World War II Dedication Speech

The World War II Dedication Speech was written and presented by Mr. Kevin Cooley

The allied victory in World War II literally prevented the world from being plunged into a brutal totalitarian dark-age typified by fascist Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. While this outcome is without question awesome and just, it is sometimes not linked closely enough in our minds to the costs of such a victory.

More than 400,000 citizens of the United States died while fighting in this war. Today, 60 years after the end of this brutal and tragic war, we are gathered to remember eight of those citizens. Let me first place this number eight into a better perspective for you this morning. There are likely 8 times the number of people living in this area today as there were living here in 1940.

This means that if this community lost as many people in a war today as were lost in World War II, we would have a plaque with 60 names on it. As you can appreciate, 8 men lost from a community the size of Severna Park in the early 1940’s was a huge event.

So who were these 8 men? Let me try to tell you a little about them. The passing of 60 years and a portion of a generation has caused the details of some of them to be known only to history. However, the stories of others are more clear.

Warren Bonnett was an Aberdeen boy transplanted to a house on Cypress Creek Road in Severna Park when he married Anne Dill in 1938. Warren took the train to his job in Baltimore from the station that is a part of this park. Warren served as a Captain in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One, and was killed in action in near Oran, North Africa in 1942. He was 28 years old and left a wife and a 4 year old daughter, Sue. Captain Bonnett’s grandson Warren will tell you more about him later in our program.

Morris Jones also from Severna Park was serving as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1942. He was stationed in England and died there that year. Sadly, after more than 60 years the details of the circumstances surrounding his death now are a mystery. This is also the case with Nathan Pollard who also served in the Army.

Edward Brockmeyer grew up in Severna Park, in a store located not 100 yards from this spot on the caddy corner to Dawson’s. Edward served as a Marine rifleman during the invasion of Saipan in 1944 were he assaulted a Japanese pill box fortification, killing the seven occupants after they refused to surrender. Edward had to pour gasoline into the pill box and kill them in turn as burning, they were forced out. Horrible, yes, but that was the reality of the war in the Pacific.

Edward recovered from his wounds and with the full knowledge of what awaited him, he sailed with the 4th Marine Division for Iwo Jima. Overcoming what I can only believe was the kind of fear that only a veteran of combat can really comprehend, he volunteered for hazardous duty supporting the underwater demolition teams surveying the beaches at Iwo just prior to the landings.

Edward was a part of a 12 boat mission, conducted in broad daylight less than 1,000 yards offshore. The men in these boats were literally sitting ducks for the Japanese heavy machine guns and artillery on Mount Suribachi. The boats were intended to both provide a diversion to protect the Navy UDT men as they surveyed the beaches and goad the Japanese into revealing the positions of any guns that had survived the preceding heavy bombardments.

The 12 boats were absolutely savaged. In little more than an hour all of the boats were either badly damaged or sunk. Edward was killed by an artillery round while aboard LCI-449, one of the 12 boats. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for valor prior to being killed. His citation is on display here today. Incidentally, the first Medal of Honor of the battle for Iwo Jima was awarded to LCI-449’s skipper, Lt. Rufus Herring. Of the more than 100 Navy UDT swimmers in the water than morning, only 1 was lost. Edward was 22 years old when he was killed. His memorial service was conducted in the church across the street from this spot.

Edward is not the only Brockmeyer on the memorial. His younger brother Robert was serving as a ship fitter on a ship in the invasion fleet off of Sicily in 1943. Robert was killed manning his deck side battle station during an attack by a German dive bomber on August 1st, 1943. A letter from an officer on his ship is on display here today attests to his attention to his duty. He was 20 years old.

While Robert was in peril offshore, Louis Pohlner was fighting with the United States Army ashore on Sicily. He was killed there in the summer of 1943.

Edward and Robert Brockmeyer were not the only brothers from Severna Park involved in the war. Harry and Francis Millhausen grew up in Whitney’s Landing in Severna Park. Their parents owned Millhausen’s Tavern at the intersection of Benfield and Jumper’s Hole Roads. The picture of Francis on display was taken near this tavern.

The older brother Harry Millhausen went first and served with the Marines in the Pacific. He lost an arm during the assault on the island of Roi-Namur in 1944. Francis, or Fritz as he was known, ran track at Annapolis High School, graduated in 1944 and enlisted in the Marines after his older brother returned home. Fritz died in China on occupation duty in 1946. He was 19.

As you heard earlier, Robert Maxwell was a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps. A review of the old Tap-Loid, the home town paper produced in Streett’s Tavern, reveals that as of February, 1945 he was serving in Italy and was alive. He did not survive the war.

What are we today to make of such sacrifice? These men through their loyalty and commitment literally gave all of their tomorrows for our today. For the most part they died without ever experiencing the joy of marriage and of holding their own children. Of watching them grow to adulthood. Through their sacrifice they converted at least two of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (freedom from fear and freedom of worship) from a hopeful abstraction to a guaranteed reality.

What might they expect of us? Would they expect us become permanently saddened, unable to experience the joys of life that they denied themselves? I do not think so. Rather, I believe that they would want us to deeply and truly experience joy. I think that they would wish that we do so while leading lives and making choices worthy of their sacrifice. I would propose that we have an obligation to act in ways consistent with the ideals for which they fought and died.

I suggest that we have an obligation to find a balance between our own self-interest and the common interests of our neighbors and community as a whole. That we have an obligation to find way to compromise for the common good when warranted. And an obligation to stand firm when to compromise would result in a surrender of hard won freedoms. Can we, and equally importantly can our children, recognize the difference between these two situations?

Finally, I believe that the self-sacrifice of these eight men engenders another obligation; to each other and to our country in a larger sense. We have an obligation to learn about and to remember our past; even when it is painful to do so. To take time to ensure that understanding of our history and the legacy that it establishes for us is well understood and does not fade. Obligations. Obligations to cherish the joys that they sacrificed for us, to teach our children well and to make a small part of each day Memorial Day through both our words and our deeds.

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