Wolfgram Memorial Library Dedication - 1971
William John Wolfgram excelled academically, at every program that he attended, and demonstrated a strong dedication to military service at a young age. With his academic and military achievements, and his impressive wartime record, he serves as symbol of the excellence that Pennsylvania Military College aimed to instill in all its cadets. William Wolfgram used his courage, determination and skill to serve the United States Military and more broadly the Allied Cause in World War II. A fellow officer asserted this in a letter to Wolfgram’s parents “…Your son did a job that was of the highest credit to the service.” With this young man’s form of civic engagement, he did make a profound difference. Widener University students in the 21st Century can use the example that he set and apply this same level of commitment to their own civic engagement pursuits.
Wolfgram attended the Northwestern Military and Naval Academy in Wisconsin, graduating at the top of his class. He then entered Harvard University in the fall of 1940. Though he excelled academically at Harvard, he reacted to the outbreak of war in Europe by seeking advanced military training. He left Harvard after two years, enlisted in the army and attended the Advance Course ROTC program at Pennsylvania Military College. Wolfgram studied Industrial Engineering and earned a “war diploma” in 1943, again graduating with top academic honors. He also proved to have great military skills as he received the Alumni Award. He continued this military prowess, graduating with the highest average in his class at Officers’ Candidate School. This scholar and soldier proved his courage again by volunteering for the 10th Mountain Division in Colorado, which required very difficult training in the most rugged terrain such as the 10,000-foot peaks of the Colorado Mountains.
Camp Hale - 1943
The Army sent the 10th Mountain Division to Italy in the winter of 1944. There Wolfgram displayed great heroism and leadership. He earned many medals during the campaign, including a Bronze Star in March of 1945. The citation for this medal states:
“For heroic achievement in action…. During the assault of an enemy-held mountain peak, Second Lieutenant Wolfgram commanded the leading platoon of the rifle company. From the commencement of the assault until the taking of the final objective, he led his platoon so aggressively and rapidly forward, in the face of withering enemy fire, that no resistance was able to seriously delay his advance, and his mission was accomplished well ahead of schedule. Throughout the action, he moved with the most forward units, inspiring his men onward, and personally risking his life many times to coordinate and direct the leading elements in their rapid advance.”
Wolfgram also was to receive a battlefield promotion to 1st Lieutenant, but his life ended in a fierce battle on Riva Ridge on April 16, 1945. This ultimate success of the battle enabled the Allies to capture Tole and weaken the German Forces. In fact, on May 2nd the Germans surrendered in Italy and V-E day was declared only a few days later. Clearly, Wolfgram's heroism contributed to a decisive victory for the Allied forces. Mr. and Mrs. Wolfgram received many letters from soldiers that served with their son, explaining his heroic actions on that day and expressing their tremendous respect for their fallen leader. In a letter dated May 5, 1945, W. S. Sheets, the company’s executive officer, described the battle at which Wolfgram died:
“…Your son was a brilliant unit commander and his men had nothing but admiration for him, you see, his men came first and by thinking and living that way, Lt. Wolfgram died. He was leading his platoon upon a heavy fortified enemy strong point a few hundred yards west of Madna di Rodiano, a small mountain hamlet. His platoon came under heavy automatic fire, pinning them down… Will did some quick thinking and was in the process of getting his men off the position and directing them to a position free from fire. His platoon had successfully withdrawn with [a] minimum of casualties when he was struck by gunfire. He was seriously wounded. Pfc. Foxall, a member of the platoon, crawled under fire to carry Will back. Will died shortly afterwards, after receiving medical aid. He saved many lives that day, our men will not forget his courage and devotion to his duty in the rank which he has honorously (sic) held… I’m most proud to have had his friendship and to have had the pleasure of working with him…”
They decided that a library would serve as a fitting honor to their son who, “was an avid reader of books.” At the dedication ceremony in 1971, Mrs. Wolfgram stated “ …if any kind of noble memorial to him is in keeping, it could not take any other form than a library.” Wolfgram’s academic record, and heroism in combat, proves that the library stands as an appropriate honor to this extraordinary young man.
|His parents received many other posthumous tributes to their son, including a certificate from Harvard University. Though he only attended the school for two years, Harvard decided to include William Wolfgram's name on the honor role for Harvard men who lost their lives fighting in WWII. Wolfgram’s parents wanted to create their own lasting tribute to their only son. As a result of William's dedication to military service and the value he had for the training he received at Pennsylvania Military College, Mr. and Mrs. Wolfgram wanted this memorial to stand on the PMC campus.