an amazing combat soldier,” Roberts said. “The guy just did things that were absolutely unbelievable.”
According to information provided by www.509thgeronimo.org, Collins achieved a number of accolades, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Parachutist Badge with two combat jump stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the EAME Campaign Medal with arrowhead and four campaign stars, the WWII Victory Medal, the Distinguished (Presidential) Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters, and five overseas service bars.
Collins was recommended for Silver Star Medal by “C” Company Commander Captain Jess Walls for action in December 1944, the website states.
“On 29 Dec. 1944, at about 0900 hours, during an assault on prepared enemy positions south of Sadzot, Belgium, heavy machine gun and rifle fire was received on the company’s right flank. Sgt. Collins, leading the squad on that flank, turned his squad over to his assistant and doubling back, came upon the flank of the enemy machine gun position and with his Thompson Sub-Machine Gun completely wiped out the enemy occupying the positions. Sgt. Collins then rejoined his squad and led them through the rest of the battle. Sgt. Collins is credited with killing (22) enemies during the actions the company participated in on the 28 and 29 Dec. 1944. His conduct in action truly inspired his men to their best efforts,” according to the website.
Roberts noted Collins was the type of soldier who was a tremendous leader and who knew no fear.
“The 509th was attached to the 101st at Bastogne when the Germans had them surrounded,” he said. “Boggs and two young privates worked their way — in Belgium with snow up to your knees — to a farm house the Germans had been using to call down artillery fire on the 101st. So, Boggs decided to put a stop to this,” Roberts said. “He took two privates with him and they worked their way up to the top of the hillside overlooking the town of Bastogne and the 101st. … The man only knew one way to lead and that was from the front. He told the boys to go down the side and get on the flanks and told them he was going in the front.”
Roberts said Collins also received an award from Italy for action in Sicily.
“Boggs and seven guys went up to where the Germans had a castle – Boggs being Boggs, (he) walked up and took his Thompson (Sub-Machine Gun), which had a steel buttplate, and tucked it into his shoulder and started banging on the door,” Roberts said. “A Nazi private came down and Boggs asked them to surrender. The private ran back upstairs and then a Nazi major came down and said ‘I’m not surrendering to an enlisted man’ and asked for an officer. Well, they didn’t have one, so Boggs said, ‘You may not surrender to an enlisted man but you’ll surrender to this (his gun — the guy got on board then.”
Roberts went on to say 67 German soldiers surrendered in this incident.
Roberts said Collins made 10 jumps, including as part of D-Day and Operation Market Garden in addition to jumps into North Africa and Sicily.
“He had (four) combat jumps,” Roberts said. “He jumped into North Africa, Sicily, when they tried the airborne operation in Market Garden — he jumped there — and D-Day.
“They dropped Bogg’s battalion about 15 miles behind the German lines and they were supposed to take and hold a vital crossroads to allow the landing at D-Day at Normandy to advance into the French mainland,” Roberts continued. “Well, there was a tavern that sat on the corner at this crossroads, and Boggs went ahead and told his platoon to set up the machine guns and to not let anyone in or out because he was going into the tavern to arrest the Germans. … He went in and rattled some (Germans). … He marched them out and sent them back as (prisoners of war).”
Collins was wounded in action three times — in Italy, France and Belgium. Military campaigns Collins was involved in included action in Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, Ardennes-Alsace and Rhineland, according to the website.
After being honorably discharged in 1945, Collins returned home to Huttonsville, where he worked as a farmer, Roberts said. Collins died in 2004 at the age of 87. The WWII Memorial Section in the Russell Memorial Library in Mill Creek is dedicated in the name of Collins.
Each year on Memorial Day, men and women who died while serving the United States military are honored. A celebration will be held at 2 p.m. on Memorial Day at the All Veterans Monument in Elkins.
Memorial Day was first known as “Decoration Day,” and originated in the years following the Civil War before becoming an official federal holiday in 1971.