EBCI Beloved Man Dr. Jerry Wolfe – His Journey through World War II and Survival of D-Day

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Written By: Brandon Stephens

Link to interview- https://youtu.be/oP_k5YwGJfs

(Cherokee, NC) – – 80th anniversary of the World War II D-Day Invasion is on June 6, 2024. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Beloved Man Dr. Jerry Wolfe is a survivor of the front wave from that moment in history. Nearing the July 4, 2003 holiday, I was working as a reporter for WRGC-AM in Sylva, North Carolina. I hosted a weekend talk show and was looking for a veteran to tell me war stories for a July 4th show which fell on a weekend. I could not find any veteran willing to talk to me. I went to my grandfather Jerry Wolfe, who told me he served in the Navy, but never told me any specifics. I always thought he was a cook, laundry man, or cleaned the deck like most men of color. I also thought he was in the Korean Conflict rather than WWII. I asked him if he knew anyone in Cherokee, NC or other towns that might talk to me on radio about their war experiences and service in the military. He leaned back in his chair and told me about a dozen people he knew and then he said to me, “Get out your recorder and I will tell you a story about my time in the Navy.”

I introduced him on the recording and asked one question. About 35 minutes later he finished his response to that single question and transported me to the European Theater of World War II and the events that lead to D-Day. After the MP3 player was turned off, I asked him, “Why the hell did you never tell me about this part of your life?”.

Grandpa told me, “I didn’t think anyone really wanted to know or cared about that stuff and I never told anyone.” There are other details to his story where he learned about Chicago Cubs baseball; racism in the military; his theory on why Cherokee speakers stopped teaching their children how to speak the language; and life after the war and service.

Grandpa told me this recording and several others we made should be shared. Commemorating the D-Day anniversary and the year of his 100th birthday, I am honored to share his story we recorded. The recording is the rough cut we later edited for airing on WRGC Radio. The recording is mine and through his direction, I gladly share it with you to enjoy and learn. Later he wanted me to write a book of his stories, which I have wasted time to do. I wish he was here to give me kick in the pants to make me do exactly that. Before he passed in 2018, he was honored by the Big Cove Community (Cherokee, NC). He told me make sure people hear his stories. In time, Grandpa, we will do that.

Now let’s go back to 1932 where his journey began when he was taken from his family to attend the Cherokee Boarding School and eventually to June 6, 1944 when he witnessed an event that changed the world. Oh yeah, he was in New York on V-E Day and in Hawaii for the signing of surrender on V-J Day.

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