PFC Gene Wayne Name : Eugene (Wondolowski) Wayne
Rank : Private First Class
Regiment : 334th Infantry Reg.
Division : 84th Infantry Division
Entered Service from : Dearborn, Michigan
Date of Birth : 22 March 1925
Date of Death : 8 January 2008
Awards : Bronze Star
Good Conduct
Purple Heart
Combat Infantry Badge

Gene Wayne's story told by Gene himself ...

My father was Bronislaw Wondolowski, who served in the Polish Cavalry in World War I. After the war he moved to the United States where he met my mother Anna Tykocki. They married in 1924, a year later on 22 March 1925 I was born ... In 1927 my brother Henry was born, followed in 1930 by my sister Louise. I went to Maples Junior High and as a High School I attended Fordson High in Dearborn Michigan.



Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan

After graduating from High School, I became a machine operator in a small machine shop called C & G Screw Products, making parts for our Army tanks ... After getting married I changed my last name to Wayne.



a M4 Sherman Tank

I was inducted into the Army in April, 1944 and participated in special infantry combat training in Camp Fannin, Texas. After 17 weeks of training I was sent home for a 10 day furlough, before being shipped overseas to Southhampton, England, in October, a replacement depot.

     

Camp Fannin, Texas & the docks of Southampton in WWII

In early November I was shipped across the channel to France and from there travelled by truck to Germany where I joined the 84th Infantry Div. in Geilenkirchen on November 19, 1944, the 2nd day they were in combat. The following day we attacked 2 German pillboxes just outside of Prummern and I became a true veteran. About a week later Joe Lippi joined our Company to the 2nd platoon which I was a member of and we immediately became close friends. Whenever we were together we talked about our families and how proud he was of his son Joe Lippi Jr. As the fighting continued we were almost inseperable, except for the times he was sent to deliver messages between platoons and companies when telephone communications bogged down.

     

the 84th (Railsplitter) Division in Geilenkirchen, Germany 1944
photos by Maurice Miller

Before Christmas, 1944, the Germans made a breakthrough in Belgium and our Division was taken off the Siegfried Line and travelled by night to be the first Division to face the German onslaught. We had no idea where the Germans were, except that they were close by. We were ordered to dig in outside of Marche and protect the Marche-Hotton road, between there and LaRoche at all costs. The weather was unbearable; 16 degrees below zero and it was snowing hard.

     

the road to Houffalize (left) & the little Belgian town Cielle
photos by Maurice Miller

After being in Germany where it rained practically every day and then coming into freezing weather, it was hard to keep our feet dry and warm. Joe started to have trouble with his feet and they swelled quite a bit and he had a hard time putting his boots on. But he made no excuses about staying back with the aid station to be treated, because he wanted to be with our platoon, his buddies. The day before he got killed we shared a foxhole and shared some stories about back home and he must have had a premonition of sorts, because he gave me his home address and told me that if anything happened to him that I should write to his wife and tell her that he did not suffer.



in the foxhole during the Battle of the Bulge
photo by Maurice Miller

Of course he suffered, because he was hit in the hip area by shrapnel from a mortar shell around noon and the medics couldn't get to him until after dark. By that time he had lost a lot of blood and died on the way to the Battalion aid station. When the jeep driver got back and told us that Joe never made it, I don't think there was a dry eye in our platoon. He was very well liked by everyone and to this day I miss him very much. Two days later I was wounded not too far away from where Joe got hit and spent 3 months in hospitals in France and England.



Joe Lippi ... "we immediately became close friends"

I finally got around to writing to Joe's wife twice while in the hospital to tell her what happened and where, but not a word about his suffering. I was discharged from the hospital on the day that Germany surrendered. Joined my Company in Germany and we were slated to go to the Pacific area after going on furlough for 30 days, but before long Japan surrendered and the war was over. I was discharged in June, 1946 and enjoyed a long awaited re-union with my family.

     

the Jack Benny show (left) & Ingrid Bergman on stage (Aug. 1945)
photos by Maurice Miller

In 1993, I was invited to our National Re-union of the 84th Division, Railsplitter Society, which took place in Springfield, Illinois . It was my first attendance to one of our re-unions and I enjoyed it immensely.It was good to see some of the men from my company and we had a great time exchanging stories and our experiences. While there, a trip was planned to tour the countries where we fought the following year, which would be the 50th anniversary of our being in Germany and Belgium. I signed up for that tour, which lasted around 21 days ...

     

a tank in La Roche, Belgium & the little town of Cielle, Belgium
photos taken in July 2006 by the In Honored Glory webmaster

There were over 200 of us and after landing in Belgium by the British Airways, we travelled in three buses to our destinations that were planned ahead of time, plus the bus drivers would stop wherever we asked them to. One of our planned stops was the Henri Chappele Cemetery in Belgium. As we entered the cemetery, I stopped at the office to inquire if by chance they had a Joe Lippi buried there. They did and the person gave me the exact location as to where his grave was. As I approached the gravesite with a friend I got to know well during the tour, I got very emotional and broke down. After knowing and loving someone that way, I guess it's hard to keep your feelings back. But I noticed a boquet of flowers at his grave and took a photo of the gravesite.



Gene Wayne's company - Gene is in the middle (highlighted)

On the way out I stopped again at the office to inquire if someone from his family was there, because of the flowers being there and he told me that the Belgian people were so thrilled and elated to be liberated twice by the American Army , that they would adopt a grave and take care of it all year-round.



Joe Jr. and his wife Mary visiting his father's final resting place
on September 12, 1994. Only three days prior to Gene's visit.

After I got home after the tour, I tried to find someone from Joe Lippi's family to let them know where his grave-site was. Knowing that Joe was from Brooklyn, N.Y. that is where I concentrated my efforts to no avail. I finally put an ad in the Magazine I subscribed to "The Good Old Days" in November of 2001, I believe. Finally, in February of 2002, I received a letter from Joe Lippi Jr, which was posted from Seattle, WA. I couldn't open that letter fast enough; I was so excited.



Joseph Lippi's son Joe Jr. in the Air Force

We talked for about an hour and he invited me to visit him and that he would have his mother come up from San Diego, CA. I visited him that summer and with his mom there, we had our own little re-union. While there , his mother showed me the two letters I had sent her while in the hospital. She had saved them all those years. Also Joe told me that he and his wife visited his dad's grave on September 12th and I was there on the 15th while on tour and missed him by only three days. We also compaired the photos we took of his dad's grave and they were exactly alike.



Art Mahler, Joe Lippi Jr. & Gene Wayne
Picture taken at the 60th reunion of the (84th) Railsplitter Division

Since then, Joe has gone to a couple of our re-unions, one with his mom, and they met some of the men that were in our E Company and platoon. We have become very close friends and we keep in touch quite often. In fact Joe will call me every month and I really enjoy hearing from him. It has come to the point where it feels like he is my son and I love him very much. Knowing his dad as well as I did, for the little time we had together, I somewhat feel as if I'm part of his family.



Joe Lippi Jr. & his mother May
Picture taken at the 60th reunion of the (84th) Railsplitter Division

After being discharged from the Army Gene worked in a Machine Shop, a Post Office and for 37 years in Vending Machine Operations before retiring. His last days Gene lived in Westland, Michigan. He had four sons, Dennis, Patrick, Richard and Gary and two daughters Linda and Peggy. Gene had 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandsons ... Gene passed away on January 8, 2008



Gene Wayne and his outfit - Gene is second form the left
Special thanks to Gene Wayne
and to Maurice Miller for the use of the pictures of the 84th Infantry Division
www.In-Honored-Glory.info
published July 23, 2006