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Editor’s note: The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, during World War I. The year before, amidst much talk that the U.S. would enter “the war to end all wars,” throughout the country communities prepared, including Ocracoke. The Independence Day celebration of 1916 reflected those times and a news article from then is reprinted. See below for the identification of the West Point cadet from Ocracoke.
The first official 4th of July celebration on Ocracoke occurred a few years earlier. To read about that event, click here.
The Wilmington Morning Star
Wilmington, North Carolina
Mon, Jun 5, 1916 – Page 7
Ocracoke To Celebrate
Demonstration of Preparedness to be Given on July 4th
(Special Star Correspondence).
Ocracoke, N.C., June 4. –With a lot of capable seamen ready to aid their country should it call, Ocracoke is anxiously awaiting the Fourth of July to demonstrate the fact. A unique preparedness parade will be held here then. It will be aquatic. There are no streets in the village or on the island over which a land pageant might be conducted. There is no National Guard organization; the only soldier that Ocracoke has sent out ′is a West Point cadet. Everyone nearly has been to sea. All except a half dozen or so of the two or three hundred voters depend on that element for a livelihood. Every boat in the place and scored from other places will participate in the preparedness parade on water and a regatta. Many residents are former man-o-warsmen. The village has its fair contingent in the service now. A score of the new semi-military coast guard will participate.
According to Philip Howard, the West Point cadet was Major General Ira Thomas Wyche (1887-1981) He notes in his Village Craftsmen Island Newsletter the following:
Upon graduation from high school Ira enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Laurenburg School was so highly respected that a certificate of graduation from Quackenbush exempted Ira from taking an entrance examination. He graduated from the Academy June 13, 1911, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 13th Infantry.
Over the next three and a half decades Ira Wyche’s career advanced steadily. During World War I he served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. In June of 1941 he assumed command of the 79th Division.
In June of 1944 the 79th Division landed on Utah Beach in Normandy. General Wyche led his troops, often in fierce combat, across Europe and into Germany. During this time General Wyche worked closely with Field Marshall Montgomery, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton. The 79th was occupying Essen when Germany surrendered. At his retirement, in 1948, Wyche held the permanent rank of Major General, privileged to wear the two star insignia.
During his service, in addition to campaign ribbons, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Ribbon and the French Order of the Legion of Honor, grade of Officer, Croiz-de-Guerre Avec Palm.
For more detailed information about General Wyche’s career see the bulleted highlights at the end of this article.