USMA 1960 EDWARD
Edward Waldren Crum
Cullum No. 23028
Aged 31 years
Interment: National Cemetery, Fort Leavenworth, KS
Wall, who chose the name as a small boy, was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, on 4 February 1937. This heartland town is on the banks of the mighty Mississippi in West Central Illinois. During July of Wally’s first year, at age six months, he experienced the first of his numerous experiences at Fort Custer, Michigan. He, in succeeding years, with his mother, brother, and sisters, always accompanied his father to all military training assignments.
He was descended, on both sides of his family from soldiers serving from the time of the Revolutionary War to the present. His male ancestry included many citizen soldiers and he was destined to be the first of his family to attend and graduate from the United States Military Academy and to become a Regular Army officer.
In the fall of 1940, Wally became an Army brat when his father went on active duty at Selfridge Field, Michigan. For the rest of his life he was involved in military activities which undoubtedly influenced his decision to make the Armed forces his career. Youthful events do not always forecast adult interests and love of military life never wavered.
Previously, babyhood and boyhood days were spent in Pittsfield, Greenville, Edwardsville, and Mount Vernon, Illinois. He entered the first grade in Champaign while his dad was on military duty in the Aleutians during World War II. He had many; ties and experiences in Illinois and later received his appointment to the Military Academy from that state.
Besides Illinois schools, he attended schools in fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Springfield and Fairborn, Ohio, and Selma, Alabama. He attended and graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic High School, Maryland. While there he was elected president of the Student Advisory Board, and was a member of varsity football, wrestling, and track teams. During these years he was also active in the Boy Scouts.
While a Junior in high school just after his seventeenth birthday, he joined the Maryland National Guard as a member of the 121st Engineer Battalion ( C ), 29th Division.
During the summer of 1955 he accompanied his family to Kirtland Air force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. His National Guard affiliation was moved from Maryland to the New Mexico national Guard where he became a member of Headquarters Battery, 111th Antiaircraft Brigade.
Wally had been trying to get an appointment to any of the service academies since his junior year in high school. He received an alternate appointment to the first class of the newly established Air force Academy. Since no principal appointment cadet withdrew, Wally entered the University of Illinois in the fall of 1955. His National Guard affiliation was moved from New Mexico to the Illinois National Guard with assignment to the 130th Infantry, 33d Division. During the school year 1955-1956 he also entered the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and became a member of the Pershing Rifles of the University of Illinois, ROTC. While at the university he earned numerals in freshman football and wrestling.
During the middle of the school year, as a result of a competitive examination in the National Guard, he won an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. This he accepted immediately. The next day he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Faced with a very difficult decision, he called home. After considerable discussion and deep thought on his part, he withdrew his acceptance of the Air Force appointment and accepted the appointment to the United States Military Academy. He later explained his decision by saying, “This has been my secret ambition for most of my life.”
On 4 July 1956 he was sworn in as a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He was now between his 19th and 20th year of age. This is noted in recognition of a reply he made concerning the rigors and discipline of the first months of cadet life. The discussion concerned the efforts being made by Plebe classmates to bolster and encourage the flagging progress and attitudes of a 17th-year old cadet during Beast Barracks days. In reply to the remark, “It’s pretty tough for a 17-year-old boy,” Wally said, ‘Yes, and it’s plenty tough for a 19-year-old too.” His letters repeatedly revealed intense pride in the Academy and in the comradeship with classmates.
June Week brought the never to be forgotten events of graduation and finally commissioning and graduation with the coveted baccalaureate degree and commission in the infantry, the branch of service of most of his ancestry.
Graduation leave found him visiting in New Mexico and actively courting Miss Theresa (Terry) Jane Baker, a young neighbor whom he had met while home during Academy years. He always loved the climate and the mountains and their interests coincided in these as well as in many other areas. He fondly projected the day when he could own a home and retire in such surroundings. The idyllic leave days quickly passed and he reluctantly said goodbye to Terry, but eagerly reported the The Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Upon completion of this school he immediately entered Ranger School which he praised highly and which he felt was outstanding in training and challenge. Rounding out 1960 involved Airborne School and qualification as a paratrooper.
