Wardwell, Walter I. (601st)

Walter Wardwell 2Walter I. Wardwell

Biography:  Walter Irving Wardwell was born on August 23, 1918, in the historic Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Fred Putnam Wardwell and Hattie Maria Prior and graduated from Wakefield High School in 1936, as Valedictorian.

Nicknamed “Wobble”, he participated in numerous activities during his high school years, including Orchestra, where he played the violin, Band, Glee Club, and was a cast member in the Senior Play. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook and was also a spelling champion.

He continued his education at Harvard and graduated cum laude in 1940, with a degree in philosophy.

Service Time:  He entered the service in 1940, and was assigned to the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 601st shipped out from the New York port on August 2, 1942, and arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on August 7th. The unit’s Reconnaissance Company shipped out to Africa and landed at Oran, Algeria, on November 8th, as part of Operation Torch, and rest of the battalion arrived in December.

Walter I Wardwell 5The unit fought in the Battle of Kasserine Pass in February, 1943, and at El Guettar in March. They converted to the M10 tank destroyer at the end of the North African campaign and then participated in the invasion landings at Salerno, Italy, on September 9th. They made an assault landing at Anzio on January 22, 1944, and entered Rome in June. The 601st participated in a fourth assault landing in southern France on 15 August. They advanced to the German border in the Vosges region and participated in the reduction of the Colmar Pocket in February, 1945.

The unit then converted to the M36 tank destroyer and battled along the Siegfried Line until crossing the Rhine River on March 22nd.  They helped capture Nürnberg in April and ended the war occupying Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany.  Walter received credit for three of the unit’s campaigns and the unit’s Distinguished Unit Award. He also received the EAME, the WWII Victory, American Defense and the American Campaign Medals. He left active service at the rank of 1st Lieutenant. At some point during the war years, Walter served as Assistant Professor of Military Science at M.I.T. and Tufts College Medical School.  He also served as Commandant of the Army Specialized Training Unit (ASTU) at Tufts. 

Walter I.Wardwell 4Walter returned to the U.S. and, on April 7, 1945, married the former Elizabeth True.  She was born in Wakefield, MA, and was the daughter of Leonard C. True and Martha P. Hatch.  They had four children, Betsy, Susan, William and Steven.  He completed a MA in Sociology, in 1947, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, in 1951, both at Harvard University.  In 1949 he joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut.  He retired as a professor of Sociology in 1985.  In addition, he continued to serve in the Army Reserves for many years and retired as a Colonel.

He was noted for his many years of medical sociological research, study and publications.  Walter was also celebrated for his long interest and research in Chiropractic, writing a definitive history of the profession.  Among his many awards was the Medal de Chevalier for Arts and Letters from the Republic of France.  In his spare time, he was a downhill skier and had a lifelong interest in music, playing violin and piano.  He served on the first advisory board of the Edwin O. Smith High School, the Council on Aging for the Town of Mansfield and was active in the University of Connecticut senate for many years.        

Walter passed away on March 14, 2005, and was buried at Storrs Cemetery, Tolland County, Connecticut. We want to thank Keith E. Wilson for the use of the grave marker photo.

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