Melville W. Lowman, 81, soldier who fought on D-Day

June 24, 2006|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Melville Warren Lowman, a longtime resident of South Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood and a World War II veteran who wrote an unpublished memoir of his wartime experiences, died of kidney failure Monday at FutureCare Chesapeake in Arnold. He was 81.

Mr. Lowman lived in the Pontiac Avenue house in Brooklyn where he was born and raised, until moving to Ferndale in Anne Arundel County in 1996. For the last two years, he had been a resident of the Arnold nursing facility.

After the death of his father, a master mechanic who was killed in an industrial accident at a Baltimore foundry, Mr. Lowman dropped out of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School and went to work to help support his family. He took a position as an $11-a-week office boy at U.S. Print and Lithograph Co. in South Baltimore, where he worked 5 1/2 days a week.

Mr. Lowman was working in the same foundry where his father had worked when he received his draft notice in the fall of 1943.

After completing basic training, he joined an engineering unit and was sent to England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.

"The big day finally came. We were loaded on landing barges like cattle. We just crowded in where we could amid tanks, bulldozers, trucks and flame throwers," he wrote in his memoir.

"I had everything I owned in a full field pack on my back (mess kit, shaving equipment, change of underclothing, socks, a towel, and a pup tent). My rifle was loaded and I had a bandolier of bullets across my chest. Each man had five hand grenades hanging off of him," he wrote.

Mr. Lowman considered it a miracle he made it to shore alive because he didn't know how to swim and the Germans had opened up on the forces struggling to reach the beach.

"When we landed, the Channel water near shore was red with American blood and bodies were floating everywhere. I just made my way through them, hoping I wouldn't be next," he wrote.

Dinner, he wrote that night, was spaghetti with ketchup.

"We had seen so many bloody sights earlier in the day, no one could face dinner," he wrote.

Mr. Lowman made his way across Europe with American forces and arrived at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 17, 1944.

He recalled how nuns in a village church hid him and several other members of the 2828th Engineering Group in the basement of a church and parish school.

"On Christmas morning, the nuns gave each of us an 8-inch square of white cloth for a handkerchief. I think they had cut their slips up to make us those gifts," he recalled in the memoir.

Mr. Lowman was aboard a troop ship in Marseilles awaiting orders to go to Japan when the war in Europe ended. He was then sent to Berlin, where he joined occupation forces and met his future wife, the former Margaret Coleman, a member of the British Territorial Services.

The couple were married in 1946, the same year Mr. Lowman was discharged from the Army.

He concluded his memoir with what he called "the best description of war," an unidentified citation: "`Seeing your friends die, wondering whether or not you would die, smelling what death smells like, seeing someone's body being blown apart, going over terrain and stepping over bodies of guys you talked to yesterday; war is silence and that is scary.'"

Mr. Lowman returned to Baltimore and worked as a general foreman for 14 years at Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp. in Curtis Bay. He later held management positions at Glidden Paint Co., Westinghouse Electric Corp. and CGR Medical Corp., from which he retired in 1990.

Mr. Lowman was 45 when he earned his General Educational Development certificate.

He was an avid bowler and liked watching baseball. He was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Linthicum Optimists.

"My father wasn't a mover or a shaker in the grand scheme of life, but he was a good man with solid values and a great sense of humor who never hesitated to help anyone," said a daughter, Bonnie L. Nugent of Severna Park. "He was very soft-hearted and kind, so I always have trouble visualizing him at war."

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Crownsville Veterans Cemetery, 1122 Sunrise Beach Road.

Also surviving are a son, Melville J. Lowman of Hampstead; two other daughters, Maureen L. Agro of Pasadena and Margaret E. Atkinson of Brooklyn Park; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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