- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I never knew Walter Francis Duke. I do remember my father saying that his old friend, Col. Duke, had lost his son, Walter, in the war and his body was not found.
The Dec. 12 story in The Enterprise reminded St. Mary’s countians of his brief and tragic life.
He was born and raised in Leonardtown, attended St. Mary’s Academy high school. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force before the United States declared war on Japan in December 1941. He then transferred to our Army Air Force and was eventually stationed in India. He became an ace pilot, shooting down a known 18 Japanese planes. He was reported missing in action over the jungles of Burma and his airplane and body were not located.
After nearly 70 years, it appears his aircraft and remains have been located. If it is proven to be him, he will be returned to Leonardtown for services and burial in the old St. Aloysius Cemetery, adjoining the Hayden farm, the future site of our new elementary school.
When I was reading the fine article in The Enterprise, there was a whisper in my ear: “This should be the name of the new school.”
Capt. Duke is a favorite son of St. Mary’s County, a true hero of World War II and a wonderful patriot who paid the ultimate price in defending our country. He was a young man of great courage and foresight and a true role model for all students of St. Mary’s County.
This is the stuff of legends and movies. When I review my life on this earth, I hope that I might have made the decisions of Capt. Duke.
The timing of the location of the remains of Capt. Duke’s body and his eventual burial in the cemetery only a few yards from the new elementary school is not a coincidence. The whisper in my ear is now a shout. Please name the new school for Capt. Walter Francis Duke.
Robert Steele Pogue, Bushwood