Edmund Jones Lilly, III, was born in Colon, Republic of Panama, on May 26th 1928, while his father was serving at Fort Davis, Canal Zone, with the 14th Infantry. He moved about the world in typical “army brat” fashion, getting his formal education here and there, making new friends and parting with old ones. After stations in Michigan and Georgia, he went to Manila with his parents and two sisters in January of 1941. At Fort McKinley, where his father served with the 57th Infantry (PS), he lived in Quarters 44, and attended the American grade school. Here he was graduated in a class of three, with Major General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (USMA 06) as the speaker. His two classmates were Gail Francis Wilson and Frank Riley Loyd. Gail and Frank were also his classmates at West Point. In May, 1941, because of mounting tension in the Far East, he was evacuated with his Mother and sisters back to the United States. During his father’s stay in the Orient, Ted lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, his father’s birthplace. Here he finished High School in 1945.
Ted enjoyed the out-of-doors – hunting, fishing, swimming, or even picnicking. He took part in sports in both high school and The Citadel, Charleston, South Carolina, which he entered in the Fall of 1945. He was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville and took part in activities of the Young People’s League. At this time he considered the Episcopal ministry as a career and had many long talks with his rector on the subject. At The Citadel he decided to try for the U.S. Military Academy and the Army. He entered West Point in the Summer of 1946 with the Class of 1950.
Though dedicated to the military, he deplored warfare as the final means of settling international disputes, as fragmentary writings found among his school papers will attest. The following lines are an example:
“Oftentimes I feel a great despair
That fills my soul with unrelenting fear,
and fires of bell burn deep within my heart.
My mind is doubtful and my view unclear.
Yet through this fog that covers my real self,
That blackens all my hopes and all my prayers,
I have unfaltering trust in Things Divine,
And with this trust I cover up my cares.”
His dreams of a better tomorrow are revealed in the following fragment:
“But now in reminiscing through days of long ago,
I realize how methods change of fighting off one’s foe.
A gun that shoots a hundred rounds a thousand yards or more
Has ta’en the place of sword-play in this world of constant war.
But soon we know that this gun too will will be entombed in dust,
And then we’ll see a newer world that’s once more free and just.”
At West Point he was a member of Company I-A-2. His room was often a gathering place and many happy evenings were spent listening to records or discussing the last week-end in New York.
On June 7, 1950, the day following graduation, Ted took as his bride, Mary Alma Russ, a lovely El Paso girl he had met on a blind date while on a cadet visit to Fort Bliss. While at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on honeymoon leave, he became concerned about radio and newspaper reports of world conditions and notified his unit, the Second Division, of his exact location. Several days later his leave was cancelled and he reported to Fort Lewis, Washington. By July’s end he was in Korea with Company B, 9th Infantry. In early September his platoon was on an isolated peak overlooking the Naktong River in the Yongson Sector. The rest of the regiment had been driven from its position. Why Ted’s platoon did not withdraw, we do not know. Death occurred September 3, 1950, according to the D.A. wire. The posthumous Silver Star citations read in part: “During the intense automatic weapons fire and grenade explosions, Lieutenant Lilly walked among his men, encouraging them to greater efforts in their valiant defense against insurmountable odds.” In other words, he was in the place he should have been, performing his duty – as he had been taught to do. He was the first member of the Class of 1950 to be killed in action.
He is survived by his widow – now happily remarried since 1952 – by his parents, Colonel and Mrs. Edmund J. Lilly, Jr., and his sisters, Mrs. Jack. D. Dade, Jr., whose husband is a Colonel in the Air Force, and Mrs. Ralph A. Koch, Jr., whose husband is a First Lieutenant, Signal Corps, US Army, and USMA ’53.
The last set of correspondence (1950-1951) revolves around the death of Colonel Lilly’s son, Lt. Edmund J. Lilly, III, who was killed in action in Korea. These letters are mainly condolences to the family. Two letters (September 21, 1950 and October 17, 1950) give specific accounts of the battle in which Lt. Lilly was killed. Also included is a poem written in the memory of Lt. “Ted” Lilly.