World War II Dedication
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Comments for Memorial Rededication

On behalf of our entire family, I would like to offer our thanks to all who made this rededication possible, especially George Maloney and Kevin Cooley who spearheaded the effort.

Captain Warren Lee Bonnett was my mother’s father. My mother, Sue is in the audience today, and she wanted to speak, but she thought that it would be difficult to make it through her comments – so strong are her feelings even 60 years after the loss of her father.
Raised in Aberdeen, Warren went to University of Maryland, joined the ROTC, and met Ann Dill, a local girl who was attending Western Maryland College – they married in secret before they graduated, and by the time she graduated, Ann was pregnant with my mother, Sue.

Warren and Ann settled here in Severna Park, on a farm that Ann’s family owned on property along the Magothy River back behind where St. John’s Church is now – in fact if you drive back there today, you’ll find a Dill Road, reflecting that history. Warren worked in Baltimore, and both he and his father-in-law took the train to Baltimore from this very station.
He was called up from the reserves on July 31, 1940 and joined 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. Ann drove him to his assigned station, and then drove to be with him every chance she could, wherever he was.
Sue went on some of these trips, much to the delight of her father.
Eventually Big Red One was sent to England, and then Northern Ireland to prepare for the next step.

He wrote many letters home, and they reveal a man of sweet temperament and great selflessness who missed his family very much. In fact, the overwhelming sentiment conveyed in his letters is his love for Ann and his love for Sue – and how much he wanted them both to be happy even if he did not return from the war. He wanted Ann to remarry, to raise Sue, to carry on with her goals – in short, to have a good and happy life, even if it was not to be a life with him.

On Oct. 20, 1942, he wrote his last letters to Ann, Sue and his parents before embarking with the Division Allied Invasion of North Africa. They were taken to Oran, Algeria and then turn east to confront Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Tunisia. Warren served as Captain of Company G, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. In the early hours of November 8, 1942, he led his men onto the beach south of the small port town called Arzew, on the Mediterranean. The Allies believed, or hoped, that the local Vichy French would surrender and welcome them with open arms. That turned out to be a false hope. Instead, when Company G, along with the rest of the 2d Battalion reached the outskirts of St. Cloud, a small town on the road to Oran, they became embroiled in a vicious firefight with elements of the French Foreign Legion defending the town. The fight for St. Cloud eventually tied down two battalions, and the French inflicted heavy casualties on the American forces.
Captain Warren Bonnett was killed by machine gun fire while leading his men in an assault on the French forces in St. Cloud, the afternoon of the first day of the invasion. A comrade wrote that he suffered little and that his last words were for Ann.

The telegram from the War Department announcing his death arrived at the post office here in Severna Park, and the story is told in our family that the postmaster, Jerry Brockmeyer did not have the heart to deliver it to Ann directly. So he sent it on to the post office in Aberdeen to be delivered to Warren’s parents. Severna Park was a small town, and delivering such news was no easy task. Two of Mr. Brockmeyer’s brothers were also killed in World War II and are honored on this plaque.

Sue was just about to turn 4, a bit younger than my own daughter Emma is now, when the news came that her father had been killed in action. I cannot distill the meaning of what happened to Warren and Ann and Sue any more succinctly or powerfully than Warren did himself in his last letter to Ann when he wrote “It’s just that this war business is a cold hard job and not much room for sentiment … and I do miss my home.” Ann and Sue, indeed all of us, have sure missed him.

Again, on behalf of all our family, our thanks to those who made this rededication possible and thank you for your attention this morning …

Please note: This was on Memorial Day, May 30, 2005. The monument is located in the Hatton-Regester Green along the B and A Trail in Severna Park. It was moved from across B and A Blvd. in front of the YWCA building (now Community Center).

 

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