Robert Sinclair Booth, Jr.
Robert Sinclair Booth, Jr. graduated from the University of Maryland in 1936. He was probably the first Maryland graduate to be killed in World War II. Born in Hickory, N.C. in 1915, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1940, and graduated from the Naval Reserve Midshipman's School in November of that year. He was serving on the Battleship Arizona in December 1941, and was killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7th when that ship was sunk during the Japanese attack. In 1943, the US Navy commissioned a Destroyer Escort (DE-170), the USS Booth, in his honor. The Booth was launched on June 21, 1943, and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific as a convoy escort. The USS Booth was decommissioned in 1946, and is currently in reserve at Green Cove Springs, FL.
Captain Dick Durkee '59 was a highly decorated Army veteran of both World War II and Korea. He was one of the surviving members of the doomed 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion (known as the Lost Battalion) that fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. The Battalion lost more than 80 percent of its 643 troops in Belgium's Ardennes Forest during that January battle. At the time, Durkee led 30 soldiers on a daring raid against German troops that included running through ankle-deep snow. In 30 minutes, his troops killed some 60 German soldiers. In Korea, Durkee led a squad of soldiers in another successful attack on ememy troops. He was one of 40 surviving members of the Lost Battalion to be honored in 2001 by the Pentagon with a Presidential Unit Citation for bravery.
Major Don Gentile '51 was known as the "Ace of Aces" during World War II. He could not get into the US Army Air Force in 1940 because he was not a college graduate, so he joined Canada's Royal Air Force and finally transferred to U.S. forces in 1942. He was the first man to break Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's World I record of enemy aircraft destroyed. By the time he returned home in 1944, he had 32 kills over Germany, France and Poland. He was lauded by Roosevelt, Churchill and Goering for his deadly accuracy in the air. Major Gentile attended the University of Maryland in 1949 for a two year military science program. He was scheduled to graduate in June, 1951 but tragically died in an airplane crash in Prince George's County January 28. The Air Force never did come up with a reason why Gentile's T-33 jet trainer crashed. He was 30 years old at the time of his death and was posthumously promoted to Major.
John. W. Guckeyson
Captain Guckeyson may well be the greatest athlete in Maryland history. A 1937 graduate, he was considered to be "the perfect athlete" according to the alumni magazine in June, 1944. Guckeyson starred on every major Maryland sports team before entering West Point to continue his studies. He received his wings in December, 1942. He called his Thunderbolt the "Contrary Mary" after his bride. Later, when he flew Mustangs, the name changed to "Contrary Mary II." Credited with seven kills, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. He was shot down May 21, 1944 during a mission over Germany.
Leonard T. Schroeder
Captain Leonard T. "Max" Schroeder, '41, was, according to several sources, the first American soldier to land in France from a water-borne craft on D-Day. Capt. Schroeder's company landed at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944. He was wounded soon after landing and sent back to a hospital in South Carolina. When asked if he knew that he was the first Allied soldier on the beach, he said, "I knew my company was in the first wave, but I didn't know I was actually going to be the first ashore. Besides, I was too scared to think about it." Schroeder was 25 years old at the time.