Jack Wayne Wade
Born to Arlie Ray Wade and Nellie L. Wade on December 29, 1925, Jack Wayne Wade was one of ten children. Jack’s siblings were brothers Arlie Jr., Don, Jimmy, and Richard and sisters Gladys, Betty, Ruth, Doris, and Pauline. He grew up in Mount Clare in Harrison County, West Virginia. The Wade family lived two miles away from Mount Clare, in a cluster of nine to ten houses along a country road. There was a stream across the road, and swimming and fishing in it were fun pastimes. The Wades were a humble family, though honest and good. He, along with his brothers and sisters, were raised in a home of modest means, and he learned from a young age that hard work was the key to success in later life. The Wades likely did not have a phone and had to walk one or two miles to visit anyone. Jack probably had the same and worries of every sixteen-and seventeen-year-old boy—being drafted. Tom Keenan, a family friend, recalls the “worry about the war and what part…you were going to play in it.” Attending Roosevelt-Wilson High School in Clarksburg for two years, Jack Wayne Wade decided at the early age of seventeen that he wanted to be a part of the United States Navy.
He enlisted and entered into the service on December 21, 1943; he set out for sea in April 1944. (Arlie Jr. was also in the service—he was an Army private stationed in England at the time of Jack’s death.) Many young men were drafted in the war, but Jack decided to voluntarily join the Navy, which was known for having better living conditions than other branches of the military. Even with a higher chance of survival, Jack found himself caught in arguably the largest naval battle in history—the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Unfortunately, Jack Wade would only serve for a little over a year due to the tragic losses of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The details of his death are hazy and will likely never be fully understood, but it is known that he died on October 24, 1944. In summary, the ship that Jack Wade was appointed to, the USS Birmingham was engaged in battle in the South Pacific. The ship suffered extreme topside damage from explosions on its sister ship, the USS Princeton, while attempting to aid the vessel. As a result from these events, 233 crew members were killed on the USS Birmingham, including Seamen Second Class Jack Wayne Wade. Wade’s position on the ship was to man the guntub on the topside, which, during the battle, suffered extreme damage and was nearly obliterated. He was buried at sea like countless young soldiers—Keenan believes, “His dog tags were removed, an empty shell casing put under his tunic to weigh his body down, and he was then tossed over the side of the Birmingham with little fanfare and a great sadness by his surviving ‘swabbies.’” His parents were not notified of his death until almost a month later by telegram, and his cause of death was merely stated as “enemy action.” Though they never knew the details of his death, Jack’s parents were proud of him. According to Keenan, “An expression originated in WWI: ‘He bought the farm,’” referring to the death of a soldier and his insurance money being sent to his family. Though it isn’t sure whether he actually “bought the farm,” it is true that after Jack’s death, the Wade family moved to a larger home in Norwood, West Virginia.
|Jack Wayne Wade received a Purple Heart for his service, but other recognition was to come. The Wade family would be further honored when the legislature of West Virginia decided to name the bridge (Bridge Number 17-79-114.9) on I-79 over Elk Creek in Harrison County the “USN S2C Jack Wade and USMC PFC Don Wade Memorial Bridge.” Tom Keenan, a family friend, has close ties with the project, and he believes that it is the only bridge in the entire country to be named after two brothers. The “burial site” for Jack Wade is located in Manila, Philippines, at the Manila American Cemetery, where he is listed on the Tablets of the Missing. There is also a gravestone dedicated to Jack at the West Virginia National Cemetery in Grafton, West Virginia. Although Jack’s body was lost at sea, his memory lives on with the commemoration of the bridge and within the heart of Jack’s living loved ones.|
Family information provided by family friend Tom Keenan. Article prepared by Kiara Cogar and Emma Tinney.
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