CSM William E. Edge Ret., died at his home in Plano, Texas, Sunday, 4/13/03. His wife of forty years and his daughter were at his side. He was 73. “Bill” Edge was born 11/17/29 in Jacksonville, FL. to William E. and Josephine E. Edge. He was the eldest of their two boys. He graduated from Andrew Jackson high school in Jacksonville, FL., 1948.

 He was a highly decorated veteran of Korea and Vietnam. He served for 28 ½ years all but 2 ½ years with the Paratroop units. He was a professional soldier. He was an original member of several elite and unique Army units, the Golden Knights and Project Delta, now called Delta Force.  He joined the Army to serve his country and to jump. He rose from enlisted recruit and retired as the highest NCO rank, Command Sergeant Major for all the Special Forces at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare and School, at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He enjoyed nothing more than his time in service and was greatly distressed to not be involved with the Gulf and Iraq Wars.

 What would become a lifetime of care and attention to the safety of those around him began early with his duties of lifeguard, where he was credited with saving ten lives. By his own admission, he earned a reputation in high school as a “tough, cocky kid that wouldn’t back down”. He was a Golden Gloves champion. He was to say many times that he was greatly influenced by John Wayne movies and especially WWII newsreels of the Army paratroops.  He had found a home for his natural propensities. He graduated from high school in June ’48, spent the summer as lifeguard and enlisted in the Army in September ’48. He was 18.

 With less than 60 days left in his enlistment contract, the Korean War broke out and Pres. Truman proclaimed a one-year tour extension. At the time he was serving on the 6th Army boxing team at the Presidio of San Francisco. He immediately sought re-assignment to his former unit the 2nd Infantry Division in order to go to Korea. He made it “in time” to Korea with the 1st Infantry Cavalry.

 He lived out all that he had seen in the movies serving in Korea with the 1st Infantry Cavalry. He was chagrined to experience first hand all the inconveniences no movie provides the audience, the visceral sensation of REAL cold, hunger, filth, pain, fatigue, blood, death and loss. He was greatly saddened to have lost 48 lives from his hometown high school - several of them close friends. It would forever gall him that it took a “grateful nation” 45 years before a Korean War monument would be erected. His grandmother died while he was in Korea and it was very hard on him that he would never see her again. 

 After Korea, had he remained in the Army at the end of his tour, his last orders had him assigned to a “leg” unit. Being in a “leg” (non paratroop) unit was entirely unacceptable to him, so he declined to re-enlist.  Once honorably discharged, he promptly re-enlisted – this time for the 82nd Airborne.

 The 82nd Airborne was at that time, full of top ranking WWII and Korean War veterans, each would have a great impact on him as a soldier and person. He went to work as a rookie instructor in the jump school in February ’54 until May of ’59, four years and seven months.

 He held every position there, was one of the feared “black hats”, working his way up from instructor to the top position as Platoon Sergeant and Committee Chief to Senior jumpmaster. He received his Senior and Master Wings in 22 months, having made far more than the 65 jumps required at that time. Shortly after that the Army would change the rules, requiring more time to qualify before attaining advanced wing ratings. For his work there, he was awarded the first of eight Army Commendation Medal’s, three of them with the combat V. He was the second man in the entire Army to register 1000 certified jumps. The first was a

Test jumper at Yuma, AZ., proving grounds.

 In 1959 he went to Germany and helped form the first skydiving club in Europe. He was awarded German Fallshemspringer permit number two, having lost a coin toss for number one. He was one of a four-member team who held the record for the highest free fall jump in Germany, an altitude of 23,000 feet, jumping with out oxygen.

 When the Army Parachute Team was first created as a real unit, he was an original member, his license number, D-23. He nicknamed the Army Parachute Team the “Golden Knights” after the football team of West Point, known as the Black Knights. The team has been referred to as the Golden Knights ever since.

He devised the mid air act of two men firing flare pistols while in free fall and

a workable smoke grenade holder that fit on the boots. He and his parachute teammates invented the things they needed as they went along. They designed and created all that they required.

