October 26, 2015

Military Monday - O. G. Wynn, Jr.

Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Jr. was born on June 12, 1918 in Prescott, Nevada County, Arkansas.  He was the second of four children born to the marriage of Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Sr. and Kate Ward.  The Wynn family moved to Louisiana in the early 1920s and eventually made Sicily Island their home.  

O. G. Wynn, Jr. married Lillian Jeanette Young of Jonesville in December of 1942.  A son, James Howard, was born to this marriage.

Mr. O. G. and Mrs. Lillian were two of the most respected people in Sicily Island.  Both were faithful members of the First United Methodist Church.  Many people remember Mrs. Lillian as the Home Economics teacher at Sicily Island High School where she taught her students proper etiquette, meal preparations and the basics of sewing.

Mr. O. G. was a draftsman for the civil engineering firm of Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions in Natchez, Mississippi and earlier for Peck Lumber Company in Sicily Island.

Words such as courteous, well spoken, respectful, unassuming and polite repeatedly came to mind as I contemplated how best to describe Mr. O. G. as I and others remembered him.  

As I began to research and learn more about his life it soon became apparent that what I and many others knew about this man was only half of the story.  

World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 show Private O. G. Wynn enlisting in the United States Army on March 16, 1942.

He served in the following Army Airborne Divisions during the Second World War:

17th Airborne Division - Golden Talon / Thunder from Heaven
82nd Airborne Division - All American
101st Airborne Division - Screaming Eagle

101st Airborne

17th Airborne
82nd Airborne

He earned service stars for the following campaigns during World War II:
  • Rhineland Campaign:  Operation Market Garden - 9/15/1944 - 5/21/1945
  • Ardennes Campaign:  The Battle of the Bulge - 12/16/1944 - 1/25/1945
  • Central Europe Campaign - 3/22/1945 - 5/11/1945
  • Spearhead for Airborne Rhine Crossing:  Operation Varsity - 3/24/1945 

As part of the Spearhead for Airborne Rhine Crossing, Sergeant Major Wynn crossed the Rhine River in a glider as part of Operation Varsity.  He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery under direct enemy fire.

Glider Troops after landing near Wesel, Germany

The following excerpt is from the January 17, 2007 edition of the Catahoula News Booster and was written by Howard Wynn about his father's memories of Operation Varsity: 
A five hundred mile column of C-47 airplanes left France on March 24, 1945, carrying the American 17th Airborne Division and the British 6th Airborne Division.  This entourage of 3,100 aircraft escorted by 1,000 fighter planes began the invasion of the German heartland across the Rhine River.
Wynn's glider, designated number 3 in its group, was a motorless craft every bit as large as the airplane that towed it.  Glider number 3 landed just after noon in a field a few miles north of Wesel, Germany, a town about the size of Monroe.  
Wesel had been bombed out and the German soldiers had left the town to position themselves in the country side.  Some of them were hiding in a farmhouse by a railroad track near the edge of the field. 
Sergeant Major Wynn saw them firing at him and his fellow soldiers and directed small arms fire at the doors and windows of the house.  That fire cowered the Germans while the Americans ran down a narrow trail and found cover behind the railroad embankment.   
The German army retreated and the American command assigned Sergeant Major Wynn the occupation of Gartrop Castle, near the town of Huenxe, which was about the size of Natchez and only a few miles from Wesel.

Operation Varsity Footage of Airborne Assault across the Rhine near Wesel, Germany:
(Glider Troops at the 3:23 mark)

O. G. Wynn was discharged from the Army as a Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne Division.  In 1992, he published "A Soldier of the Post" in which he recorded his experiences during World War II.

Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Jr. died on June 30, 2012.  He is buried alongside his wife in the Jena Cemetery in Jena, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana.

Courteous, well spoken, respectful, unassuming and polite.  Yes, he was all of these things.   He was also courageous, valiant, loyal and brave.  

He was a soldier.

National WWII Museum
USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Special thanks to Howard Wynn for allowing me to share his father's photograph and his father's memories of Operation Varsity.

A separate post is planned to continue the story of Sergeant Major Wynn's time at Gartrop Castle and the search which began in 2006 to find the castle and uncover the mystery of an old photograph.

1 comment:

  1. He sounds like a remarkable man and what a wonderful tribute to him and his life.