Editor’s note: The Fort Mill High School Marching Band played a public concert concert last week to preview the show it will perform April 1 at the Normandy American Cemetery in France, where two of the 28 service members from Fort Mill killed in World War II are buried.
The Normandy American Cemetery in France has 9,387 headstones. Two of them honor servicemen from Fort Mill killed in World War II.
Ruel K. Boone grew up in Spartanburg County, then moved with his family to Fort Mill, before leaving to work in the Panama Canal Zone. Once the war started, he joined the Army Air Corps and left for Europe.
Staff Sgt. Boone flew with the 330th Bomber Squadron in the crew of a B-24 bomber. He earned an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart. His plane was shot down over Dieppe, France, on Feb. 11, 1944. He is buried in Plot D, Row 20, Grave 32 of the Normandy American Cemetery.
Sgt. James O. Lamb is also buried in Plot D. He grew up in Illinois, and then came to Fort Mill and married Ruth Blackwelder. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he was a glider pilot in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was killed in the early hours of the Normandy invasion. The 82nd Airborne suffered 1,259 casualties during D-Day operations.
On April 1, after playing a concert on the pavilion steps to honor Fort Mill’s fallen and all veterans, the Fort Mill High School Band will file down the center path of the Normandy American Cemetery and stand beside Plot D, beside the graves of these two heroes, to play the national anthem and taps.
But Fort Mill’s World War II heroes are buried beyond northern France. Cpl. Douglas Cranford is honored at the North Africa American Cemetery, Sgt. Voyd Faile rests in the Henri-Chappelle Cemetery in Belgium, and Pvt. Odell Myers rests in the Epinal American Cemetery, near France’s border with Germany.
Navy Fireman Olin Phillips is honored at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, Pvt. Nathan Steele rests in the Netherlands American Cemetery, and Seaman James Sumner is honored at the Cambridge American Cemetery in England.
Of the 28 Fort Mill servicemen killed in World War II, eight returned to cemeteries in Fort Mill, two to Indian Land, one to Rock Hill, and one to Lancaster. Others returned to family plots in both Carolinas.
They left family farms, jobs at Springs Mills, and the classrooms of Fort Mill High School to join the Army, Navy, and Marines. When duty called, they answered. Hundreds of Fort Mill men and women served with honor during World War II and returned home. The Fort Mill High School Band salutes these heroes and the 28 who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Jason Ford is a teacher at Fort Mill High School, where he is also a faculty assistant to the band.