Colonel Thomas Jennings Wells, the oldest living West Point graduate, passed away peacefully on October 23, 2010 at the Hawaii Kai Retirement Center, just one month after celebrating his 104th birthday.
Colonel Wells was born on September 28, 1906 at Fort Douglas, Utah, to Captain Briant Harris Wells and Mary Jane Jennings Wells. After a youth spent moving from post to post, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1924, and graduated in 1928. His long and illustrious military career spanned 30 years, and saw him serve in many different countries across the globe, including Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Africa, Tunisia, Japan and Italy. One of his first assignments was when he was ordered to Hawaii, where he became Aide-de-Camp to his father, who commanded the Hawaiian Department.
As the clouds of war darkened in 1941, Colonel Wells was selected for an assignment as Assistant Military AttachÃˆ in London. In successive assignments Colonel Wells’ experience and energy accounted in a significant degree towards the success of the invasion and conquest of North Africa and Sicily. In 1942 he became executive to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, during the assault on Oran, Algeria.
While serving with the Fifth Army, he was wounded in the left arm. After his discharge from the hospital, he became Deputy G-2, Hq. 5th Army, and was indoctrinated at British Hq. in Sicily, and made the landing at Salerno. His duties were primarily the handing of “ultra” intelligence, which included the material derived from the interception and breaking of German code messages.
In August 1945, Colonel Wells was ordered home to receive new orders for the Far East. After a short stay in Okinawa, he returned to Hawaii and became the Special Services Officer of U.S. Army Pacific, in which capacity he supervised the athletics and recreation of the command, including the building of recreational facilities.
In 1948 he was ordered to Ft. Chaffee where, for one year, he commanded an infantry recruit training regiment, after which from 1949-1950 he was a student at the National War College. There followed a short tour in Army intelligence in the Pentagon, from which he was rescued to become Chief of Staff of the 6th Armored Division at Fort Leonard Wood, an infantry recruit training center. Following this assignment, he led a cadre to form the 5th Infantry Division at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, where he was also Chief of Staff of this recruit training division. In 1952 he was selected for the Staff and Faculty of the National War College where he remained until the summer of 1956, when he was assigned as Secretary of the Joint Staff, Hq. U.S. European Command at Camp des Loges, outside of Paris. This was his last assignment. He was retired in August 1958, at Ft. Hamilton, New York.
In 1954, he married Anne Bunting Heriot, widow of a friend in USMA Class of 1930, thus acquiring two children, a daughter, Maury Anne and a son, James Judson Heriot Jr.
After retirement, Colonel Wells was transferred to Munich, Germany in 1961, to serve as Budget and Planning Officer at Radio Free Europe. He resigned in 1964 and went into retirement in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he remained active in political party matters and environmental causes. He was widowed in January 1984, when he lost his beloved Anne.
Colonel Wells was loved by many, and will be deeply missed by his family and friends, as well as by the small wild birds he trained to eat from his hand.
Colonel Wells is survived by his daughter Maury, son Judson, grandchildren Briant, Katherine (Trina) and Thomas, great-granddaughter, Spencer, great-grand-son Ethan and many nieces and nephews.
Service: November 15th 11:00am, Diamond Head Memorial Park Chapel