Memorial Day

James Alexander Malloy, C Co., 175th Infantry, 29th Division.

This is the last photo ever taken of Pvt. Malloy; it is May 1944 and he is in Cornwall, England, finishing up his training with the 29th Division for the invasion of Europe. He will go in on Omaha Beach on D-Day + 1, in what is known as “the third wave”. He will fight in the hedgerows of Normandy towards the liberation of the German-occupied town of St. Lo (the hub where all the main roads from the deep-sea ports of Brittany and Normandy converge to form a highway straight to Paris) until June 16. On that day, when his regiment is engaged in fierce combat at a place called Hill 108, (known as Purple Heart Hill, for the capture of which the 175th will be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation), James Malloy will be killed by a German sniper with a shot to the heart. He will be interred along with 9, 387 other American servicemen in the Military Cemetery at Colleville-St. Laurent, the only Scottish soldier buried on that magnificently peaceful green bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

I had gone to Omaha Beach to pay my respects to James Malloy at the request of his son, a Korea War vet who is in poor health (the son, Joseph Molloy, was 14 years old when his father died; he now lives on Long Island). Neither of us knew, at the time, that James Malloy was the only Scottish soldier buried in the American cemetery; in fact, Joseph knew very little about his father — not even his father’s birth date.

Once I began researching the life of James Malloy, I was able to find out rather a lot about his life and service. I tracked down the New York City orphanage where James was sent when he was five years old, I found the records of his discharge when he was sent back to his paternal grandparents in Scotland after six years at The Home, I found the old Army records that show how he waited for the Americans to enter the war before he joined the 29th Division in England, I tracked down his Army sergeant who remembered “Scottie” vividly, who also told me what he saw the day James Malloy was killed. I interviewed James’ best friend in the Division just two months before he died, a man who had never talked about the war to his own family and at whose funeral I spoke on behalf of the Molloy family to thank him for all he had done after the war to support the emigration of James Malloy’s widow and son to the US.

I wrote a brief summary of all this for the veterans’ association fo the 29th Division and it was published in their magazine last March (I have added a new “James Malloy Page” [above, see tabs] for those who are interested). I am now an associate member of The 29th Division Association and I’ve had the pleasure to meet many more WWII vets.

The 29th Division still has, to this day, strong connections to the people they liberated in Normandy. At every anniversary of D-Day, a contingent of 29ers goes to Omaha (sometimes in the company of US Presidents) and are joined by generations of French citizens who march in the streets of St. Lo, Vire, Vierville, and St. Laurent. One of those grateful French citizens comes all the way from the Breton peninsula to pay his respects, and two years ago he took his young family to Omaha to visit James Malloy’s grave:

James Malloy’s only son, Joseph Molloy, does not have children of his own. I used to worry that the memory of James Malloy, the only Scottish soldier buried on Omaha Beach, would disappear. But now that these French children have heard of him, and now that you, too, know his name, I hope that means that someone will be there for him in 2044, on the 100th anniversary of D-Day. And in 2144, 2244, 2344…

If you have a soldier you would like us to remember on Memorial Day, feel free to add his name in your Comments.

Have a happy weekend, everyone.

4 Comments, RSS

  1. Rachel

    Dear Vivian, I think of you as sharp-tongued, witty, direct, one who does not suffer fools gladly. In our twice a week meetings here, I see mainly that side of you as well as the generous artist/writer who shares her working life with us.

    I forget sometimes about this other facet of the jewel that you are, who works with the 29th Division to record their lives, and deaths, and assure that their legacy is remembered.

    I am so grateful that you have been led to this work, that you connect us so vividly with these men, and their families, that you connect us to their time and place, and to another different-yet-the-same story of our world at war.

    Memorial Day was originally an effort to reunite our country after the horrors of our Civil War. This is a day when we can continue to honor all who have served in war by working for peace.

    Thank you so much for all you do. Peace and blessings, Rachel

  2. Rachel said it beautifully.
    You are a many faceted jewel. We are treated to each side of you as time goes on. And, we learn important things about striving for life in this world, plus how to make more beauty in it with painting.
    And the humor!! Just enough sprinkled in.
    Thank you, Vivian

  3. Mary and Rachel said it all! I agree.
    Why don’t you add this to Sepia Saturday. Then it will get even more views and more people remembering.
    My uncle, who was killed in WW2, is Robert Finwall. He was a pilot. I think you read about him in one of my Sepia Saturday posts.

  4. Sandy

    As a daughter of a WWII and Korea Veteran and the wife of a Vietnam Veteran, I deeply appreciate your sincere homage to these brave young men. Freedom don’t come Free. God Bless.

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