 Everything was on a trial and error basis. They started out wearing football helmets and Sears’s overalls. They were jumping from altitudes that required pilots to be on oxygen, and yet the jumpers were without. This being fatal at some altitudes required them to design their own portable oxygen supply, which they did. His teammate and lifetime friend Jim Hauck made the first one. Bill designed an airdrop system using abandoned wing fuel tanks. They built it and it worked but “the brass laughed”. A major going through jump school as a student took the idea to Vietnam and got a Legion of Merit award for the idea. They created a whole new sector for related parachute gear. Altimeter boards, helmets, jump suits, safety gear, new chute designs and even modification to aircraft, like folding seats and doors.    

 His days with the Golden Knights gave him the opportunity to jump in all 50 United States and 13 foreign countries.  In 1961 he and other Special Forces soldiers conducted a HALO demonstration for President Kennedy and the Vice President Lyndon Johnson. “Showing off” for the President of the United States, he landed standing straight up and not as he was supposed to. He walked away from the drop zone and once out of sight from the bleachers, hobbled to the car in pain. He had broken several bones in his foot.

 Two days before he retired from the Army he made six jumps in order to round out his total jump record to 7000. Of his 7000 career jumps, 1,284 were with Army troops. He jumped on both land and water, his free falls were from a low of 500 feet to a maximum of 42,000 feet, and experienced 35 chute malfunctions. He returned to the air in 1997 after a 21-year absence from jumping. In February of 2000 he was awarded the Diamond Freefall Badge “for having accumulated 24 hours of freefall time”.

 Jumping, touring and “showing off” were fine for peacetime activities. But when Special Forces were in Laos and the war in Vietnam began to heat up he left the Golden Knights and sought assignment to Vietnam. The 5th Special Forces group was being formed and once again he was an original member.

 Building on methods used in WWII when agents were parachuted into France and the Balkan countries, HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) was born. Except in WWII agents were dropped from the lowest altitude the planes dared to fly.  He was the first instructor selected to teach the technique of HALO as well as being the first committee chief for HALO. The purpose of HALO was to put troops on the ground, deep behind enemy lines, in a spot of your choosing with all the gear they would need to survive and carry out a mission, free falling with one hundred pounds of equipment. He taught HALO two years before he sought assignment with the 1st Special Forces, as they were responsible for sending the most men to Vietnam.

 He wrote the “Speak Out” column in the bi-monthly Army magazine “Veritas”. He received two Thomas Jefferson awards for articles. In 1976 he wrote “What’s So Special About Special Forces?” an essay that is still read today to graduating classes of the Special Forces Qualification course at the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The other, once published, he was asked to present as a speech to the Assembled Sergeants Major of the United States Army and repeated for the Association of the United States Army as well as the Assembled Commanders of the United States Army at the Pentagon where he received a standing ovation from the Commanders in tribute.

 Prior to his retirement, he earned and was awarded the following Medals; Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC, another award of the same Medal), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with “V” (valor) with three OLC’s, Purple Heart with four OLC’s, Army Commendation Medal with “V”, with seven OLC’s, Ranger Tab, Air Medal, Korean Service Medal - six Battle Stars, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Soldiers Medal, United Nations Service Medal, American Defense Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Japan), Meritorious Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal – eight awards, Vietnam Honor Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge with Star for Korea and Vietnam, National Defense Service Medal with one OLC, Vietnam Staff Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal W/60 Device, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry W/Palm, Vietnam Civil Action Medal 1st Class, Vietnam Military Merit Medal, Vietnam Honor Medal 2nd Class, Valorous Unit Award, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Badge, Distinguished Unit Citation with one OLC, German Marksman Badge (Exp C1), Master Jump Wings, HALO Wings, and Scuba Badge.

 His foreign awards were Ranger Badges: Republic of China, Republic of South Vietnam and Thailand. Parachutists Badges; Great Britain, Great Britain Special Air Service, Brazil, Republic of China, Republic of China Free Fall Badge, Republic of France, West Germany, Republic of Korea, Laos, Venezuela, Republic of South Vietnam, Republic of South Vietnam Free Fall Badge and Thailand with shoulder cord. When he retired from the Army he attended school on the GI bill and attained an Associate of Arts degree in 1981.

 He fought many serious medical battles the last ten years of his life. He NEVER gave up, lost his sense of humor, complained or was self-pitying. When his health allowed he could be found at Sky Dive Dallas every week doing what he enjoyed most, skydiving. He jumped on his 73rd birthday, Nov. 2002. He reconnected with his Special Forces teammates and took enormous pleasure from attending their reunions and even got a computer and navigated the internet in order to communicate with them often. Those with whom he served, officers and NCO’s alike, held him in the highest regard. He was a Special Forces legend in his own time.

