SSgt Edward Ward – “If You’re Not Scared, You’re Lying”
Ed said these were words to live by during combat duty in WWII. He had numerous close calls during his time in France and Germany. He “hit the front lines on Armistice Day, November 11th 1944 on the Siegfried Line.” Here are a few examples of the “close calls” that Ward encountered: It wasn’t long after he entered the war zone that he was shot at by a sniper whose bullet hit the tree next to him. Another time, after being pinned down by a sniper, he “jumped into a nearby fox hole, and as he was sliding down in the hole, he nearly set off a land mine.” Once during a patrol through some woods carrying his BAR (Browning automatic rifle), he “caught something out of the corner of his eye, and it was a German holding a burp gun on him.” Ward simply said “nichts” (nothing) in German and motioned for the German to lay down his weapon. Ed found himself with a prisoner. Then there was another time, also in woods, German 88 artillery rained overhead and hit a tree right above him. He “was hit by splinters, (got a) concussion and hit the hot dirt”. Miraculously, while Ed saw a lot of dead and wounded soldiers, he came through the war unscathed.
Edward Eugene Ward was born in Tahoka, Texas on October 10, 1925. While attending high school in Woodrow, Texas in March of 1944, Ed received his draft notice. He had asked his superintendent for a waiver, but the man would not sign off on it, so he was shipped off to Ft. Sill for indoctrination and on to Ft. Hood for basic training. After basic, he was sent to Camp Howze in Gainesville, Texas where he was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 411th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) and then on to Camp Lucky Strike in New York, where he boarded a troop ship headed for Marseille, France.
While in action on the Siegfried Line, PFC Ed Ward and Theodore Szymanski, Maple Shade, New Jersey, were ordered to stand watch. PFC Ward pulled his shift and was relieved by PFC Szymanski. PFC Ward, dog-tired from constant combat, lay down under his raincoat and went to sleep, only to be rudely awakened by five German soldiers demanding he surrender. Ward and Szymanski were taken to a nearby pillbox for interrogation. They spent the night there. While in the pillbox, Szymanski, fluent in Polish, struck up a conversation with a Polish-speaking German. He convinced the soldier that the hills surrounding the pillboxes were full of Americans and hundreds of big tanks.
About this time, the tanks begin to fire on the pillbox, as did 105mm howitzers. The explosions were deafening outside the pillbox door. This frightened the Germans to the extent that they agreed to surrender to Ward and Szymanski. As the American attackers neared the German concrete fortification, Ward and Szymanski jerked open the door and Ward stuck out a “white flag” indicating they were surrendering. Immediately the two American servicemen came out of the pillbox with Szymanski in front, followed by 18 Germans, and Ward trailing behind.
Ed moved up through the ranks quickly as attrition took its toll. His captain wanted to promote him to Staff Sergeant, but Ed kept refusing until the last of the sergeants had been either killed or wounded. Then he had no choice but to accept. PFC Ward was promoted to Staff Sergeant on March 25, 1945 and after V-E Day, on June 16, 1945 transferred to the 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division. He was discharged March 22, 1946 in Atterbury, Indiana and spent just 3 days short of 2 years in the Army.
When asked who his hero is, Anita's name is the first out of his mouth, since she has "put up with him for 67 years.” Anita, the daughter of the man who helped construct buildings at Reese Air Force Base, met Edward on a blind date on her 18th birthday. They have four children, four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. After their wedding Edward worked as a delivery freight line truck driver in Kansas City and Oklahoma and retired in 1987. After retiring, Edward decided to stay active by mowing yards. He eventually retired for good and went fishing at Lake Texoma. Anita's enthusiasm about Edward going on the Honor Flight in 2012 helped encourage him to go. She said, "Here's your chance to go to Washington!" His grandson, Jason Grey, attended to him as his guardian. He commented that he experienced the deepest personal reflection at the WWII Memorial. Ed Ward passed away on
Respectfully submitted by,
Larry A. Williams and Katherine McLamore
Veterans Liaison Co-Chairs
Texas South Plains Honor Flight