First Lieutenant Edmund D. Maher was a native of Providence, Rhode Island and a 1939 graduate of Classical High School. He was an excellent student and athlete. He entered Rhode Island State College (now URI) in the fall of that year. Edmund was president of Rho Iota Kappa, the first fraternity on campus, and Alpha Zeta, the national honorary agricultural fraternity and president of the Rhode Island Club. In addition, Edmund was president of the Newman Club, a member of Scabbard and Blade Society, and co-captain of the football team. He graduated in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
A few weeks after his graduation, Second Lieutenant Maher began his service in the US Army. He was assigned to the 350th Infantry Regiment, which had been activated on 15 July 1942 and reorganized at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. The 350th Regiment was needed for the growing crises in Europe and was assigned to the 88th Infantry Division. This famous division fought in some of the bloodiest battles in World War II. As part of this legendary unit, Second Lieutenant Maher was first sent to Italy as an army paratrooper. He was a platoon leader in Company G, the famous Blue Devils. The 350th Company G played a critical role in the outcome of the campaign in Italy.
According to military reports and news articles, particularly one by Colonel James C. Fry, “One Week in Hell,” Saturday Evening Post, 1943, it was noted that First Lieutenant Maher served under the legendary Captain Robert E. Roeder in company G of the 350th Infantry Regiment, which was the company that took and held Mt. Battaglia for a week against repeated enemy German attacks. During one of these fierce enemy attacks, in the bleak dawn and fog, Captain Roeder was mortally wounded. Lieutenant Maher replaced the lost captain upon his death and provided orders and reassurance to the soldiers. The citation of his Silver Star Medal reads:
“For gallantry in action on 28 September 1944, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment occupied Mt. Battaglia, Italy. Lieutenant Maher assumed command of Company G after the company commander had been mortally wounded, and he exhibited the highest qualities of leadership and courage…
Throughout the many enemy attempts to seize Mt. Battaglia from the gallant defenders, Lieutenant Maher continuously exposed himself to the devastating mortar and artillery fire which pounded the entire area occupied by his command, and with utter disregard for his own life, moved throughout the entire area, bolstering the weak, shouting words of encouragement and directing fire against enemy targets…
On one occasion, Lieutenant Maher single-handedly obtained a bazooka and, leaving his own company lines, advanced and killed the entire crew of three enemy soldiers attempting to fire their mortar on his position. Exhibiting outstanding aggressiveness, he personally led a platoon, with rifle and bayonet, to throw back an enemy penetration which almost succeeded in reaching the crest of the hill. This resulted in seven enemy soldiers being killed and forced the remainder to flee down the hill.
He personally barred the door of an old castle which was situated on the highest peak of the hill, and with the aid of three other men, held the castle against a strong party of enemy paratroopers who attempted to occupy this important position. In this action, Lieutenant Maher personally killed four enemy paratroopers with his bayonet when they attempted to charge through the main entrance to occupy this castle.
It was through the outstanding and gallant efforts of Lieutenant Maher that Company G was able to hold this most important position. This dogged determination, magnificent courage and intrepid leadership displayed by Lieutenant Maher proved a shining example to all the officers and men who witnessed these valorous deeds and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.”
A few days later, in another ferocious battle with the German paratroopers, Lieutenant Maher lost his life. As a unit, the 350th Regiment suffered 50 percent casualties. It was reported that every company commander but one was killed or wounded in the gallant defense. At the end of the battle, in what many consider to be one of the bloodiest battles in Italy, only 50 men from company G were still alive.
From “Battle Mountain,” the 350th Regiment took its nickname. For its part in the brutal fighting on Mt. Battaglia, the 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. Additional honors to the 2nd Battalion included the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, World War II for Central Italy and the Presidential Unit Citation for Mt. Battaglia, Italy.
First Lieutenant Maher was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Silver Star, World War II Victory medal, World War II Service Lapel Button, Bronze Star, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star. First Lieutenant Maher is remembered for his dedication to our nation. His gallantry and leadership in combat bring credit to himself, his family and the University of Rhode Island.
First Lieutenant Edmund D. Maher’s body was returned to Rhode Island in 1948, and he was buried with full military honors. He is buried with his parents at St Ann’s Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island.