Following Christmas leave, Wally proceeded to his first duty assignment as an officer with the renowned 82d Airborne Division. Various command duties kept him busily occupied during 1961, including transportation, weapons platoon leader, playing on the division’s football team; but of greatest interest was steady participation in parachute jumping exercises. Writing of this in October of that year he said, “Today I made my 15th jump…it was really great. This jumping gives you a tremendous thrill which one cannot describe.” During this same period he earned the prized Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
In early February 1962 he and Terry Baker were married in the Base Chapel at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. After a leisurely honeymoon trip across southern United States, they set up a home at Fort Bragg, North Caroline, and Wally continued a very satisfying assignment with the 82d Airborne Division. In all, he completed 30 parachute jumps acquiring Senior Parachutist rating and became a Jump Master. Jumps included one while on temporary duty in an Alaskan Research exercise, one on Armed Forces Day, one honoring a Belgian official, and others involving tactical training. Early in 1962 he was selected Lieutenant of the Year in the 187th Brigade. In November of 1962, their first child, Holly, was born. This was a welcome event and Holly was destined to share many joys and some intense sorrows in subsequent years.
On 8 April 1963 Wally and his family departed the United States for duty in the European Command. There he was assigned to the well-known Berlin Brigade. He served in various capacities there until rotation to fort Benning, Georgia in July 1966. During these years his assignments included Executive Officer, Company E, 6th Infantry; Chief, Military Personnel, G1 Division; Commanding Officer, Company B, 4th Battalion; and S3, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Bn, 18th Infantry, Berlin Brigade. These official assignments led to many interesting experiences including those with European Allied troops. The family enjoyed the tour to the fullest. Their second child, Mike, was born there. Wally was exuberant about their children.
Duty with the Berlin Brigade involved training maneuvers in West Germany and convoy duty over the corridor autobahn connecting West Germany to the Allied Sector of Berlin. During one blockage designed to halt and harass, and to test the will of the Allied command, Wally was in command of the troops selected to advance through and break the blockade. When this was announced over United States news networks, it was proud moment for family and friends.
Following rotation from Europe, in July 1966, he was assigned to Infantry Officers’ School at Fort Benning, Georgia. This course was a highly welcome assignment to sort out his company grade troop experiences and to prepare for more comprehensive staff and command duties ahead. He was able to concentrate on his virtually sure assignment to Vietnam.
In the interval between completion of Infantry School and assignment to special training and language school for Vietnam assignment, he and his family were in a tragic automobile accident. Their young son mike lost his life and all were seriously injured. This occurred in Missouri about 100 miles from fort Leavenworth, and there, in the National Cemetery, the young son was laid to rest virtually as a soldier. Touchingly, military police saluted at the conclusion of the burial service.
Typical of his courage and dedication, Wally, though still convalescing from his injuries, reported to Fort Bragg for Vietnam training. Painfully and sadly he met every requirement and this period was shared by his wife Terry, and daughter Holly, who joined him there. Further language training was received at Fort Bliss, Texas, and in October 1967 he departed for Vietnam.
Wally, in considering duty in Vietnam, hoped his duty with a United States division, preferably with airborne troops. His next priority was duty with an ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam) tactical unit. His first assignment was as G3 Air Advisor to the IV ARVN Corps. This duty required coordinating all the air strikes in the Delta Area. Within a month he served temporarily as an ARVCN ranger group advisor on a combat mission by this unit. Subsequently he again handled G3 air duties. During November, December, and January, he had opportunities to observe firsthand, the people of Vietnam, their combat units, and the activities of enemy Viet Cong and their supporters.
Significant comments from Wally’s personal observation and experiences are recounted as a voice from the wilderness, in contrast to the welter of public utterances, pronouncements, and headlines of news being received daily by the public in the United ‘States. In November he wrote, “The VC are vicious and make no distinction between soldiers and civilians. They just kill and main. We may occasionally hit civilians but it is not intended or directed at civilians.” Speaking of his duty with an ARVN ranger battalion, he wrote, “One of the battalion member’s family was attacked by Viet Cong 24 hours after he left home station.” In a different vein he wrote, “Vietnam is a good country and well worth saving. The people need a lot of help but slowly they are progressing and the land has a great deal of potential. It is rich and the people are smart and industrious and can make a good nation, given a chance.”
