MERLIN JAMES WILCOX
Branch: U. S. Army
Rank: Private First Class
Status: Died of wounds
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Shevlin
Merlin J Wilcox
Merlin James Wilcox was born March 3, 1913 in Crary, North Dakota to parents Leslie and Emma Hausman Wilcox. Emma had been born to German immigrant parents and raised in Dakota Territory. Emma and Leslie married in 1909 and moved to the Shevlin area in late 1913 where Emma’s widowed father, William Housman, had already moved. Emma and Leslie had five children: Ida, Dora, Leland and Merlin. Leslie Wilcox died in 1916 and Emma was left to raise the children alone. Her father moved in with the family to help out.
Merlin attended school through the 6th grade, then went to work as a farm laborer. He worked as a truck driver in Hillsboro, North Dakota for several years, then came back to Shevlin to work in G. R. Martin’s lumber mill. When he registered for the draft in Shevlin on October 16, 1940, he was 5’7” tall, 145 pounds, with gray eyes and brown hair.
Merlin enlisted in the Army on December 5, 1942 and left in the middle of December with two other inductees for basic training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
Merlin married Elenora Lena Hinrichs, daughter of Martin and Lena Hinrichs, who grew up on a farm five miles northeast of Shevlin. In March of 1943 the couple had a son they named Rodney Dean. Elenora and Rodney resided on Red Lake Avenue in Shevlin.
From Camp Claiborne Merlin was sent to Camp Howze, Texas, one of the largest infantry replacement training centers during World War II. He was sent to be prepared for the European campaign where his new regiment, the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, was already training on the cold moors of Cornwall in England. He joined up with the 175th around May of 1944, and on June 4, 1944, the 175th boarded the LSTs which would take them to the beaches of Normandy.
Merlin and his regiment landed on the still-unsecured Omaha Beach on the morning of June 7th, 1944 with orders to seize the village of Isigny. They crossed the Vire River and fought on through the hedge rows to St. Lo, facing stiff German resistance. The 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry pushed the American lines to within three miles of St Lo, creating a salient into the German lines. The unit defended the high ground, known as Hill 108 but nicknamed “Purple Heart Hill” as they were surrounded on three sides.
The 175th fought in Normandy until the end of August when it was ordered to help capture the village of Brest in Brittany. Pfc Merlin Wilcox would not be able to help, however. He had been wounded in action in the intense fighting and died from gangrene on August 8th, 1944.
Merlin’s widowed mother Emma was told of his death by the War Department and assured that he was interred “side by side with comrades who also gave their lives for their country” in the St. James U.S. Military Cemetery in Brittany.
Memorial services were held for Merlin in Shevlin, with the Rev. J. R. Jerstad officiating and the Irvin Blix American Legion Post participating. He was 31 years old.