Day will be celebrated this year on Monday, May 28. Some of
us will take advantage of shopping specials; some will be
busily getting their special dishes ready for the traditional
picnic; and some will just look forward to sleeping late on
this extra day off. These are all wonderful, relaxing activities,
but sometime during this day please take a few minutes to
give thanks for those who fought to enable us to enjoy them.
would like to take this opportunity to offer my deep, heartfelt
appreciation to just a few of the many soldiers who served
from the early times of Maryland and then to just two men
from one of the later wars.
William Ashmore who, on May 10, 1635, was the first man to
lose his life while defending St. Mary's from William Claiborne,
I thank you.
John Jarboe and William Evans, my appreciation for having
recaptured the fledgling Maryland Colony from the likes of
Richard Ingle in 1645.
William Eltonhead, William Lewis, and Thomas Hatton, all of
whom were executed after the Battle of the Severn on March
25, 1655, despite promises from the Puritans to the contrary,
your lives were not lost in vain.
Thomas Truman, who commanded the Maryland Militia in 1673,
when Maryland and Virginia made a joint attack against the
Susquehanna Indians, I applaud your mercy and detest those
who tried to bring dishonor to your name.
William Claw, who was "slain before the Susquehanna Fort"
in 1675, your sacrifice is appreciated.
John Vadry, who, beginning in 1669, with many others, were
"soldiers in the last Indian march up the Bay; they being
carpenters and persons having no crops. They were out 11 weeks
and 5 days and for the encouragement of others, they shall
be called to serve the country as soldiers hereafter." I acknowledge
the many hardships this must have brought to you and your
family, and thank you for your service.
the many thousands of other Southern Marylanders, between
1669 and 2001 who have served, whether it was for a Maryland
cause or a national cause, space prohibits your acknowledgement
as individuals, but know that I am grateful.
we'll move on to more "modern" times. This portion of the
article will be devoted to two men who served both Maryland
and their country over 200 years later. They were both at
Normandy. One was there on D Day and the other on D Day 1.
Francis "Billy" Forbes, Jr. was born on September 21, 1919
in Aquasco, Prince George's County, Maryland. He is just as
handsome today as he appeared in the photo above which was
taken in 1946. Mr. Forbes is a gentleman, a term that is almost
forgotten today. There is no doubt that, particularly in his
youth, he was a rascal and a heartbreaker.
graduating from Charlotte Hall Military Academy in 1936, Billy
worked with his father on the family farm until he was drafted
into the U.S. Army on April 29, 1941. He was inducted as a
private and assigned to the Anti-Tank Company of the 175th
Infantry Regiment, a part of the 29th Infantry Division "The
Blue and Gray". The majority of the men in the 175th were
from Baltimore. He was trained in radio operation at Ft. Meade,
Maryland, in Florida, and in England. He would eventually
become a high-speed radio operator and attain the rank of
first 17 months of Billy's service was on American soil, but
in 1943, while in training in Florida, he and the other members
of the 29th Division were called up and sent to England.
dated various English girls after his arrival in England.
There was one girl in whom he had a particular interest. When
he asked this girl how old she was, she told him she was 18.
One day, some time later, he went to her home to await her
arrival from work. Her parents asked Billy how old their daughter
had told him she was and he told them 18. They told Billy
that she was really only 15 and they wanted him to "respect
her as such". Billy decided she was too young and that was
the end of that.
same evening, July 17, 1943, Billy returned to the Red Cross
Club where the soldiers, while on leave, could stay for 25
cents per night. Dances were also held there each evening.
He said he was on the lookout for prettiest girl there; she
had to have blonde hair; and she had to be the best dancer.
Billy needed someone who could keep up with him, because he
was, as he termed it, "the jitterbug specialist".
luck would have it, Miss Barbara Mary Geldard was there that
evening and she met all of Billy's criteria. She was blonde,
she was the prettiest girl there, and she was surely the best
dancer. The problem was that he spotted her as she danced
by him with another partner! Billy, however, was undeterred
and the rest of the dances that evening were his.
time Billy was taking no chances, so he asked Barbara Mary
how old she was and she told him she was 15, but that she
would be 16 the next day, on July 18. She passed the age test!
I said "that one day made all the difference, right?" "Yep"
was my answer. Obviously, it did. He was so self-assured that
shortly after that evening, he sent a picture of Barbara Mary
home to his parents and wrote on it "my future wife".
thought was that Billy would have spent every possible moment
with Barbara Mary after that, but he didn't. He said he could
not spend every pass with her, because he needed to be with
his buddies. "Typical male", I thought to myself, but didn't
say it. Billy told me "your buddies were the ones who kept
you alive. You watched out for them and they watched out for
you". I asked if the relationship between buddies was as close
as brothers and my answer was "closer".
June 6, 1944, the 175th Infantry was sent to Omaha Beach for
the D Day Invasion, but would not go on shore until the following
day, as their job on June 6 was to serve as reserves to parts
of the 1st Division and other parts of the 29th Division.
There was still much German resistance the next day when the
175th landed. Billy Forbes served with the 29th when they
took St. Lo, a fight that would cost them 7,000 casualties.
