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Jonah Edward Kelley (April 13, 1923 – January 31, 1945) was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in combat in World War II. Kelley was born in Rada, Mineral County, and spent most of his youth in Keyser. Kelley graduated from Keyser High School where he was a football and basketball player. He enrolled at Potomac State College in 1941.

Kelley was drafted into the army in 1943 and sent to Germany in 1944. Before sailing to Europe with Company E, 311th Infantry Regiment (Regimental Combat Team), 78th Infantry Division, Kelley had already been promoted to sergeant. His unit landed in England in October 1944 and in November was sent to France. Quickly joining the fighting, the 311th Infantry was assigned to various organizations attacking the heavily fortified “Siegfried Line” in Belgium. The village of Kesternich, just inside the German border, had to be captured to allow Allied forces to advance. An initial attempt in December 1944 failed to capture the village, with huge losses for the 78th Infantry. In another attempt, beginning on January 30, 1945, Sergeant Kelley led his men in an assault on German positions in the tiny community. That day and the next Kelley embarked on actions that led to his nomination for the Medal of Honor. Though wounded several times and without regard for his own safety, he led his squad in a furious assault. During the night of January 30-31, he refused evacuation to a field hospital. The next day he continued to lead his squad in another attack when he suffered additional wounds and died. Because of his efforts, Kesternich fell to the American forces.

Jonah Edward Kelley was the only soldier of the 78th Infantry to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II. In addition to the Medal of Honor, his sacrifice was recognized in a number of ways. Named for him are Kelley Barracks, near Stuttgart, Germany; a Navy ship; an Army Reserve facility at Fort Dix and a bridge on Route 46 in Mineral County. In 1946 the J. Edward Kelley Society was established at Keyser High School and awards a scholarship annually to a graduating senior who has played football or basketball. Sergeant Jonah Edward Kelley was initially buried in the Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands, but his body was returned to Mineral County in 1948 and buried in the Queen’s Point Cemetery.

This Article was written by Kenneth R. Bailey

Last Revised on January 25, 2024


The 78th Division Veteran's Association.

West Virginia Veterans Memorial. Jonah Edward Kelley.

Cite This Article

Bailey, Kenneth R. "Jonah Edward Kelley." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 25 January 2024. Web. 15 April 2024.


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