Earl Jessee Gilley was born on 20 June 1921 at Clinchport, Scott County, Virginia, the son of Talmadge H. Gilley and Callie Powell Kindle. His brother, Pfc. Carl B. Gilley served in France.
Died 6 November 1944 in Germany

Technician Fifth Class

The Big Stone Gap and Appalachia, Virginia, April 19, 1945
Mrs. T.H. Gilley, route 1, Big Stone Gap, has received a letter from one of the buddies of Tech. Sgt. Earl J. Gilley, who was killed in action in Germany on November 6, 1944. Sgt. Gilley was inducted on November 2, 1942 and went overseas in February 21, 1943, winning a citation and promotion in the North African campaign. He participated in the invasion of Sicily where he was again promoted. He was then sent to England where he participated in the Invasion of France on June 6th and won a citation and medal and was promoted to technical sergeant. He took part in Patton’s Seventh Army drive through France, Luxembourg, Belgium and into Germany where he was killed. He attended high school in Clinchport and was employed by the Southern Railway at time of his induction. He was 23 years old.
Following is the letter written by one of Sgt. Gilley’s buddies following his death:
February 13, 1945
My dear Mrs. Gilley:
Suppose you will be quite surprised to hear from me. Though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting you, I feel like I have know you all along for I had heard E.J. as he was known by me and the rest of his buddies in our company speak of you and his family so often. Even though we are separated by many thousands of miles over land and sea there is never a moment spent that our thoughts and prayers aren’t with our loved ones. Our fathers and mothers who gave us birth, our brothers and sisters and our friends all united in this great task that will surely bring us victory and peace on earth again. Though difficult and heartbreaking our task may seem at times ‘tis nothing in comparing to the heartache, and loss you have suffered and our company has received. The wound in our hearts caused by the passing of your beloved son and our buddy won’t heal easily. Mrs. Gilley, I have taken the liberty and privilege in writing to you because I feel I was one of Earl’s buddies and soldier companions, having known him for almost two years. In those two years Mrs. Gilley, I had learned to admire and respect your son as did the rest of his buddies in our company. Admire him for his cheerful ways and his ever smile. Always willing to do his share and even more. Even though when things were tough and at their worst, E.J. was always there to lend more than a helping hand. As he did that that fateful night November six, and as a fellow soldier. You see, he was respected by us as a man Mrs. Gilley, living as close as we soldiers do we get to know one another so well. Those were just a few of Earl’s many good traits you knew so well. I remember shortly after invasion Earl was promoted by our commanding officer for his meritorious service. I was so proud and so were the rest of the squad for there wasn’t a more deserving man in the company. We all presented him with some candy we had saved from our rations of which he was always so fond. He never did seem to get his fill. “Remember?” Though difficult as it is and the restrictions I’m sure you understand that exist. I’m not at liverty to disclose the exact location we were engaged in combat at other than somewhere in Germany. I was with him Mrs. Gilley. I was with your son that night and so were the rest of his buddies. He accepted his job with a smile as a brave and true soldier for he knew, we all knew that everything that’s right, that’s good, that’s true, must be paid for in some price. That price was the highest a soldier could pay, His all, his very all, his life. Mrs. Gilley, you lost a son, the sweetest, the cheeriest, the most beloved thing by the grace of God a mother could have. I lost a buddy, a comrade and a true friend. A finer, truer fellow never wore the uniform of our great United States army. A credit to his family and to his country he loved so dearly. As we say, “truly a square shooter.” The highest praise one soldier can bestow on his fellow soldier. Thank God he felt no pain. It happened so fast, fragments from an enemy shell. He never knew. I realize with all my heart Mrs. Gilley that the loss we suffered was so small, so pitifully small, to your loss. The loss which must seem at times unbearable to you. As we carry the struggle nearer and nearer into the heart of the enemy. I pray to God that our boys who have fallen and who will fall shall not have fallen in vain. That we may see the light, the light of our Almighty God to show us the way that men may work and live in harmony. Shall rise out of the misery and sorrow and heart breaks of this conflict to a world of peace. Peace on heart good will toward men. Oh! Make us worthy of this great sacrifice. Mrs. Gilley I hope with all my heart that what little I have written and have tried to write might ease the pain of your terrible loss. If it has for just one moment, then I’m sure E.J. would be proud.
Sincerely yours,

The Kingsport Times-News, 9 November 1947
Big Stone Gap vets body to be returned.
Big Stone Gap, Va. – The body of Technician Fifth Gade Earl J. Gilley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Talmage H. Gilley of Big Stone Gap who died in the European Theater of Operations during World War II, is scheduled to arrive here Monday and will be taken to the Gilley home.
Burial will be in Glencoe Cemetery, with members of Mouser-Willis Post No. 52, American Legion, in charge of military ceremonies at the grave.
Corporal Gilley is survived by his parents; three brothers, Doyle and Frank, Big Stone Gap and Carl B. Gilley, Gate City; and two sisters, Miss Lola Mae Gilley, Big Stone Gap, and Mrs. Lillian Bowen, Richmond, Va.

  • Rank: Technician Fifth Class
  • Date of birth:
  • 20 June 1921
  • Date of death: 6 November 1944
  • County: Hawkins
  • Hometown: Big Stone Gap
  • Service Branch: Army/Army Air Forces
  • Division/Assignment: Seventh Army
  • Theater: Europe
  • Conflict: World War II
  • Awards: Purple Heart
  • Burial/Memorial Location: Glencoe Cemetery
  • Location In Memorial: Pillar XII, Top Panel
  • Sponsored by: James Thomson

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