Monday, May 25, 2020

Brothers Max Rudolph and Lorian PILGRIM Died Within a Month of One Another; 1944; MEMORIAL DAY 2020

Pvt Lorian D. Pilgrim 1918-1944
PFC Max R. Pilgrim 1920-1944

Lorian Daniel and Max Rudolph Pilgrim were born July 28, 1918 and April 1, 1920 respectively.  They were 4th and 5th of 9 children in a hard-working farming family in Thomson, McDuffie County, Georgia.  Max Rudolph enlisted 27 November 1941, a little over a month after his big brother Lorian enlisted on 10 october 1941 (both prior to Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941).

Lorian was sent to I Company, 1st Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division, a little known unit that slogged brutal battles of combat and survival against the Japanese and the environment in the Pacific.  Rudolph (as Mas was known by his middle name) was sent to HQ Company, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division- the famous 'Hell on Wheels' division.
Japanese emplacement, Lone Tree Hill, Maffin Bay, June 1944

Lorian trained for jungle combat at Milne Bay from January 1944 to May.  Late May 1944 came the order to combat load for his baptism of fire with the 6th Infantry Division at Maffin Bay, New guinea.  During the battle of Lone Tree Hill Pvt Lorian Pilgrim earned a silver star 24 June when: 

 "volunteering to neutralize an enemy position threatening the company CP, he wormed his way to the pillbox, where his flame thrower failed to function.  he returned for a can of gasoline, tossed the contents into the Japanese position, ignited the gasoline train, then released the contents of the flame thrower into the pillbox, completely destroying it". 
6th Infantry Division Patrol, Sansapor July 1944
By July 10 1944, the 1st Infantry Regiment of the 6th Infantry Division landed on an 800-yard front east of the Wewe River on the Sansapor Coast, New Guinea.  3rd Battalion landed a day later, and carried out intense patrolling in the area. 
6thID patrol, Sansapor, 1944

 Unfortunately, the biggest enemy of the 6th during their time at Sansapor was not the Japanese, but the mite-born bacterial infection of scrub typhus.  
More than 1,800 men were struck down with the infection.  During the horrific epidemic more than 300 men at a time were being treated in a medical clearing station meant for 200 men.  
On 30 August 1944 Pvt Lorian Pilgrim succumbed to the disease.

6th ID medical detachment during the August 1944 scrub typhus epidemic, Sansapor

66th Armored Regiment
in Carentan, France
June 1944

Both brothers experienced a brutal combat in June 1944.  Max Rudolph Pilgrim participated in the invasion of Normandy coming ashore on 9 June 1944 with HQ Co, 3rd Bn, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division.  Within his first week of combat in France, the 66thAR helped defeat the German 6th Fallschirmjager (paratroops) Regiment and the 37th SS Panzer (armored) Division at Carentan. 

22IR riding on tanks of the 66thAR during the St. Lo Breakout, July 1944

Pfc Max Rudolph was killed on the during the drive for St. Gilles during Operation Cobra.  Combat Command A was a combat team of the 66th Armored Regiment and 22nd Infantry Regiment.  By the evening of the 25th 3rd Bn of the 66thAR and 22IR had reached the line that stretches approximately between Hebecrevon and La Doriere.  

The next morning they jumped off towards St. Gilles.  Unfortunately, exactly where Max Rudolph Pilgrim was killed is unknown, but it was between Hebecrevon/La Doriere and St. Gilles on 26th July 1944.  

At left is a google map of the line of departure between Hebecrevon/La Doriere the night of 25/26 July 1944. The arrow is the drive towards Saint Gilles where Pfc Max R. Pilgrim was killed June 26, 1944. 

Within days of Max's death, Lorian would begin fighting for his life during the typhus epidemic at Sansapor.  It is not known if during the 35 days before Lorian's death of Tsutsugamushi fever (scrub typhus) that he read of his brother Max's death in a letter from home.  

The Pilgrim family at Ft. Gordon late 40's, (siblings, in laws, parents, and friend) receiving an honor for
Pvt Lorian and Pfc Max Pilgrim's deaths

On 18 February 1949 C.W. Pilgrim, the brother's father would file for his sons to be re-interred at West View Cemetery in Thomson, Georgia.  
PFC Max R. Pilgrim's reburial paperwork
PVT Lorian D. Pilgrim's reburial paperwork

I was able to visit the Pilgrim family and speak to the last living relative of that generation.  Ms. A. Pilgrim graciously allowed me into her home and spoke about the anguish the family experienced when their beloved brothers were killed.  She spoke of how the girls of the town loved Lorian, and how Rudolph was full of life and fun.  She told me how Max Rudolph was hit in the face, and CW Pilgrim was adamant about looking into the caskets 4+years after his boy's deaths to be sure it was his sons.  News was sparse back then, and I only recently discovered the cause of death for Pvt Lorian Pilgrim on Sansapor.  Ms. Pilgrim (a widow of one of the original 9 Pilgrim siblings) allowed me to photograph the painted Army portraits of Lorian and Rudolph that are at the top of this article.  

The Pilgrim brothers are buried 

side by side in Thomson, GA 

*Maffin Bay and Sansapor photos from the 6th Infantry Division in WWII book.  66th AR photos from the 4th Infantry Division in WW2 book, and Photos of the portraits of Lorian and Max are mine and used with permission by the Pilgrim family. Grave photos are mine, original research by WWII FILES


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