James E. Wolfe was the first born of John and Lila Wolfe in 1923. The next year his beloved sister Rena was born and the two enjoyed an idyllic childhood with extended family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With great support from his Mother he enjoyed Boy Scouting, attending the first BSA Jamboree in 1937.
Jim loved time spent in the family cabin overlooking Grand River, summer vacations with his Mother and her sister Rena in the Colorado mountains, and helping on the farm north of Collinsville which was established by his father in 1926. Jim attended Eliot Elementary, Wilson Junior High, and graduated from Central High, all in Tulsa. The highlight of high school was playing the tuba in the all-male marching band with his best friend Bill Bearden who played the piccolo. He loved bumping into classmates the rest of his life and would get reacquainted with “I don’t remember your name, but we went to school together.”
Two of his most life changing events came in quick succession - his mother died in 1941 at the end of his senior year as he was preparing to attend Oklahoma A&M (OSU). The second was his 1942 enlistment in the war effort. His enlistment group finished their semester bivouacked in a Stillwater firehouse and was known as the “Firehouse Gang” throughout their years of reunions. Jim shipped to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth and joined the 5th Division in France serving as half of a machine gun team before, during and after the Battle of the Bulge.
He was wounded in March 1945 when a German 88 mm shell exploded a building his patrol was in, resulting in shrapnel burns from head to toe. He spent seven weeks recovering in a French hospital earning the Purple Heart for his injuries. After his discharge he rarely talked about his service experience until he was in his 80’s.