McRoberts’ Most Decorated Miner

By Stephen D. Bowling

Lloyd George Mullins was born on Sunday, July 10, 1921, on Shea’s Fork at McRoberts to George W. and Nancy (Wright) Mullins. He grew up in a community of love and support offered by a large extended family who all faced the difficulties of underemployment. His early years and development were dominated by two strong women, Mahalia (Sowards) Wright and Nancy (Mullins) Mullins, who happened to also be his grandmothers.

He completed the required 8 grades at McRoberts and eventually finished high school at Jenkins. After graduation, Mullins went to work at Mine #940 and later moved to Mine #214 for Consolidated Coal Company at McRoberts, Kentucky as a brakeman for the dinky train.

Mullins, age 21, started to “court” a pretty, dark-headed girl named Nina Lee Parker. On March 14, 1942, Mullins and Parker were married at the Courthouse in Whitesburg, Letcher County, Kentucky. Nina was the daughter of Raymond R. and Maggie (Doyle) Parker and was born in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. Her family had relocated to the hollows of Eastern Kentucky seeking employment in the mines of Letcher County.

Production demands and wages at the mine increased following the surprise attack by the Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For some time, the miners at #214 were protected as essential workers, but as production met and eventually exceeded demand, they were ordered to register for the draft. Mullins and several men from Mine #214 registered for the draft on February 16, 1942. The Draft Board described Mullins as 5 feet 8 inches tall (maybe a stretch) and 132 pounds. He was described as having brown hair, brown eyes, and a dark complexion.

The tipple at Mine #214 at McRoberts. Source – McRoberts-Then and Now Facebook Group.

Mullins settled into the day-to-day life of a husband and miner. Up and to the mines. Work all day in hard, back-breaking coal seams, then to the bathhouse for a show and then home. The next day, do the same thing again.

On October 5, 1942, the Letcher County Draft Board #101 selected Mullins for enlistment. He was ordered to settle his affairs and to report to the Courthouse at Whitesburg on October 7 to be taken to Fort Thomas for induction.

Lloyd George Mullins’s 1942 Draft Registration was filed with Draft Board #101 in Letcher County, Kentucky.

Two bus-loads of Letcher County men from every walk of life traveled the long and winding road north to the induction site. He was formally inducted into the United States Army on October 10, 1942, and entered active service on October 24, 1942.

Although originally slated to join the 12th Division, Mullins become a member of Company B, 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, and a part of the 4th Armored Division under the command of Major General John S. Wood.

Lloyd George Mullins in 1942.

For his basic training, he was sent to Camp Forrest in Tennessee. He trained and certified as a marksman on the 30-caliber heavy machine earning classification as a gunner 2nd class. His training as a combat infantryman also required him to certify as a rifle marksman.

While he was away training in the United States Army, the monotony of home life without her husband was broken for Nina (Parker) Mullins. On January 2, 1943, Nina gave birth to their son, Lloyd George Mullins, Jr. The news was welcomed by Mullins and his friends in Arizona.

During much of her pregnancy, Mullins’ regiment was deployed to the Camp Ibis Desert Training Center near the California/Arizona border for specialized training in preparation for deployment in Northern Africa. With Allied successes in Northern Africa, the Supreme Command developed plans for a European invasion. Mullins and his fellow soldiers were shifted to Camp Bowie in Texas and focused on European terrain. During this time, Mullins was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

As secret plans were finalized for Europe, the 4th Armoured Division was shipped to Camp Myles Standish in Massachussettes in December 1943. They left Boston, Massachusetts by ship for Europe on December 29, 1943, arriving 13 days later after a rough crossing. From January 1944 until July 1944, the 4th Armoured Division trained for a mission so secret that many of their top commanders did not know where or when an attack was being planned.

