2016-05-26 / Editorial

Do you remember David Trotter?

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By Leslie Rounds

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum. Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum. Last week, Mayor Ron Michaud received an email from a man who lives in Margraten in the Netherlands. The American cemetery in that small village includes the graves of 8,301 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives in World War II. In addition, there are memorials to 1,722 who were killed in action, but whose bodies were never recovered. Citizens of Margraten have decided to “adopt” some of those servicemen and dedicate themselves to visiting the memorials to our war dead. David Harrison Trotter is among those soldiers.

David was born in China. His father, Thomas Trotter from Charlotte, North Carolina, worked for the U.S. government. He’d been sent to China in about 1920 to aid with the design of textile mills there. While he and his wife, Kate Chrysler (of Hopewell, New York) were there she gave birth to their three children, Rufus, in 1921, who died in China at the age of 5, David on June 17, 1923, and Evelyn Mae on Nov. 28, 1926. Near the end of the 1920s the family returned to the Unites States and by 1931, were living on High Street in Saco. David’s father worked at the mills and his mother operated a small dog kennel. According to his obituary, David attended schools in Saco and Old Orchard Beach but probably left school around the eighth grade then took a job at the Saco Lowell shops. On Dec. 22, 1942, he entered the U.S. Army as a private. After basic training in Texas, he was assigned to Company E, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division as part of a medical detachment.

In late October 1944, it had become clear that the next step toward defeating Germany would involve crossing the Rhine. Standing in the way was a huge, densely wooded area called the Hürtgen Forest that had already been contested ground for more than a month. Over the course of the battle to take this woodland, 33,000 Americans would become casualties. The battle that had fizzled and failed resumed Nov. 2 as troops from the 112th were tasked with taking the town of Vossenack on the way to the more important high ground of Schmidt. One G.I. would say, “It turned out to be the worst place of any.” Sadly, later armchair tacticians would conclude the target was pointless; the whole deadly forest should have been bypassed on the way forward. On Nov. 4, after two days of costly, bloody, freezing fighting, David entered a building in Vossenack. He may have been one of the soldiers of the 112th who took turns seeking refuge there from relentless machine gun and artillery fire – or perhaps he ran in to care for a wounded man. Whatever the case, the building was hit with a barrage of fire and collapsed. Within days, the beleaguered troops would fall back and not regain the ground until much later. David’s body was not recovered.

Evelyn Trotter Evelyn Trotter First his parents were notified that he was missing; two days later the terrible news came. The sweet bookish, bespectacled boy was lost forever. David’s father died only three years later and was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. Both Evelyn, class of 1948 at Thornton, called “most bashful” by her classmates, and her mother left Saco. Later they settled in Tacoma, Washington, at least until 1951, after which I can no longer find either of them. Kate died in 1970 and was buried with her husband, but their grave is hard up against a yew hedge in the “circle” section of Laurel Hill and unreadable. David’s and Rufus’s names are on the stone, as well.

David left no children. Evelyn may still survive and may have children of her own. It would be lovely to tell them that David is remembered in Margraten and also here where he spent most of his childhood. It is so easy for those who gave their lives in war to be forgotten. Their names are preserved only on memorials and gravestones. When Evelyn is gone, taking with her the last living memory of her older brother, who will recall this boy’s – this family’s – tragic sacrifice? Who will remember his life and what he and all who knew him have lost? Do you remember David? Please call or email me if you can tell me more.

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