 He was in love with seeking knowledge. He was a voracious reader and if no reading material was available, he could be found reading whatever was handy. Whether it was a label on a can or box of ammunition, he was always reading. He was completely absorbed by history and geography. In his late 20’s he and his friends used to sponsor marathon play of the board game “Risk” – staging warfare and conquering continents and countries. Combining his interest in history and knowledge, he got interested and active in genealogy and compiled significant research on his family of origin. Per his constant reading and vast knowledge base, he could speak spontaneously on any subject and provide an answer or explanation on the most obscure topic. He loved watching the history, discovery, learning and medical channels. He was hysterically funny, a master of improvisations with a razor sharp wit, and was the most unlikely source of utter silliness. He was always very handsome and distinguished looking. 

 He was all about “showing up”, “stepping up to the plate”. He was always the first to volunteer never waiting to be asked. He respected his adversary’s courage and commitment to the fight as much as he did his own. He respected anybody who did the job, well and without whining. He did not suffer fools or bullies and he hated a coward.  He was a man’s man, a soldier’s solider, a patriot to the core, an appreciative and loving husband, proud father, grandfather and loyal friend to many.

 Soldiering was his life. And to be amongst soldiers of exception, made it all the better to him. He wrote about so many of his warrior friends and all they meant to him and said more than once that he was privileged to have known and served with them. “Thank you all, I have enjoyed it, it’s been my pleasure.”

High school friends lost in Korea, Marvin Bowers, Dwight Hewitt, Hampton Tanner and Jack Sealy. Jimmy Mullaney. Jo Jo Davis a skinny, meek, mild neighbor in Florida who would fly over one hundred bombing missions as a gunner on B-29’s. Gene Sleap who would survive the frozen chosen with the U.S. Marines. Homer Blackman who would challenge him at a roadblock set up by the 187th Airborne half way around the world.

  “Iron” Mike Healy for whom Mike Force would be named and who fathered Project Delta as well. He would end up working for him at USAJFKSWC.

KIA, RVN; Bill Collins, Marshall Markham, Bobby Letbetter, Phil Van Der Weg, Leo Kyrske, Bob White, Ron Terry, Mark Chase, Herbert Hardy, Ed Coffey.

From the “Riggers Hall of Fame” Jim Hauck, John Mullerwiess and Jack Steere – who made from scratch anything needed by the Golden Knights, like the rucksack sling, still used today. Hero soldiers that overcame great odds; Aaron Gelber, Louie Brown, Bob Taylor, Fred Allen, Kenneth Merritt, Stanley Olchavic, Dick Meadows, Fred Davis, Othon O. Valent, Chick Cunningham. Best “A” team in the business; Frank Henry, Karl-Hientz Peter, Frank Robertson, Bob Lammers, Jack Nichols, Lance Trimmer, Bobby Moon. Jack Cade and Garry Stamm, two of the finest men ever to carry a rifle.

Mentors and models; Bill Morgan, Wm. P. Yarborough, Sherman Williford, Joseph Stilwell Jr., Harold Aaron, Robert Kingston, Walt Hetzler, Charles Beckwith, Charles Norton, Roger Pezzelle, Robert Howard, Roy Martin, Gary Bothello, Raymond Spinks, Elmer May, the Yon Twins, Squeak Charette, Bill Bennett, George Odom, Bucky Burruss, all originals. Major Joe Clements, of Pork Chop Hill fame.

 Superb medics, Doc Worley, Wilbur Donaldson, Dixie Howell, Gerry Waring, Jerry Grant. The quiet ones, Earnie Tabata, Pete Morakon, Dave Clark, Bud Spicer, Arif Zacky, Rich Riley, Skip Minnick, Ray Shelnut, Julian Halemau, Rachford Haynes and Kittleson. The finest mess sergeants in the entire world, George Fail and Pork Chop Racibor.

 Jimmy Mullaney (Korea) and Maury Brewer, Herbert Hardy and Mike Healy (RVN), would save his life. And last but not least, the Montagnards. A people that he loved, respected and damned the conditions in which they were left, the manner in which they were treated.

