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Wikle served in North Africa during World War II

Note: This article concludes a series to honor the seven Madison residents who died in military service during World War II. These men are memorialized at the Wall of Heroes in Captain Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Madison.

MADISON – Not one but two threats to humanity’s safety surfaced between 1939 and 1945.

“Initially, Americans were tired of war having just gone through the First World War and wished to not get involved. Gradually, attitudes changed and with the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941,” Richard Blanton said. Blanton serves as Historian for Madison American Legion, Post 229.

“With Adolf Hitler’s subsequent declaration of war on the United States, the country was pulled into the conflict willing or not,” Blanton said.

In America, droves of young men and women flocked to enlist into one of the Services to fight for their country. Others were drafted.

In the City of Madison and the country around it, thousands of her sons and daughters flocked to the colors. Most came home safely; some suffered the scars or war seen and unseen. Sadly, a few paid the ultimate sacrifice.

One of these brave individuals was Jesse Ollie Wikle Jr. who served in North Africa during World War II in the U.S. Army Air Force. He was born in 1920 to Dr. Jessie Ollie Wikle Sr. and Eva L. Ripley Wikle of Madison.

Wikle Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet at Maxwell Field, Montgomery County, Alabama on April 26, 1941.

He was assigned to 340th Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group stationed in North Africa. He was awarded the U.S. Army Air Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster.

On Feb. 1, 1943, Wikle’s aircraft was shot down in Tunisia. He was listed as ‘Killed in Action.’

Wikle was buried in the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia. A cenotaph marker also memorializes him in Huntsville’s Maple Hill Cemetery.

The Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Madison on Front Street is named after Capt. Wikle, Blanton said.

During World War II, 16,112,566 Americans serviced in the uniforms of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army or U.S. Coast Guard, Blanton said. Battle deaths reached 291,557. Another 113,842 were listed as other ‘Deaths in Service’ (Non-Theater).

The Veterans Administration estimated 670,846 service members received non-mortal wounds.

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