There is probably no greater tragedy that can befall a mother than to learn that her young son has been killed in war. That was the news that Mrs. Wavie Drew received shortly after Operation Neptune, the Allied invasion of the coast of France, known as D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Seventeen-year-old Elmer Drew had been determined to fight. He had three brothers in the military, and he felt that he should do his part as well. The minimum age for service, though, was 18, except in the U.S. Navy, where it was 17, with parental permission.
So his mother, Wavie Drew reluctantly signed permission for him to join the Navy. Six weeks after his enlistment, he was killed. He was a coxswain (steersman) on a landing craft, hit as the boat reached the shore.
World War Two had torn Europe apart. German troops under Hitler had invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany. In May 1940, the Germans launched a Panzer invasion of France. Six weeks later, France surrendered. On June 22, 1940, Adolph Hitler toured Paris.
The early years of the war saw Germany advancing on many fronts, capturing several countries. Each time, the British would accept a German agreement to stop, only to have them continue. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain simply could not stand up to the Germans. In September, 1940, Sir Winston Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister.
Churchill implored President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) to support Great Britain. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drew the U.S. into the war on Dec. 7, 1941, Churchill stayed at the White House for a month, for continued discussions with FDR.
The Allies were hard-pressed in the early years of the war. But in May 1943, the Allies broke the Nazi domination of the North Atlantic. For the next 13 months, the U.S. was able to ship men, munitions and supplies into England.
The D-Day invasion was a major turning point in the war, but it was a hard-fought victory. The first day saw massive losses of Allied troops, mostly cut down by machine gun fire as they landed. After several days, though, the battle became a decisive victory, as well as a stepping off point for intrusion against the Nazis.
Mrs. Wavie Drew had been active in a local group called Aids to Victory. Besides Elmer, she had three other sons in the war. Leonard served with the Eighth Air Force and spent a year as a prisoner of war in a German POW camp.
Richard had 32 months of service in the South Pacific with the 114th Engineers. Calvin served in China with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Mrs. Drew was later elected to the Board of Selectmen and was the leader of town Republicans.
After 21 years as a Gold Star Mother, she also became a Gold Star Grandmother. Her grandson Joseph L. Drew, 18, of Woburn was killed in Vietnam. He was the son of Leonard and Mary Drew. He had just been featured on a program on Channel 4, on the life of a Marine in Vietnam, which aired on Dec. 23, 1965. He was killed four days later.