PVT Ova Wendell Ratliff
Company C, 110th Infantry, 28th Division
KIA 14 November, 44 on Oschenkopf Hill in the Huertgen Forest
southwest of the small village of Simonskall, Germany
-- Thomas G. Ratliff --
On March 30th,1944, when Ova Wendell Ratliff was thirty-four, he was drafted to serve in World War II. He was the husband of Hazel, age twenty-nine,
the father of Thomas G., age five, Harriett E., age three, and Ova W. II (Johnny), age six weeks. He was inducted into the Army at Ft. Thomas, Kentucky,
and six days later he was on a troop train heading south to Texas. He was on his way to Camp Fannin, a hot and dusty basic training camp for infantry
replacement soldiers. The camp was located in the northeast corner of Texas, just ten miles east of Tyler. My father spent his last summer on this earth
training there with Company D, 65th Battalion, 14th Regiment, and completed his basic training there on August 8th, 1944.
After ten glorious days at home, on a "delay in routing" furlough, Dad was back on a troop train heading for Ft. George Meade, Maryland. From there he was
sent to a Port of Embarkation at Aberdeen, Maryland. In a letter dated Sunday, September 24, 1944, my father wrote these words, "My Dearest Hazel & Children,
I am now aboard ship in the harbor. We came aboard not long ago. The officer said we might write so it could be mailed before we pull out. So, as my mind is
very much on you all, My loved ones, I will write you a few lines. I can fully understand and appreciate the meaning of the words, "These are the times that
try men's souls." As I stepped on the gang plank a little while ago I looked around and it seemed I could see each one of you and I breathed a prayer for you.
May God Bless You. Love, Ova" .... One can only imagine the heartrending emotion he must have felt when he wrote those agonizing words.
That troop ship sailed to southern England, where Dad was assigned to an Infantry Replacement Pool. After several days in England, he was moved to France, then
to Belgium, and finally to Germany. My father, having not yet been in battle, arrived in the Huertgen Forest on the afternoon of November 7th, 1944, and was
assigned to Company C, 110th Infantry, 28th Division as a replacement soldier. On that day Dad wrote two letters home, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.
In one of those letters he told mother, "This kind of life is rough but it may be rougher. We can't move much more for the front lines are Close Now. I can hear
the guns Now". That was the last we ever heard from him.
On the morning of November 14, 1944, just two months before my sixth birthday, my father Private Ova W. Ratliff, was killed in action on a cold, muddy, battle
scarred hillside in the Huertgen Forest of Germany, a few hundred yards southwest of the small village of Simonskall. He was officially listed as "missing in
action", and one year and one day later there was a finding of death. Much later, his remains were discovered on Oschenkopf Hill in that repulsive forest. On
May 28, 1949, Ova Wendell Ratliff was finally home. He was buried in his "native soil", in the Flatwoods Cemetery, at his beloved Woodsbend, Kentucky.
When I was young, World War II was an evil memory for me. I didn't want to know about that horrible time. I didn't want to know about those dreadful people and
that vile place. They had killed my father, shattered our family, and made me a war orphan. Although they have gradually diminished with age, those dreadful
thoughts stayed with me through a large portion of my adult life. After reaching that point in my existence where I have more years behind me than I surely
have in front of me. the passage of time has helped to mellow my harshest feelings, and to a large degree, heal my anguished soul. That healing, along with
age and time, triggered a desire in me to want to know more about my father and the war he died in.
Someone once said, "that a man is not dead until he is forgotten." With that thought, I decided to keep my father's memory alive by writing a book about his life.
The book, I Can Hear the Guns Now - A World War II Story of Love and Sacrifice, tells his story using the eighty-four letters that he wrote home from his induction
to his war time death. They are all in the book, unedited, just as they were written.
Writing that book set off an insatiable need to learn more about what really happened to my father. Writing that book was only a beginning of an awe-inspiring
journey down a road of discovery and understanding. As I made that journey it led to more that I could have ever imagined. I now have answers to just about all
of my questions. I can truly declare. now I know what really happened to my father, and I have put all of it in another book titled: Now I Know - A War
Orphan's Journey of Discovery.
If anyone would like to read either of my World War II books, I Can Hear the Guns Now or Now I Know, they are available in the AWON BOOKSTORE on this website.
This article was respectfully submitted in memory of Private Ova W. Ratliff, by his oldest son,