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Wilbur Wright Bagby

LT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co A

Born 1914 in NC, Died 1992

Other residence(s): Whitney, NC; Birmingham, AL; Knoxville, TN
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: engineer
College education before the war: Auburn Univ.
Notes: Discharge rank CPT
Source: Company A Roster; photo courtesy Mike Bagby

Wilbur Bagby was born on February 14, 1914 in Whitney, NC, one of a set of twins who were the second and third of five children. Their father, Robert, was an engineer and infatuated with the accomplishment of the Wright Brothers in their birth state just a few years earlier—so the twins were named Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright.

The family lived briefly in South Carolina and eventually moved back to Alabama, Robert's home state, settling in Birmingham by 1920. Wilbur graduated from Jefferson County High School in 1930 and postponed his college studies due to the Depression. He likely worked at a grocery store and drove a truck during this period.

In 1937 he matriculated at Auburn University in Auburn, AL, where his father had studied engineering (and where he and his brother Francis would both pursue degrees in Mechanical Engineering and enroll in ROTC).

He graduated in 1941, and was commissioned a 2LT. He registered for the draft on September 13, 1941; at the time he was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville, TN. He married Bartima Minor on May 18, 1942 in Birmingham.

Sketch of Wilbur Bagby by "Ragsdale" in 1944 courtesy of Mike Bagby; artist unknown

He went through officer training at Fort Belvoir, VA and was eventually assigned to the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion and saw service in Europe during the war. A letter home to his wife listed twelve different officer positions (from CPT to LTC) whose roles he played during the various Ghost Army deceptions. He commented to his wife: "Gal, I've worn more patches and insignia than any jerk in the Army." Near the end of the war, he was transferred to the aviation engineers. His brother Francis also served during the war, in the Army Air Force.

Wilbur was discharged with the rank of CPT and returned to Birmingham where he and his wife would have two sons: Ronald and Michael. Mike recalls that his father brought home just one souvenir from World War II—not a gun or a helmet or a flag but a metric slide rule—a big prize for an engineer! But he had few stories about the war to tell his children: "There's nothing glorious about war, buddy" he would say.

He began his career in the power generating field, but found his niche in the steel industry and in coal extraction and processing. Wilbur, his father Robert, and his brother Francis each had patents in their respective occupational fields—a total of six or seven among them. Wilbur also was a member of several engineering organizations. His son Mike reports that Wilbur was a very well-read man and could do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in 15-20 minutes.

Wilbur died on October 16, 1992 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, AL.


1920 census

1930 Jefferson County High School yearbook

1938 Auburn University yearbook (he was freshman)

1940 Auburn University yearbook (he was junior)

1941 draft card

1942 marriage record

1942 article about the marriage in the Birmingham News (AL)

1950 census

1958 Birmingham city directory

1975 US Public Records Index

1983 patent document

1992 Social Security Applications and Claims Index

1992 death notice in the Birmingham Post-Herald (AL)

1992 Find a Grave record*1mnpom3*_gcl_aw*R0NMLjE3MTIwNzA0ODkuQ2owS0NRancyYTZ3QmhDVkFSSXNBQlBlSDFzUDNGQVg4UzRNYzNtQnhEZ3ZsRlItUWNSVVJscUF5S3hxUnFJWkltdTdfdFJyczJYZ0hfa2FBZ1M3RUFMd193Y0I.*_gcl_dc*R0NMLjE3MTIwNzA0ODkuQ2owS0NRancyYTZ3QmhDVkFSSXNBQlBlSDFzUDNGQVg4UzRNYzNtQnhEZ3ZsRlItUWNSVVJscUF5S3hxUnFJWkltdTdfdFJyczJYZ0hfa2FBZ1M3RUFMd193Y0I.*_gcl_au*Nzk1ODc1Njg3LjE3MTEyMjY3ODM.*_ga*MTkwMTcxOTc5LjE3MTEyMjY3ODQ.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*YWFiYjA4YWYtYzY1YS00MTU2LThhZTEtYmY2MDgxY2NkOGE2LjcuMS4xNzEyMDc2NDQ3LjUyLjAuMA..*_ga_LMK6K2LSJH*YWFiYjA4YWYtYzY1YS00MTU2LThhZTEtYmY2MDgxY2NkOGE2LjIyLjEuMTcxMjA3NjQ0Ny4wLjAuMA..

2024 (March 10) GALP Veteran Biography Worksheet from son Michael Bagby

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