Private Wiley Harris Jr. served in 626th Ordnance Ammunition Company, United States Army during World War Two. Born on 12th June 1918 in Greenville, Georgia, USA, he was married with a young daughter.
During his time in Northern Ireland, Harris’ segregated unit had a base at Dromantine House, Poyntzpass, Co. Down. In March 1944, he left the camp with a 24-hour pass and set off for a night out in Belfast, Co. Antrim.
It was during this evening in a bar in Belfast that things would take a drastic turn for Wiley Harris. Harry Coogan, a known pimp in the area, approached Harris and offered him the services of a girl.
Murder and Trial
A disagreement turned into a fight and in the end, around sixteen stab wounds were inflicted by the American GI on 6th March 1944. Eventually, the law caught up with the American Private. He was arrested, Court Maritaled at Victoria Barracks, Belfast, Co. Antrim and sent to Shepton Mallet prison in the UK. Renowned British hangman Thomas Pierrepoint executed the American soldier on Friday 26th May 1944.
Wiley Harris Jr’s grave is in Plot E, Grave 92 of Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Picardy, France. This plot remains hidden from view and separated from the main American Cemetery. Those buried here had all been dishonourably discharged from the United States Military.