Seventy-five years after its end, Duplin County is honoring its men who died in World War II. The Duplin County Historical Society is donating a granite monument, which will contain the name of each man, his home community, his rate or rank and branch of service, and the dates of his birth and death. The monument will be unveiled and dedicated in a ceremony to be held on the South grounds of the Court House in Kenansville, on Friday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.
Veterans of all ages are invited as special guests, and all living World War II veterans are invited as distinguished guests. Other distinguished guests include surviving family members of the men who are being honored. Several surviving brothers and sisters have been identified, and also several children of the war dead, some of whom never saw or knew their fathers and whose fathers never saw them. Reserved seating will be provided for these guests, and those with special needs may telephone 910-296-1111 to request assistance.
The ceremony will be opened by members of the Wilmington Police Pipes and Drums, who also will provide appropriate music during the ceremony. An Honor Guard will be provided by Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace and his officers to post and retire the colors. Lauren Taylor Brinson, daughter of Register of Deeds Davis Brinson, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Lieutenant Colonel D. Ronald Sorvino, U. S. Marine Corps, Retired, will present A Toast to the Flag. The United States Congress has honored one of the honorees posthumously by an award of the Congressional Gold Medal, and it is hoped that the presentation can be made to his family during the ceremony. A principal speaker will share remarks appropriate to the occasion. The monument will be presented to Duplin County by attorney and historian Charles Marshall Ingram, who has chaired this project and has conducted most of the research. Kennedy Leigh Thompson, Chairman of the Duplin County Board of Commissioners, will accept the monument on behalf of Duplin County. A bugler will play Taps to conclude the ceremony.
Federal and state officials invited to participate in the ceremony include Vice President Joe Biden, United States Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, the United States Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Also invited are the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Congressman David Rouzer, Governor McCrory, the North Carolina Council of State, and other state officials.
Ninety-nine men have been identified to date. Of that number, 62 served in the Army, 12 served in the Army Air Forces, 17 served in the Navy, seven served in the Marine Corps, and one was a pilot with the North Carolina Civil Air Patrol. Eighty-eight were white, and 11 were black. Nearly all of those who served in the Army and Army Air Forces were inducted at Fort Bragg. Prior to joining the service, several of the men worked as civilians to build Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and New River Marine Corps Air Station. Many were school drop-outs. Some were high school graduates. Several attended or graduated from Presbyterian Junior College (now Saint Andrews University), in Laurinburg; Appalachian State Teachers College (now Appalachian State University), in Boone; North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University), in Raleigh; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Two owned or operated gas stations. They were farmers, and textile supervisors. One was an Eagle Scout, one was a Freemason, and one was an ordained Baptist minister. At least two were school teachers. Most were single, but several were married. At least six of them left behind small children, some of whom they never saw or held. Many of the single men provided from their pay allotments for the support of their parents as America emerged from the Great Depression.
The 99 honorees served in nearly every rank, from private to Lieutenant Colonel, and represented every town and nearly every community in Duplin County. Several were pilots or crew members whose planes were shot down. Several were on ships that were sunk. Most were killed in action, but some died in accidents or from natural causes. They died in the United States and Europe, all across Italy, France, Belgium and Germany, from Sicily to Berlin. One died liberating Dachau Concentration Camp. Two died from friendly fire. They died in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. And they died on nearly island and atoll, from Savo Island to Okinawa, as the United States scratched and clawed its way to victory.
It is not just the men who died who are being remembered and honored. Also being honored are their families, from Albertson to Yarborough. Many of these families have lived in Duplin since before the county was created. These include Boney, Brock, Carr, Cottle, Fountain, Grady, Jones, Kornegay, Miller, Parker, Simmons, Smith, Southerland, Taylor, Teachey, Thomas, Whaley, Williams and at least 26 others. Men from these families have fought in all of America’s wars. The men who died in World War II were a microcosm of Duplin County. Their history is the history of Duplin County. With this remembrance, Duplin County finally is paying a debt that is long over-due.
For further information, contact Charles M. Ingram at 910-296-1111, 910-296-3676 or [email protected]