Russell Burdick Wade, First Naval World War Casualty

Submitted by Robin Selman

"Winston Farm Lad Become's Alabama's First War Casualty"
Russell B. Wade is Lost in Torpedoing of Kearny and Joins Kelly Ingram
By W.M. Hinds, Birmingham News Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Ala. - Simple were the elements which changed Russell Burdick Wade from a Winston County farm youth to a sailor and Alabama’s No. 1 casualty in World War No. 2.

Simple were the elements – just a dog, a mowing machine, and a desire to see the world.

Young Wade was killed in the torpedoing of the U.S. Destroyer Kearny on Oct. 17, 1941 in the icy wastes of the North Atlantic, 350 miles southwest of Iceland, exactly 24 years and a day from when Kelly Ingram, Alabama’s No. 1 casualty in World War 1, was killed aboard a torpedoed destroyer, and lacking just one way of the anniversary of Wade’s first year in the navy.

Neighbor Takes News

News of his death was brought to his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Amon Wade, at their home by a neighbor, Frank Horsely, who had heard a radio broadcast Sunday night and drove to the Wade home deep in the reaches of this lonely county.


His letters home were non-frequent, but he did manage to keep his mother informed of his whereabouts; he had only recently been assigned to sea duty and ____ ice on the Kearny.

Lacking in details of the tragedy, his parents and his brothers and sisters had little to say about their lost son and brother. The meager news supplied by a neighbor from information contained in a terse radio broadcast plus the little information newspaper men could give them a short time after the death list was made public, was all the knowledge they had.

Even the knowledge the Kearny had been torpedoed as released by the Navy Department last Friday had reached them only by word of mouth. The father's subscription to the Birmingham Age-Herald had expired only a week previous and in the press of picking and ginning the 14 bales of cotton he made this year he had not renewed it. Like wise none of the family had heard much of the news as broadcast from time to time.

Young Wade's three sisters are Gladys, 16; Searcy, 14; Mildred, 8, and his three brothers are Ellis, 18; Hollis, 12; and Beason, 9.

Until more information is received from naval authorities, the family can make no plans regarding a funeral for their son and brother.

Young Wade has joined a distinguished group of valorous Alabamians. In the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War 1, the state had its heroes who were among the first to meet death at the hands of the enemy.

And so Russell Burdick Wade, 21, of Houston, Winston County, Alabama will go down in the annals of the state as a representative of the state's idea of chivalry and valor.

Russell Burdick Wade is a name which America will not soon forget, for he was counted as the first Naval casualty in this World War, having been killed with the US Destroyer "Kearny" was torpedoed near Iceland. His memory will be commemorated with the presentation of a U.S. flag, Sunday, May 10, at 2:30 p.m. at Meeks High School, in Arley, in Winston County. The flag dedication is sponsored by the Cullman County American Legion Post No. 4 with full cooperation of the Alabama Dept. The U.S. Navy will be represented at the ceremony by a Naval Squadron and a ranking officer, and the department official of the American Legion present will be Ex-Probate Judge John B. Weaver of Winston County. The Cullman Band will open the ceremony and the public is cordially invited attend. The flag is to be presented by Lieut. Commander Meredith of the U.S. Navy, to the family of young Wade, who will in turn present the flag to Meek High School as a tribute to the young hero of the present conflict. A caravan of cars conveying members of the Cullman Band will leave the City Auditorium at 12:45 Sunday afternoon, May 10, and everyone is urged to attend the dedication.