Edward Joseph Collins – Colonel, United States Army

Courtesy of his classmates
United States Military Academy, Class of 1946

Edward Joseph Collins No.15654 – Class of 1946
Died 12 October 1984 at Fayetteville,  North Carolina, aged 60 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery,


The term soldier means many things to many people, but it has a special connotation to those who have spent their lives as professional soldiers. A “soldier’s soldier” is a term of respect given to a select few, but one unanimously bestowed upon Edward Joseph (Woodie) Collins. He will be remembered as a soldier to all, a mentor to many and a father figure to the fortunate few who had the opportunity to serve under him. More than a soldier was lost the day he died, a shining light was lost that showed all who follow after him where the moral high ground is and how to get there.

Eddie Collins was horn 18 February 1924 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He grew up in the Boston area and graduated from Boston Latin School in 1941. A strong sense of family and a deep belief in his Catholic faith were to be the bulwarks of Woodie’s future endeavors. A stint at Northeastern University and the Army Air Corps Cadet program intervened between his graduation from high school and his realization of a lifelong dream of entering the United States Military Academy.

As a cadet, Woodie worked hard at academics, and what he learned he retained. His friends from cadet days recall him as a person of impeccable character, thoroughly honest and dependable in every respect. A classmate, Bill Studer, recalled:

“… He was a steady and self-disciplined person who applied himself conscientiously to whatever task needed to be done at the time … Honor didn’t seem to be something that he had to learn at West Point. He had quite evidently learned it at home and practiced it all his life. He was a devout Catholic who never seemed to have any doubts about his religion…”

Another classmate, Billy Pendergrass, recalled: “Woodie was a quiet but fierce defender of the right as he saw it. Everyone in G- I Company knew and respected Woodie.”

Graduation saw Woodie go into the Infantry and attend the usual courses at Fort Benning, Georgia. He married his long-time sweetheart. Marie A. Belmonte, in
Revere, Massachusetts on 12 April 1947. Marie recalls that Woodie loved being a part of the Army. It came first and Marie, and later the children, accepted and understood that fact.

His first assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry in Vienna. From Vienna, he attended the Infantry Advanced Course and then went to Korea, where he served as S-4 with the 17th Infantry, 7th Division. In 1957, Woodie began a series of assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division ranging from company commander, assistant regimental S-3, assistant G-3 to assistant chief of staff, Division Headquarters. From the 82nd, Woodie went to France, where he served with the Support Operations Task Force. In 1964 he received what he considered his most rewarding assignment: battalion commander, 2-327, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Woodie deployed with his
battalion to Vietnam and served there with distinction. One of his company commanders recalls that Woodie embodied the ethic of duty, honor and country and provided a command climate that allowed his subordinates to grow professionally and spiritually. Woodie demonstrated the best sense of balance between mission and men that this officer had ever seen. Before mentoring became the buzz word, Woodie was doing it as a matter of course.

From Vietnam, Woodie attended the Air War College and then served as G-3, Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg and later became a brigade commander at the Infantry Training Center. From Fort Bragg, he served with the Office of the Deputy hief of Staff for Operations in Washington, DC. In 1973, Woodie and Marie traveled to the Presidio of San Francisco, where he served his terminal tour with Recruiting Command. Woodie retired from the Army in 1976 as a colonel.

After retirement, he served one year as commandant of a small military school in South Carolina. The Collins finally retired in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Woodie died of cancer on 12 October 1984. He is survived by his wife, Marie; two daughters, Marylee and Lucy; a son, Edward J., Jr. (USMA ’72), and his three grandchildren who were the joy of his life, Stephen, Beth and Mike.

Woodie Collins had a dramatic impact on those who served with him. They all recall him with a heartwarming fondness and respect:

“In my opinion, Woodie was one of the finest officers and gentlemen I ever served with.”

“He was a tireless worker. extremely loyal to his unit and his superiors.”

“As a company, battalion and brigade C.O., he took care of his troops.”

“As a staff officer in the 82nd Airborne Division his reputation was well known: Give the job to Woodie if you want it done correctly. Or Ask Woodie, he will know the answer.”

“I never once met, talked, marched or sat down with Woodie Collins without thinking that his was the kind of man and soldier that USMA strived to produce.”

“Woodie represented everything that West Point intended each graduate to be.”

“Above all, he was continuously aware of his responsibilities to the men he commanded. It is noteworthy that they returned this same sense of affection and trust to him.”

“His loyalty to home, Marie, friends and moral values was absolute.”

Woodie was a quiet, shy man with an inner strength that often surprised his family. He was a loving and caring husband and father. His sense of family and his faith remained an integral pan of his life throughout his career. He loved the Army and he was proud of his West Point heritage. His passing left a huge void in the lives of all who knew and loved him. The Class of 1946 joins Marie and the children in declaring, “Well Done, Woodie; Be Thou At Peace!”

46 Memorial Article Project and his wife, Marie

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