1LT Waverly W Wray

1LT Waverly W Wray

Batesville, Panola County, Mississippi, USA
Death 21 Sep 1944 (aged 24)
Burial Panola County, Mississippi, USA
Memorial ID 92061713 · View Source
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The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Waverly W. Wray (0-1030110), First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company D, 2d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces on 7 June 1944, in France. While his platoon was engaged in a heavy fight with the enemy, First Lieutenant Wray, completely disregarding his own safety, crawled under devastating machine gun fire and although wounded, fought on until he had destroyed two enemy machine gun positions. Returning to his platoon he reorganized it and, securing a re-supply of ammunition, led it in a successful attack upon the enemy. Only after he had driven the enemy from his platoon sector did he accept first aid for his wounds. First Lieutenant Wray's valiant leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 51 (1944)

Rank: 1st Lieutenant (Lieutenant)
Unit: Executive Officer Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division "All-American", U.S. Army
Details: Citation unavailable.

Rank: 1st Lieutenant (Lieutenant)
Unit: Executive Officer Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division "All-American", U.S. Army

Rank: 1st Lieutenant (Lieutenant)
Unit: Executive Officer Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division "All-American", U.S. Army
Awarded on: October 8th, 1945
Action: For having distinguished himself during the fighting by the 82nd Airborne Division in the area around Nijmegen between September 17th and October 4th 1944 by having performed outstanding deeds of courage, tact and loyalty and having repeatedly displayed outstanding devotion to duty and great perseverance and in all respects having set a praiseworthy example to all in those illustrious days during which he lost his life.
Details: Royal decree no.31 Awarded posthumously.

1LT Waverly Wray was born in 1919 and raised in the wooded hills around Batesville, Mississippi, perhaps a forty-five minute drive from where I sit typing these words. An expert woodsman steeped in fieldcraft from his youth, Wray was described by his commander, LTC Ben Vandervoort, thusly, “As experienced and skilled as an Infantry soldier can get and still be alive.” At 250 pounds Wray was an intimidating specimen, yet he was also a committed Christian man of character. He fastidiously eschewed profanity and sent half of his Army paycheck home each month to help build a church in his hometown.

Immediately after jumping into Normandy with the 82d Airborne, 1LT Wray set out on a one-man reconnaissance at the behest of his Battalion Commander. Wray’s mission was to assess the state of German forces planning a counterattack against the weakly held American positions outside Ste.-Mere-Eglise. Wray struck out armed with his M1 rifle, a Colt 1911A1 .45, half a dozen grenades, and a silver-plated .38 revolver tucked into his jump boot. Hearing German voices on the other side of a French hedgerow, Wray burst through the brush and shouted, “Hande Hoch!” Confronting him were eight German officers huddled around a radio.

For a pregnant moment, nobody moved. Then seven pairs of hands went up. The eighth German officer reached for his sidearm. 1LT Wray shot the man between the eyes with his M1.

A pair of German soldiers about 100 meters away opened up on Wray with MP40 submachine guns. 9mm bullets cut through his combat jacket and shot away one of his earlobes. All the while Wray methodically engaged each of the seven remaining Germans as they struggled to escape, reloading his M1 when it ran dry. Once he had killed all eight German officers he dropped into a nearby ditch, took careful aim, and killed the two distant Wehrmacht soldiers with the MP40’s.

Wray fought his way back to his company area to report what he had found, blood soaking his ventilated jump jacket. His first question was to ask where he could replenish his supply of grenades. When American forces eventually took the field where Wray had waged his one-man war against the leadership of the 1st Battalion, 158th Grenadier Regiment, they found all ten German soldiers dead with a single round each to the head. Wray had completely decapitated the enemy battalion’s leadership singlehandedly. Wray stopped what he was doing and saw to it that all ten German soldiers were properly buried. He had killed these men, and he felt a responsibility to bury them properly.

Waverly Wray survived the savage fighting in Normandy only to give his life for his country at Nijmegen, Holland, during Operation Market Garden later in the year. He has a granite marker in Shiloh Cemetery in Batesville, Mississippi, near the church he helped build. 1LT Wray was, by all accounts, an exceptionally good man who died six days before his twenty-fifth birthday. Wray died to ensure the blessings of liberty for further generations of Americans.

A couple final notes: Wray’s excursion actually constituted a personal counterattack and not a recon. He reported to his CO that his unit was likely to be overrun soon, and was told that no reinforcements were available, and a counterattack (typical 82nd tactics) was their best option. He took it upon himself to mount this attack and leave his platoon in place in their dug-in positions. Finally, when Wray returned, LTC Ben Vandervoort took one look at him and remarked “They are getting a little close aren’t they, Waverly?” To which Wray, responded in his southern drawl, “Yessah, but Ah reckon Ah am gettin’ a whole lot closer to them than they are to me…”

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Contributor: Andy (48021049) • csm2bde@hotmail.com)

  • Created by: Jeff Hall
  • Added: 17 Jun 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 92061713
  • Jeff Hall
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for 1LT Waverly W Wray (27 Sep 1919–21 Sep 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 92061713, citing Shiloh United Methodist Church Cemetery, Panola County, Mississippi, USA ; Maintained by Jeff Hall (contributor 47296194) .