Charles L. Hammond Jr.

Office manager and senior buyer had brief baseball career before serving in Devil's Brigade during World War II

December 19, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,

Charles L. Hammond Jr., a retired office manager and senior buyer who had fought during World War II with the famed Devil's Brigade, died Monday of complications of heart disease at Carroll Hospice's Dove House in Westminster. He was 88.

Mr. Hammond, the son of farmers, was born and raised in Reisterstown. As a teenager, he became a noted cattle judge and traveled all over the country judging Holsteins, relatives said.

After graduating in 1937 from Franklin High School, where he had been a varsity pitcher, he pursued a professional baseball career.

He tried out for the Orioles in the old International League and made the team.

"In those days, there were no designated hitters, so when he went to bat, he threw his arm out and they had to let him go," said a son, James Dulany Hammond of Westminster.

In 1941, Mr. Hammond was drafted into the Army and after completing training, he joined a Ranger unit as a paratrooper.

He later became a first lieutenant with the First Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian unit that was established in 1942 and became known as the Devil's Brigade.

The commando-style brigade was known for its expertise in fighting behind enemy lines under heavy winter conditions. Members' training was extensive and included hand-to-hand combat, use of explosives for demolition, amphibious and mountain warfare, parachuting and moving as ski troops.

The Germans named the 1,800-man force the die schwarzen Teufeln (the Black Devils) because they blackened their faces with shoe polish before their nightly raids. Catching the enemy unaware, they often completed their missions without firing their weapons and as quickly as they had come, would then vanish into the night.

They were first deployed to Kiska in the Aleutian Islands in 1943, and then returned to Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont.

In the fall of 1943, they landed in Casablanca, and then joined Gen. Mark W. Clark's Fifth Army in Naples.

"Two battles that he participated in were Anzio and Monte la Difensa," his son said.

During the invasion at Anzio, Mr. Hammond was hit in the leg with a piece of shrapnel that remained there for the rest of his life.

The attack on the German position at Monte la Difensa started in December 1943.

The initial assault began at night as members of the elite group climbed the cliffs by rope, managing to surprise the enemy.

"Monte la Difensa was successfully captured but with a casualty rate of 77 percent," his son said.

Mr. Hammond, who had participated in the liberation of Rome, later was sent to France.

"When he was sent to France, he was told to stay in the Jeep because the guns of the enemy planes were set to the width of the road and shot up the gutters," his son said.

The elder Mr. Hammond told family members years later, "I was never so scared in my life, but I stayed in that Jeep."

In Nice, a sniper managed to shoot a bullet through his helmet but he was unhurt. He was on his way to the Battle of the Bulge when word arrived that his mother was seriously ill.

Mr. Hammond was sent home on a ship and put in charge of German prisoners being sent to the United States for internment.

"His mother, Mary Yellett Hammond, died before he got home. She was 49," his son said. "All four of her sons were in the service, and he said that the war had killed her. He said that 'Dr. Caples explained that she died of worry.' "

When the war ended, Mr. Hammond was assigned to the Pentagon. He was discharged in 1945 and his decorations included the Canadian Parachute Wings and the Silver Maple Leaf.

In 1968, a full-length Hollywood film, The Devil's Brigade, starring William Holden, Cliff Roberts and Vince Edwards, recalled the wartime exploits of the celebrated commando unit.

Returning to civilian life, Mr. Hammond married the former Jeanne Monroe Wales in 1946 and settled in Glyndon, where he lived until his death.

Mr. Hammond worked as an office manager and senior buyer for several businesses from 1981 until 1991; when he retired, he was a senior buyer for the Singer Co.'s Link flight simulator and training division.

He was an avid gardener, and his dahlias often won ribbons at the annual Maryland State Fair. He was also an avid Orioles and Ravens fan and liked playing bridge.

Mr. Hammond was an active member of the American Contract Bridge League, Historic Glyndon and the Glyndon Community Association.

"It wasn't until the last five years that he began to talk about the war. It was not something he liked to remember or wanted to talk about," his son said. "But when his grandson Ryan joined the ROTC, he started talking about World War II."

He was a longtime member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Reisterstown.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Eckhardt Funeral Chapel, 11605 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills.

Also surviving are another son, Roy Wales Hammond of Glyndon; a daughter, Joyce Monroe Patten of Davidsonville; a brother, Howard Hardy Hammond of New Oxford, Pa.; and two grandsons.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.