On Memorial Day we remember with sadness the lives of those killed in war. For veterans like me this is no time to glorify war, but to ask, “Why did he die, not me?”

Go and ask that question at the two markers of Marstons Mills.

The first is at the corner of Lovells Lane and River Road. It is across the street from the home of James Kenneth Baker who died in Germany on 13 August 1954. He was killed when the truck he was riding in overturned. He had just married a girl from New York, and had a son whom he never saw.

The second boulder is under the new traffic light at the intersection of Route 28 and 149. It is dedicated to Air Force Captain Sherman Crocker, who was born and grew up on Prince Av., a few hundred yards south of here. He died on 13 Feb. 1945 when his P-47 fighter-bomber was hit by a German 88 antiaircraft gun at Ahrweiler in the Rhineland.

Sherman was son of Barnstable Sheriff Laughlan Crocker. A graduate of Barnstable High he enlisted in his Sophomore year at Norwich University in 1942. After flight training at Maxwell Field, Alabama he got his wings as Second Lieutenant, and became an instructor in Eddie Rickenbacker’s famous 98th Fighter Squadron.

Sent to England with the 507th Fighter Group, his P-47 Thunderbird bomber supported the landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day June 1944, and in the Battle of St. Lo. He was decorated with the Air Medal and 17 oak leaf clusters. For shooting down five German planes he got the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew in the Battles of the Bulge and the Hürtgen Forest, both of which ended shortly before his death.

On his final mission, Capt. Crocker had been promoted to command of the 507th Fighter Squadron, with prospect of becoming Major Crocker. It was two days after the Yalta Agreement in which Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt laid out the plan for postwar Europe. But the war was far from over. The Russians had liberated Budapest, and fought into Germany from the east. American forces with which I was serving had yet to cross the Rhine. On the fatal day the bombers attacked German targets along the river, preparing for the American crossing of the Roer River.

Ahldorf is a village 20 miles south of the postwar German capital of Bonn, 55 miles east of his grandmother Dora Sherman’s home of Aachen, Sherman was flying the P-47 “Harriett”, named for his fiancee Harriett Jey Jones. With a load of three 500 pound bombs, and a thousand gallons of gas, he was flying only 50 feet above the ground, at 300 miles per hour when his plane was hit by an 88mm anti-aircraft shell.

Three weeks later, on March 3 Ahldorf was liberated by the Ninth Armored Division, which found the nearby Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen miraculously in tact over the Rhine. Sherman’s body was recovered and buried in Marstons Mills cemetery in 1948. The boulder in his honor was dedicated in Nov. 1949 by Marstons Mills Selectman Chester Crocker, Sheriff Donald Fallon and Representative Allen Jones.

On Memorial Day we join with another World War II veteran, Wilbur Cushing’s remark: “What a waste!”

Revision of article in Barnstable Enterprise 27 May 2011


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