Tonning, Wayland A. (805th)

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Biography:  Wayland Avery Tonning was born on September 14, 1912, in Weiser, Idaho. He was the son of Matthew Paul Tonning and Clara Mae Green and graduated from Boise High School. He continued his education at the University of Idaho, completing 3 years before the war began. 

On November 20, 1940, Wayland married Mildred Elizabeth who was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was the daughter of Robert William Tonning and Dorothea Barbara Hibsch. Wayland worked in sales prior to the war. 

Service Time:  Wayland entered the service on July 15, 1942, at Boise, ID. He was chosen for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was initially assigned to Army Ground Forces before being transferred to the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

The 805th had shipped out from the New York port on August 5, 1942, and arrived in England on the 18th. After five months of additional training and preparations, the men boarded ship and arrived at Algiers, Algeria, North Africa, on January 17, 1943. They were equipped with the M3 tank destroyer and participated in actions at Kasserine Pass and in Gafsa, Tunisia. The unit then converted to towed 3-inch guns and were the first to use them in October, 1943.

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The unit then boarded transports and debarked in Italy on October 28th, at Bagnoli. They shipped to the Anzio Beachhead on March 12, 1944, serving largely as artillery even after being re-equipped with M18 self-propelled tank destroyers in June through August. At that time, they were the only unit equipped with M18s in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Their TDs were part of the advance guard at the capture of Bologna and Brenner Pass. The 805th received credit for campaigns in Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, North Apennines and the Po Valley. It is unclear when Wayland actually joined the unit but possibly while they were at Anzio.

Wayland was awarded the Bronze Star as well as the EAME, WWII Victory and American Campaign Medals.  

Wayland A Tonning 4Wayland returned to the U.S. and also to the sales industry for various national companies. He had remained in the Army Reserves and was called back to active service, prior to the Korean war, as a mountain warfare instructor at Camp Carson, Colorado. He was still on active service when he was sent to the University of Illinois to be their R.O.T.C. Instructor.

While there, he used the G.I. Bill to finish his Bachelors degree, which he did in 1952. He went on to get advanced degrees, Masters in 1954, and then a Ph.D. in 1956, and then began a teaching career. After getting his doctorate, the Memphis Sales Executives Club decided to professionalize sales and established a “Program Chair” position at Memphis State University. They and hired Wayland for the job and he remained there for the next 27 years, training new sales students how to be successful.

In addition to teaching, Wayland also became a public speaker, marketing consultant and author. He retired from the military at the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Wayland and Mildred had four children, Wayland Jr. “Lanny”, born in 1944, Jane in 1948, Joan in 1951, and Margaret in 1958. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing golf and was a member of the MOWW (Military Order of the World Wars), MOAA (Military Officers Association of America), Omicron Delta Kappa (National Leadership Honor Society), Sales and Marketing Executives International, American Marketing Association, National Speakers Association and Pi Sigma Epsilon Fraternity.

Wayland passed away on July 3, 1998, and was buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery East in Memphis, Tennessee. I want to thank Wayland’s son, Lanny, who also served in the military, for the information and photos used in this tribute. 

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