All questions were answered on June 4, 1944, with the Allied invasion of Normandy. The 4th Armoured Division was held in reserve in England until a suitable beachhead was established for their heavy tanks and equipment to come ashore. Mullins and his division landed on Utah Beach in France shortly after 9:30 a.m. on July 11. They started to push their way into the French countryside and saw their first combat on July 17, 1944.

Three days later, the advance was stalled as a German machine gun wreaked havoc on the advancing American infantrymen. Staff Sergeant Mullins and his patrol volunteered to advance and take measurements and triangulate the location of the hidden machine gun and mortars. The following citation detailed the action that won Mullins a Silver Star for bravery:

“Near Raids, France on 20 July 1944 during a static period in the front lines, information was desired concerning the exact location of an enemy machine gun which was firing periodically into the American lines. Sgt. Mullins led a patrol, consisting of his squad, to plot the location of the gun.

To do this he had to move through an area subjected to constant artillery and mortar fire, departing from his lines at a point approximately 200 yards from the enemy, and proceeding with great caution, Mullins approached within fifty yards of the enemy and succeeded in locating the gun.

He brought his patrol back safely and gave sufficient information to bring about the destruction of the enemy gun.”

Members of the 4th Armoured Division entered Coutances, France on July 28, 1944.

Sergeant Mullins and his men fought as part of Operation Cobra and helped take the city of Countances on July 28, 1944. From there, they were ordered south to help secure the Brittany Peninsula by taking the city of Nates which the 4th Armoured Division did on August 12, 1944.

General George Patton ordered General Wood to turn East and drive across France toward Loire. They were diverted and sent to the western boundary of Lorraine to take the strategically important Moselle Valley in an effort to push the Germans back to the River Rhine.

They met fierce resistance in the Mosselle Valley. Mullins’ unit was chosen to spearhead the extreme right flank drive. Sergeant Mullins was one of the first to cross the Mosselle River on September 8, 1944, where he showed “extreme bravery” in combat, earning him a second bronze star for valor. The exact details of what he did to earn the award burned in the 1972 Veteran Administration fire in Saint Louis. The 4th Armoured encircled and captured Nancy and took Luneville in mid-September beating a superior force including several of Germany’s most decorated divisions, 3rd, 15th, 49th, and 51st Panzergrenadier Brigades.

The 4th Armoured established a defensive line in an attempt to rest and revived from a hard-fought month. On September 27, 1944, Staff Sergeant Mullins was directing soldiers as they were “digging in” forward observation posts and defensive positions. A squad of five Germans moved forward in a small ravine and set up a mobile motor. They fired three rounds with the third hitting about 5 feet from Sergeant Mullins. The explosion threw him out of the observation post.

An example of a “Peep” or “Jeep” used to get Mullins to the first aid station in 1944.

A large piece of shrapnel ripped open part of his abdomen and several smaller pieces lodged in his abdomen. According to a family story, he gathered up his intestines and held them in while remaining at his post. He continued to direct his men who eliminated the German mortarmen before he collapsed to the ground.

General John S. Wood

He walked with some assistance to a point where he found a Peep (a jeep attached to an armored regiment) and was taken out to a field first aid station. They operated on him for 4 hours attempting to repair the damage. He recovered there for 4 days before he was flown out to England for one additional surgery at a U. S. Army Hospital. For his injuries and bravery under fire, he was awarded the purple heart and was personally awarded his third Bronze Star by General John Shirley Wood.

He spent the next two months in an American Hospital in England. The doctors determined that he could not return to combat and that he need additional medical attention that would require his return to America. Mullins left England by ship on January 9, 1945, and arrived in New York on January 21, 1945. He spent several days in New York before he was given leave to come home to visit his parents and family. He arrived at Mayking on February 7, 1945, but traveled on to the hospital in Indiana after a two-day visit at home.

Between February 10 and early May 1945, Mullins was in and out of the hospital. He experienced numerous surgeries and rounds of physical therapy. He was honorably discharged from the United States Army on June 26, 1945, at the Atterbury Separation Center at Camp Atterbury, Indiana having served 1 year, 7 months, and 11 days. Of his time in the Army, he spent 1 year and 23 days overseas.

