The Loved Ones Left Behind
By David Harmer
THE SECRETARY OF WAR ASKS THAT I ASSURE YOU OF HIS DEEP SYMPATHY IN THE LOSS OF YOUR HUSBAND FIRST LIEUTENANT EDGAR A WADE WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION REPORT NOW RECEIVED STATES HE WAS KILLED IN ACTION FOURTEEN JANUARY IN BELGIUM CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS
The telegram above was addressed to Mrs. Winnifred W. Wade, then 20 years old. Her husband, Ed, barely 23, had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge.
Winnifred Woolsey married her high school sweetheart, Ed Wade, on May 17, 1942. She was only 17; he, 20. She had just graduated from high school; he was about to enter Camp Roberts to continue his training in the U.S. Army.
Over the next two and a half years, Winnifred was able to accompany Ed to some assignments, but not most. In total, they spent less than a year together before the autumn of 1944, when Ed was shipped off to the European theater of battle.
Wounded in action in November 1944, Ed spent time in a field hospital but returned (voluntarily) to the front lines just over a month later, on December 23—the eve of Christmas Eve. His wounds were such that he could have stayed safely behind the lines in a supporting role, or possibly even returned to the United States. He chose otherwise.
On February 2, 1945, Winnifred received word that her husband was missing in action. Two terrible weeks later, on February 17, 1945, she learned that he was gone.
Widowed at 20.
A few months later, at Fort Douglas, in their hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, Winnifred received the Silver Star posthumously awarded to Ed for his gallantry. The Silver Star is among the highest honors awarded to soldiers, surpassed only by the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross. Ed’s citation reads in part:
Lieutenant Wade voluntarily exposed himself to the enemy fire in order to ensure an orderly withdrawal with a minimum of danger to his men. Although he succeeded in enabling his men to reach safety, Lieutenant Wade was himself killed by enemy fire while so engaged. His courage, consideration for the welfare of his men, and his disregard for personal safety, are in accord with military tradition.
Recently we received a generous contribution from Dave Van Blerkom, who wrote:
I dedicate it to the memory of Ed and Winnifred Wade. Winnifred was my mother. Ed was her first husband, who died in January 1945 fighting the Battle of the Bulge. He is buried in Henri Chapelle cemetery in Belgium, near where he fell. My mother was 20 years old when she was widowed. Talk about the ultimate sacrifice. She married my Dad, Walter Van Blerkom, nine years later. Thanks for all you do.
That nine-year gap speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
In response to my request for the rest of the story, Dave shared the pictures and mementos reproduced here—and authorized me to share them with you. He added:
This young couple are just one example of hundreds of thousands who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedoms. Words cannot capture the depth of my gratitude to all who serve and have served, as well as their families.
Dave Van Blerkom and his wife, Denise, beside First Lieutenant Edgar A. Wade’s headstone at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium.
As heirs of the American experiment, we are the beneficiaries of blessings we did not earn. We enjoy freedoms that were given to us freely but purchased for us at the highest price. As Memorial Day approaches, may we each demonstrate due gratitude for those who have borne the battle . . . for their sacrifices . . . for the sacrifices of the loved ones they left behind . . . and for the freedoms they gave their all to preserve.
Supporting America’s first principles of freedom is essential to ensure future generations understand and cherish the blessings of liberty. With your donation, we will reach even more young people with the truth of America’s unique past, its promising future, and the liberty for which it stands. Help us prepare the next generation of leaders.