U.S. Embassy and U.S. Military Members Honor Fallen WWII Pilot during Ceremony in Djibouti
Approximately 35 people representing the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and Camp Lemonnier took part in a rare ceremony on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, to honor American-born Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot Officer Lawrence R. Maguire who died when his plane crashed in Djibouti during World War II.
Pilot Officer Maguire, a Native of East Orange, New Jersey, was assigned to the 8th Royal Air Force Squadron (British Royal Air Force) out of Khormaksar, Aden (now Yemen) in July 1942 when his Blenheim MK IV with a crew of five failed to return to base. The remains of the aircrew were recovered and buried July 16, 1942 in the Cimetiere Non Musulman de Djibouti, near Camp Lemonnier.
Among the 850 graves in this Christian cemetery, ceremony participants got a glimpse into the life of a young American, relatively unknown to most of the attendees until today.
"An athletic type; very courageous, strong character, clean cut and keen attitude," said Mike Lombardo, Regional Security Officer, U.S. Embassy Djibouti, who conducted the lion's share of the research on Maguire for the Memorial Day ceremony. "(He was) A lad to tie to -- one of the really strong Irish."
Maguire hitch-hiked to Ottawa, Canada to join the RCAF, actions he took of his own volition without informing his parents. From there, he served alongside British Royal Air Force airmen out of Watton (Norfolk), England before being reassigned to Aden. "If Maguire had been a 21-year-old living in East Orange on September 11, 2001, there is little doubt that shortly thereafter he would have enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces. And there's no doubt he would have done it without informing his parents," Lombardo added.
Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander, CJTF-HOA, spoke on the importance of Memorial Day and the importance of recognizing Americans, like Maguire, who have given their lives for their country.
"We recognize that to live life with a heartfelt desire to provide service to others, to answer the call of duty during tumultuous and uncertain times, and to willingly volunteer to confront evil so that others can be free, is something Pilot Officer Maguire, like everyone here today, carried out," said Losey. "We honor him today, as millions of American will honor those who've made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation."
The Honorable James C. Swan, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti, connected the significance of WWII operations in East Africa with current operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Djibouti remained under Vichy control until 1942 when further advances of Allied forces recaptured Djibouti," said Swan. "Those who've been to Ali Sabieh and other locations in Djibouti can still see the fortifications from a period which demonstrates that this, too, was a front in the war on Fascism in the 1940s.
"This is a valuable lesson today when we know also that the central front in the current struggle against Al Qaeda, against violent extremism is farther to the east in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and yet at the same time, our roles here will play as an important factor to our ultimate success in that campaign," Swan added.
Swan concluded his remarks by reminding attendees about the powerful roles that individuals, like Maguire, play in making history, even when unknown.
"Memorial Day usually focuses on numbers -- the millions lost. Other times we commemorate the unknowns, the anonymous," added Swan. "Until recently, Pilot Officer Maguire was unknown and anonymous, but it's a special privilege today that we can now recognize him and his sacrifice as an individual."