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Private First Class Wendell W. Reed


Division Jazz Band

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From the upbeat hits of Glenn Miller to the smooth sounds of Benny Goodman, Wendell Reed brought the T-Patchers a little bit of home.

     Born in 1921 to a farming family in rural Pratt County, Kansas, Wendell grew up like many midwestern kids working his family farm and attending school. In addition to his turkey-farming duties, Wendell picked a second hobby that encircled his entire life— music. As a boy Wendell proved himself an extremely talented musician and was well-known for his piano playing across the county. Attending the local high school and community college, the rural Kansan soon found himself challenged by the potential of war. A happy and fun-loving guy, Wendell joined the service in hopes of doing what he loved most, music. Thankfully his wish came true.

     Training at several replacement camps across the US, Wendell eventually shipped overseas to Italy where he joined the 36th Infantry Division Headquarters Band in December of 1943. As a member of the band not only did he handle clerical duties, but spent his days across Europe entertaining homesick T-Patchers and proud officers with the sounds of big band jazz. The division band contained a traditional orchestral band but also a small jazz ensemble, of which Wendell primarily took part. Throughout the war, the band traveled and performed countless concerts, Wendell always with his small portable army-issue piano by his side. One of his busiest weeks was during a division-wide rest at Hochholden before the push to the Moder. While encamped, Wendell and the band performed dances every night for over a week to relieve and satisfy the tired frontline troops. The photo included of this dance shows just how happy their music made these exhausted men.

     Despite his mostly rear-side status, he was awarded every battle star and arrowhead of the 36th Division and ended the war with a meritorious unit citation given to the bandsmen for the hope and joy they brought to the division GIs. When he came home in 1945 Wendell went back and continued life as a farmer in his home county, marrying his sweetheart and settling down. For the rest of his life, he used his musical talents to bring joy to all around.

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