Several years back, some fifty years plus, since the end of World War II, a fellow soldier from the Fighting 69th wrote a letter to my father and wanted to express his gratitude, for having saved his life. We had to contact him and tell him that my dad had passed away, quite suddenly in September 1980. This will attest to the fact that the feelings carried in the minds of the the men of the 69th, never deminish. This story is further confirmation to that fact.
So many heroic deeds gone un-noticed in the confusion of combat, live on in the hearts of those that experienced them, forever.
In late summer of 1980, my father, William H. O'Donovan, Sr., formerly Captain Bill O'Donovan, Sr., 1st Battalion, Company B, 273rd Infantry Regiment, 69th Infantry Division, phoned me and asked if I would photograph him holding his company's guidon flag from Company B, 273rd. He had always liked the flowers that adorned my side yard and thought that my house would make for a super background. I took his picture and he promptly forewarded it to the Association, in the hopes of possibly re-establishing communication with former members of his combat unit. He was very excited and anxiously awaited the arrival of his next 69th Division Bulletin.
The Association wrote him a letter and stated that they didn't have sufficient time to include the photo in their current issue, but it would, however, appear in their following issue. He was thrilled!
On September 10, 1980, Bill O'Donovan, Sr. left his home for an evening walk and never returned. He died suddenly.
The next issue of the 69th's Bulletin, as promised, featured my dad's photo holding his treasured B Company's flag. He unfortunately, had never gotten to see it, but others did, and over the years continued to communicate with my mother.
In the summer of 2003, my mother, Florence H. O'Donovan, also a member of the 69th Division Association, passed away. My younger brother, an accountant, became the executor of my mother's will. When he asked if there were any items I might like to have from our mom's home, I asked for only one. My dad's flag.
Searching the old attic, I was finally able to locate it. The reason this meant so much to me, was because it was so proudly displayed in the last photo ever taken of my dad. Although a tiny bit tattered, I carefully cleaned it and had it professionally mounted, along with his division patch and a photo from 1945.
Today, it remains honorably exhibited in my den, along with the last photo of him, holding one of his most prized possessions, a tattered flag.
SFC William H. O'Donovan, Jr., Army, (Retired)