The 29th eventually fought every step of the way into Germany
and finally to the end of the war. Sgt. Billy Forbes was officially
discharged from the Army on July 28, 1945 and made his way
back to his Maryland home.
pretty, dancing blonde and the jitterbug specialist were married
on July 6, 1946 at the Forbes family home in Aquasco.
now I say to you Sgt. Forbes, it was my honor to meet you
and to learn about the many sacrifices you made for your country.
This brief excerpt does little justice to the many, many contributions
you have made.
second person from World War II was William Philip Davis,
who was known throughout his life as "Boy". He was born on
February 4, 1924 in Oraville, St. Mary's County. Exactly one
month after his birth, on March 4, 1924, his mother died as
a result of complications from childbirth and his paternal
grandmother raised Boy, at least during his younger years.
grandmother was widowed just a year later. She struggled along
for several years and finally, out of necessity, married a
widower from the neighborhood. As they were leaving the church
after the marriage ceremony, the new husband demanded to know
why her children were following them and she had to remind
him that her children went with her.
for this family, which had already been hard, became even
worse with the onset of the depression. There was no money
for anything except the bare necessities of life, and sometimes
not even for that. The house they lived in could be described
as "ramshackle" at best. Further, the new living situation
was very unhappy and the children left home as quickly as
possible to get away from their stepfather.
1936, Boy began and ended his high school career in one day.
During those days, high school began in the seventh grade.
He had no decent clothes, hardly any food to eat, and the
one pair of shoes he owned had to be tied to his feet. So,
at the ripe old age of 12, he began his working career at
the local grocery store. It wouldn't be long before he too
left his beloved grandmother to get away from his step grandfather.
1943, like so many other young men of that time, Boy received
his draft notice and was sent to Ft. Benning, Georgia for
basic training. He became a member of Company D, 26th Infantry,
1st Division, "The Big Red One". He was trained as a mortar
after completion of basic training, Boy went to New York with
the rest of his Company and from there they were shipped to
England. His luck had not improved any, as his first wartime
battle was the D Day Invasion at Omaha Beach.
he was reluctant to talk about his war-time experiences over
the years, he did talk of being in the landing craft approaching
Omaha Beach and that the men had to get off further from the
beach than planned. Often, they were killed before they could
get off the craft. When Boy walked off the craft, he immediately
went to the bottom since he couldn't swim and because the
soldiers were all loaded down with heavy equipment. Another
soldier saved his life and then immediately lost his when
they got on shore.
has only to see the opening scenes of "Saving Private Ryan"
to get an idea of what these men endured. Many living veterans
have stated that these scenes are extremely accurate. I know
that I had a hard time watching it and it showed me, in a
very graphic way what Boy had talked about so many years before.
same day or the next, his unit overtook a house on the shore
of Omaha Beach, taking a group of German soldiers as prisoners.
These soldiers were between the ages of 12 and 15. Boy went
on to participate in battles across France. His battlefront
experience ended with the Battle of the Bulge.
Battle of the Bulge was fought in the winter of 1943-1944.
It was the worst winter that Europe had experienced in over
40 years. It is said that when men were killed, their bodies
would be frozen within an hour. The winter clothing the soldiers
were issued was inadequate against the extreme cold and deep
snow. They had no boots, only rubber galoshes. They would
take their blankets and tear them into strips to protect their
extremities from freezing. Many men died, not as a result
of battle, but simply from the cold.
was returned to the U.S. due to frost bitten feet while serving
in the Battle of the Bulge. He was sent to a convalescent
hospital in North Carolina about February of 1945.
like Sgt. Forbes, was a bit of a rascal too. Just prior to
his induction into the Army, he became engaged to a young
lady from the neighborhood who wrote to him throughout the
war. While in North Carolina, he met the daughter of a minister
and became engaged to her as well. So, now there were two
in the late spring, while on a weekend pass, Boy met Nellie
Agnes Phillips, a native of Sumner County, Tennessee who he
immediately nicknamed "Kitty". In early June, the Red Cross
notified Boy that his grandmother was dying and he was allowed
to go home to Maryland. Sadly, he arrived the day after her
death. Kitty went to stay with her sister in Indianapolis.
letters passed back and forth and on July 13, Kitty boarded
a Greyhound bus and came to Washington, D.C. The next day,
she and Boy drove to the courthouse in St. Mary's County and
were married. The first order of business (or maybe it could
have been the second), as I understand it, was to notify the
other two prospective brides.
Davis lived the rest of his life in his beloved St. Mary's
County. He died on July 30, 1991 and was buried with full
so I say to you, my beloved father that I will always be proud
of you. Even though I was very young at the time and didn't
realize everything that was being said, I remember the many
times you cried out in the middle of the night from the nightmares
that haunted you. I cried too, not because I understood, but
because I couldn't stand to hear Daddy cry. You are my hero.
recently, I didn't realize that there were words to "Taps".
These haunting words, I believe, are a fitting tribute to
our brave soldiers.
is done, Gone the sun, From the lakes, From the hills, From
the sky, All is well, safely rest God is nigh.
light, Dims the sight, And a star, Gems the sky, Gleaning
bright, From afar, Drawing nigh, Falls the night.
and praise, For our days, Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
Neath the sky, As we go, This we know, God is nigh.
by: Linda Davis Reno, May 24, 2001