Capt. Quentin Walsh, 90, D-Day strategist, Caroline Co. activist

May 22, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Retired Capt. Quentin R. Walsh, a Caroline County community activist, author and decorated war hero, died Thursday of respiratory illness at Memorial Hospital at Easton. He was 90.

Captain Walsh served in the Coast Guard during World War II and the Korean War. He participated in the invasion of Normandy in the Second World War and was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism. He commanded a Navy reconnaissance party that captured 750 German soldiers and freed 52 U.S. paratroopers in Cherbourg. He was an honored guest at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day in France in 1994.

Born in Providence, R.I., he graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London,Conn., in 1933.

In 1938, he was assigned to accompany a whaling expedition to Antarctica and Australia to report on the capture and killing of whales for the International Whaling Treaty Act. Years later, he would tell his wife he watched the slaughter of 3,600 whales that "would form a line from Denton to the Bay Bridge."

Later, while serving in Europe during World War II, he helped plan and carry out the Normandy invasion.

"It was the most important thing in his life. For the rest of his life he was closely affiliated with the men who had been in the invasion," Mary Ann Walsh, his wife of 57 years, said yesterday.

Mrs. Walsh said she had not heard from him for six weeks when she read in a New York newspaper about his participation in the invasion of Cherbourg and the capture of the German soldiers.

As a Coast Guard lieutenant commander assigned to Navy forces in London, he "devoted intensive study to determine the capacities of ports to be captured from Germany for handling cargo. He wrote the plans for the occupation and operation of the ports of Le Havre, Rouen and Cherbourg," wrote Malcolm F. Willoughby in his book, "The U.S. Coast Guard in World War II."

But Captain Walsh's role in the Normandy invasion damaged his health. He contracted viral pneumonia after wearing wet clothing and sleeping in a jeep with no windshield or roof, his wife said. The resulting respiratory problems eventually led to his death, Mrs. Walsh said.

Because of his poor health, he retired from the Coast Guard in 1945 and moved with his wife to Tucson, Ariz., to recuperate and attend law school.

He was recalled to duty in 1950, and worked for nine years at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington as an aide to the assistant secretary of the treasury, which oversaw the Coast Guard.

Captain Walsh later taught physics and general science at North Caroline High School on the Eastern Shore for five years, then worked as a probation officer for the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation.

He wrote two books about the Normandy invasion. Some of what he wrote "is not in the history books," he told a Sun reporter in a 1984 interview.

Captain Walsh and his family lived in Caroline County for nearly 50 years, and he was involved in several community activities, including leading the opposition to construction of a new post office in Denton in 1959 and organizing a committee that helped get the Route 404 bypass built around Denton in 1979.

He also worked to restrict billboards in rural areas of the county and was a contributor to the Caroline County Historical Society.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10: 30 a.m. Thursday at St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church in Denton. He will be buried with military honors at the Veterans Cemetery at Buelah, near Preston.

In addition to his wife, Captain Walsh is survived by a brother, Gerald E. Walsh of Omaha, Neb.; and three children, Bronwyn Walsh Zolpher of Dewey Beach, Del., and Quentin R. Walsh Jr. and J. O. K. Walsh, both of Denton; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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