Another excerpt reports, “Charlie (VC) … put a bomb in a naval officer’s car which killed the officer’s wife and 2 children,… The VC had them several hours and then executed them before they could be rescued. They were not armed when captured and were all wearing red crosses. “
In commenting on casualties among West Point graduates and classmates he mentioned Dick Boyd and Mike Fields and of the Army’s positive recognition of their sacrifice by posthumous promotion to Major. Continuing, “So far, I think we have lost 25 classmates and numerous other friends. It is real hard to see good friends lost but if we eventually win this war it will be worth their lives.” This staunch and unselfish comment prophetically included his own life a few weeks later.
In December of 1967 he received his promotion to major and commented on the loneliness of Christmas away from family but how the troops were doing their best to be cheerful. He mentioned hearing from Terry and expressed regret that he would not be on hand for the expected birth of their third child. This little girl, Heather, was born on 30 March 1968 after his death on 6 February 1968.
January 1968 he was assigned to Advisory Team 50, Cao Lanh, Kien Phong province, acting as both senior advisor and G3 advisor. This team was advising the Commanding Officer, 44th Special Tactical Zone. These troops were engaged in heavy fighting against the Viet Cong in the Tet offensive. During the night of 6-7 February 1968, an enemy mortar attack was launched against our forces situated in the vicinity of Chan Doc City. Major Crum occupied his assigned position. During the barrage, an enlisted man moving along a road in front of this position was hit by incoming fire. “Without hesitation, Major Crum dashed out to pull the mortally wounded soldier to a place of relative safety. Before he reached the man, another series of incoming rounds landed … one of which killed Major Crum instantly.” The team operations sergeant in attempting to pull Major Crum to safety was also hit and died three days later.
Memorialization of Wally’s final action is contained in General Orders Number 2363, Headquarters, United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, dated 1 August 1968 and signed by Major General Charles A. Corcoran. It designates TC-381 Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Compound, 44th Special Tactical Zone Headquarters (Army of the Republic of Vietnam), Coa Lahn, Kien Phone Province, Republic of Vietnam as Crum Compound in honor of Major Edward Waldren Crum, United States Army. For his action he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with V (posthumously).
In a letter from the President of the Republic of Vietnam, signed by President Nguyen Van Thieu, Wally was awarded the National Order of Vietnam, Fifth Class, posthumous, with Meritorious Citation, “Servicemen of courage and rare self-sacrifice they displayed at all times the most tactful cooperation while aiding the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam to repel the Red Wave undermining South Vietnam and Southeast Asia. With a ready zeal and commendable response they fought to the end in every mission and set a brilliant example for their fellow soldiers. They died in the performance of duty. Behind them they leave the abiding grief of their former comrades-in-arms, the Vietnamese as well as the American.”
These comments from close friends reflect accurately impressions of Wally. Majors John Kirkwood, George Laslo, and Andy Hill wrote before Wally’s moral injury. “We… had both talked to Wally on the hotline before the attack began. Wally was more worried about us at the time than himself…That was Wally’s nature –a fine and sincere friend.” Major Phil Walker, a company classmate at West Point and in Vietnam at the same time, wrote, “Wally was the first, even when he himself was discouraged, to defend our mission here in Vietnam. Just three weeks ago he had been quick to say that we owed our way of life to those of you who fought our Country’s wars in the past. He felt strong dedication to the service and proved by his action that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.” Said Colonel Earl Fletcher, “American and Vietnamese alike regarded your son as an outstanding officer and a true friend who exemplified the finest traditions for which America stands. His great devotion to duty and utter selflessness shine forth as an inspiration to all of us.”
Wally’s interest in the United States Military Academy never faded or diminished. On one occasion he remarked, “I would have liked to be buried at the National Cemetery at West Point; however, since Mike’s death, I will want to be buried at fort Leavenworth.” And so he was laid to rest in final peace with full military honors with their son there in the National Cemetery.
He looked beyond Vietnam to duty assignments at Fort Leavenworth and West Point. Both were deeply imbedded in his life. His potential was unlimited. These fragile and proud accounts of his life reflect well what he was capable of accomplishing. Duty, Honor, Country were deeply ingrained in his actions. He has now joined the Long Gray Line of the Corps “Of an Earlier Day” and may his example serve to inspire those of the living Gray Line and all of those to follow, to insure that our country’s “Flag unblemished flings the call, that Liberty endure … that Freedom shall not die, We pray Thy guidance, strength and grace, Almighty God on High.”
Mabel Berger Crum and Edward A. Crum, LTC, USAF (Retired) Parents