Headstone Walk – Honoring Our Veterans

Wayne Elmore Winans – World War II

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Wayne Elmore Winans

Wayne E. Winans, grew up in Shawano in the Town of Wescott. Winans is the descendant of some of Shawano county’s earliest settlers which include Elias Murray.   Wayne Winans great great grandfather fought in the War of 1812 and Julius Murray, his great grandfather, fought in the Civil War.

Wayne Winans’ story starts in England where he was stationed during the war when he was convalescing in July and August after being wounded on D-Day. He was a member of headquarters company, 1st battalion, 506th parachute infantry regiment, 101st airborne of the US Army.

Very early on D-Day, June 6, 1944, he parachuted behind enemy lines south of Utah Beach and north of Ste. Marie Du Mont, France. During a stalled attack against an enemy battery position, Wayne volunteered to lead a flanking patrol. Covered by his men and armed with a rocket launcher, he was wounded crawling up a ditch and from a distance of 15 yards fired into the position, demoralizing the enemy, resulting in the capture of the enemy battery. Due to his injuries, he was hospitalized in England.

This is where Wayne’s love story starts….he met a beautiful registered nurse from West Virginia, Katherine Maynard. Katherine shipped out of the United States aboard the Queen Mary on June 7, 1944 landing in Scotland. From there she traveled by train to London and by truck to a base at Swindon, England.

One evening, shortly after her arrival, Katherine went to the officer’s club for some recreation and socialization. Wayne was there, obviously inebriated, and he bumped into her, quite intentionally! Katherine and Wayne talked for a while, and he asked to see her again the next day. She assumed that due to my condition that night that Wayne would not remember our rendezvous the next morning. When she took the chance and arrived at our meeting place on time, Wayne was there, waiting for her with a twinkle in my eye!

As young lovers, the two courted, riding bicycles exploring the English countryside, went to dances and had dinner together. we managed to visit London on a short leave seeing all of the famous landmarks before Wayne shipped back to the war.

That evening, just before Wayne left, went to where Katherine was working the night shift. Seeing Katherine, Wayne smiled, handed her a piece of paper and disappeared. It was Dutch invasion money, Wayne’s way of telling where he would be located. From the staging area, with Katherine’s photo tucked safely inside my helmet, he sent Katherine a letter expressing my deep feelings for her. He also sent money to his stepsister asking her to buy a gift for Katherine’s 23d birthday on September 10.

During operation hell’s gate in the Netherlands, Wayne commanded a machine gun platoon called the “eight ball squad.” On September 20th they encountered strong tank and machine gun fire from the Germans. He was just looking over the top of the dike when a German tank opened fire. Wayne was struck in the helmet, tumbled down the dike and was gone in seconds. His quick death was a blessing, he told Katherine that he would rather be killed than be wounded and go through that again!

Meanwhile, Katherine worked at the army hospital. One day, a patient who had been a member of my unit, told Katherine that Wayne had been killed.

Following the heartbreaking news, she received a letter and package from Wayne’s sister, Gene. It was her birthday gift from Wayne: a compact and matching cigarette lighter of black enamel. As time went on, what haunted Katherine the most was never being able to say good bye to Wayne – never to be able to give a word of caution or caring.

Wayne was buried with full military honors in Holland. In march of 1949, his remains were returned to Shawano for reburial with full military honors, on Pioneer Hill, resting with his mom and dad and other family members. Wayne’s silver star and purple heart are housed in a glass case at the Shawano County Historical Society.

Katherine returned to West Virginia after the war and during her work as a company nurse, met her future husband, Orville Tucci. They married in 1950 and had two daughters. Oville passed away in 1983. At age 87, Katherine never spoke of the war to her daughters until her granddaughter Sally did an oral history presentation about her when she attended an American government conference in Washington D.C. which included a visit to the World War II Memorial.

Katherine asked her granddaughter to see if she could find out what really happened to me. She wanted to know if my body made it back to my home town of Shawano. Wayne still had a small piece of Katherine’s heart.

In June 2009, at the Shawano County Historical Society, Darlene Heller received a phone call regarding Wayne’s last resting place. Katherine wanted to know if he was brought back and buried in Shawano. Katherine received copies of all of my information including newspaper clippings and photographs of my grave site so she could be at peace.