Staff Sergeant Lloyd G. Mullins received a Purple Heart (center), a bronze star with an oak leaf cluster for a second award (left), and a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze star attachments (right).

On June 29, 1945, his son, Lloyd, Jr. was playing in the yard on Shea’s Fork when he saw a soldier walking up the road. He ran inside and said, “Daddy is coming.” They did not believe him and he ran back out to greet him.

Lloyd George Mullins (lower left) with his parents and family on Shea’s Fork shortly after his return from the war. Back row, George Washington Mullins, Nancy (Mullins) Mullins, and his brother, Virgil Mullins. Bennett Mullins standing in the middle and Lloyd and his brother, Estill Mullins, in the front row.

A little more than a year after his return, Nina gave birth to a son, Howard Dean Mullins, about a month premature on September 5, 1946, at the Jenkins Hospital. The child struggled to breathe and died at 4:31 p.m. on September 6 of congenital heart failure and congestion of the right lower lobe of the lung. He lived only nineteen and a half hours. The Craft Funeral Home at Neon made the necessary arrangements and Howard was buried in the McRoberts Cemetery near relatives on September 7.

Mullins spent the rest of his life dealing with what he saw and lingering pain from his injuries. He rarely showed, even to his children, the large scar that ran from just below his breastbone down and across his entire stomach. In a generation that did not know or understand post-traumatic stress disorder, he, like so many soldiers, tried to find ways to self-cope with his issues. Back at home, the only real option to support his wife and son involved crawling back down into the dark and dangerous mines. He worked several years for Consolidated Mines, before operating an independent mine on Tom Bigg’s Hollow at McRoberts in the mid-50s.

The decline in the coal market after World War II forced him to close his mines and return to the company work at Mine #214. At some point in his time in the mines, he had a foot severely damaged in an accident after a mine car crushed his foot mangling two of his toes.

An image of George “Scooper” Mullins at work in Mine #214. Source McRobert-Then and Now Facebook group.

Mullins became a mine foreman and worked many years for Consolidated Coal Company and later for the Elkhorn Division of the Beth-Elkhorn Corporation, a division of Bethlehem Coal Company after Consolidated was sold. He was working on the K-1 Crew at Mine #214 when his third son, Larry Gene Mullins was born at McRoberts on September 8, 1950. Lloyd George Mullins was 29.

A report from a fishing trip to Lone Mountain on Norris Lake from the April 4, 1963 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

He never really recovered from the wound he received. When his health would permit it, he liked to fish and squirrel hunt. The Mountain Eagle reported several trips he and several neighbors took to Norris Lake and other fishing spots, but all too often these trips were interrupted by his ongoing health issues. He suffered many years with numerous health issues including congestive heart failure and a severe case of asthma.

Lloyd George Mullins not long before his death.

After an acute case of heart congestion, he was rushed to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. He died there on Thursday, March 14, 1974, at the age of 52. Despite the numerous surgeries and years of medical issues, Mullins died with a piece of German mortal shrapnel still lodged in his liver.

He is buried in the McRoberts Cemetery at McRoberts, Letcher County, Kentucky. Nina Lee (Parker) Mullins continued to live in the family house on Shea’s Fork (now called Cheese Fork) until her health forced her into the Letcher Manor Nursing Home at Whitesburg. She died on July 28, 2005, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and was buried beside her husband and son in the McRobert Cemetery.

Lloyd George Mullins exemplified the brave qualities that are many times lacking in our modern society. He faced the dangers of German bullets and mortar rounds, withstood the pains and miseries of his injuries, climbed daily into the mines in dangerous conditions, and lived through loss and death to give us an example of what a man should be and how we should act. He was just one of the brave men and women from a hollow in Letcher County and one of the hundreds of thousands from hollows across our region that are deserving of the title “Hero.”

© 2022 by Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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