 He is survived by his devoted wife Joan who cared for him admirably and with all the love in the world at home in his last days. A daughter Susi Edge of Dallas, two sons, Wade Edge of Hemet, CA. and Clay Edge of Colorado Springs, CO., His brother and sister in law Johnny and Jean Edge, his aunt Lena Skipper, all of Fernandina Beach, FL., his brother and sisters in law Dave and Anne Dinner and Jean Aquin of Canada, several nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews, and his granddaughter Susi Edge of Hemet, CA., whom he thought hung the moon.

 He joins beyond the veil the son he lost at age 13 months, William Dudley Edge, a half-brother, William E. Edge Jr., that he spoke with but never got to meet in this world, and too, too many warrior brothers he lost in combat. Knowing that he is now in the care of people he thought so much of and grieved so long their loss, is the only thing that makes his loss bearable.

 Prior to his death, so many friends and family dropped what they were doing to travel long distances to come and spend time with him and the family. We thank each of them with all our heart for all they’ve been and done for us, it made a difference to us all.

 He was as unique and special as the military units with which he so proudly and gladly served. He leaves his family and so many friends completely bereft at his passing. He will long be remembered for his love of family, friends and country, his extensive knowledge and wisdom, bravery and courage, his statesmanship, his wit and humor and his undying compassion for those men and women willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of people they would never meet - some of whom would never appreciate the sacrifices that allowed them to dissent - and principles of democracy. 

 

 
Dallas Morning News
 
William E. "Bill" Edge: Honored war vet, parachute jumper

05/03/2003

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

During his 28 years in the Army, William E. "Bill" Edge was an original member of the Golden Knights parachute team and Project Delta, now known as the Delta Force.

He was heavily decorated for his combat service in Korea and Vietnam. He held the Army's highest rank for a noncommissioned officer, as a command sergeant major, for all special forces at the Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare and School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

In retirement, he was head of security for Electronic Data Systems for Ross Perot.

Mr. Edge, 73, died of cancer April 13 at his Plano home. A memorial will be at 3:30 p.m. May 16 at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. His ashes will be buried in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

"He was courageous, nothing fazed him," said his wife, Joan Edge of Plano. "He just loved to jump. He absolutely loved it."

Mr. Edge was born in Jacksonville, Fla., where he graduated from Andrew Jackson High School. He was a Golden Gloves champion and a lifeguard, who was impressed by newsreel footage of World War II paratroopers.

He enlisted in the Army the fall he graduated from high school. The Korean War broke out two months before the enlistment was to end. He was on the Army boxing team at the Presidio in San Francisco at the time and asked to be sent to Korea.

For his service in Korea and Vietnam, his honors include a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster (military parlance for receiving the honor twice); the Legion of Merit; a Bronze Star with V (for valor) and three Oak Leaf Clusters; the Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf Clusters; the Army Commendation Medal with V and seven Oak Leaf Clusters; the Ranger Tab; and the Air Medal.

In 1954, he became an Army jump instructor, working his way up to senior jumpmaster by 1959. He was the second man in the Army to register 1,000 certified jumps.

He was an original member when the Army created the Golden Knights parachute team as a separate unit.

As a Golden Knight, Mr. Edge jumped in all 50 states and 13 countries.

Two days before his 1976 retirement from the Army, Mr. Edge made six jumps, bringing his total to 1,284 with Army troops and 7,000 for his career.

After retiring from the Army, Mr. Edge quit jumping for 21 years.

"He felt like he had had enough," Mrs. Edge said.

But in 1997, he resumed his sport, inspired by a Golden Knights reunion.

Used to jumping with round parachutes, he loved the control he had with rectangle models.

"He loved to just fly, getting at least a minute of free fall," his wife said.

In January 1977, Mr. Edge took a security job with Electronic Data Systems, where he became chief of security before leaving the company in October 1979.

In 1981, he earned an associate's degree at Edison Community College in Fort Myers, Fla. He worked in real estate management in Georgia and California before returning to Texas in 1993.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Edge is survived by a daughter, Susi Edge of Dallas; two sons, Wade Edge of Hemet, Calif., and Clay Edge of Colorado Springs, Colo.; a brother, Johnny Edge; and one grandchild.