SULPHER, La. – On Aug. 13, an amazing veteran with distinguished service died one day before his 100th birthday. Retired Maj. Gen. Erbon W. Wise, a World War II Veteran and survivor of the Normandy Beach landing ended his service as a Louisiana Adjutant General during the 1960s.
Wise was born in a log home in Claiborne Parish, La., in 1920. He spent his youth in Leesville, La., the son of a farmer.
At the Louisiana State Normal College (now Northwestern State University), he majored in agriculture at the suggestion of his father. Although he said his heart wasn’t in farming he continued and graduated with a degree in agriculture. He spent much of his time working on the school newspaper and writing stories for the local Natchitoches papers.
Wise graduated from college in 1941. He worked briefly as a high school teacher in Avoyelles Parish. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, like so many men at that time, Wise immediately joined the military. Before he headed off to war, he married his college sweetheart, Marie Norris.
Wise joined the Army Air Corps and was among the first American troops sent to England in 1942. He was in the 91st B-17 Heavy Bombardment Group of “Memphis Belle” fame.
Wise participated in the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, landing at Utah Beach in an assault craft. He remembers enough military stories to fill an entire book (and he did just that). During his three years in Europe, he met Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire and other prominent leaders and celebrities.
After the war ended in 1945, Wise returned to Natchitoches and remained in the Army Reserve commanding a reserve unit in Lake Charles. In his civilian life he was determined to enter the newspaper business. His dream was to buy the local newspaper, but when the owner wouldn’t sell, Wise started his own paper, The Natchitoches Chief. It soon became the most popular paper in town. Later he and his wife bought another paper, The Maplewood Star. The newspaper office, as well as a meeting room where Wise commanded an Army Reserve unit, was located on the couple’s property.
After realizing success with the Maplewood paper, Wise bought the Sulphur newspaper, called The Southwest Builder at the time. Wise added to his periodical collection with papers in DeRidder and Leesville. Eventually, he owned newspapers in communities all across Louisiana and Texas.
In 1964, Wise returned to active service as the adjutant general of the state of Louisiana in charge of the state militia during the Vietnam War. He and his wife moved to New Orleans and lived at Jackson Barracks from 1964 to 1968. During this time, he also served as state director of the Selective Service and was responsible for the state Civil Defense. He retired from the military in 1969, after 29 years of active and reserve service.
Wise has written 24 books, including autobiographies that focus on his adventures in the military and his years in the newspaper business. He’s also written about local history and genealogy and has composed travel and hunting memoirs.
Wise lives on a 40-acre plot on the 900 acres of land he owns north of Sulphur, Louisiana. The rest he leases to cattle farmers and deer clubs. Although he didn’t plan on gardening when he was young, he said he came to love it. Over the years, he transformed those 40 acres into a paradise, resplendent with hundreds of camellias and azaleas.
Wise leaves behind his wife and four children: Bonnie (Wise) Everett in Sulphur; Ann Wise in Baton Rouge; Larry Wise and his wife, Dr. Myra Wise in Sulphur; and Eddie Wise and his wife Inessa who live in Leesville.
His son Eddie is the Louisiana ESGR Southwest area chair. He has been an active ESGR member for more than 30 years and is the ESGR’s main point of contact at Fort Polk, La., one of the largest U.S. Army training bases in the U.S.