war memorial at dusk, photographed by Michelle Cooper




by Leland Jacobs and Lt. Colonel Michael Swift USAF (RET)

Private Max Long, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on October 31, 1924, to Thomas and Alma Long. He grew up in the Havelock neighborhood of Lincoln with his four siblings, Thomas Jr., Darrell, Ronny and Shirley. Max graduated from Lincoln Northeast High School in the spring of 1942 as a member of the school’s first graduating class. Afterwards, he attended one year at the University of Nebraska before entering military service on July 6, 1943. Max was assigned to Battery “D” of the 127th (Screaming Eagle) AAA Gun Battalion (Mobile).

Training took Max to Camp Haan near Riverside, California, with additional training in the Mojave Desert at Camp Irwin (now Fort Irwin National Training Center) and Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base). The battalion left Muroc Army Air Field on March 3, 1944 bound first for Fort Bliss, Texas and then Camp Shanks, New York. There the battalion prepared to go overseas on the HMT Scythia, a converted Cunard White Star Liner, which left the United States on July 1st and arrived in Liverpool England on July 15, 1944.

The battalion spent 16 days at Camp Blackshawmoor, Staffordshire, England and then moved to Camp Swingate Down, near Dover, on August 2, 1944. There the 127th became the first of six U.S. Army battalions to join the “Divers” gun belt to protect London from V-1 rockets coming from France.

In his letters home Max recorded his first impressions of England. He wrote his grandmother “That England was the prettiest place I’ve seen…because of its green grass and trees which are something new to me.” Max reassured his mother that he was getting plenty to eat and that the people in England “seemed glad to see us.” Through letters from home he kept up on the local sports news and tried to keep an eye on his younger brother and sister, Ronny and Shirley, from the other side of the Atlantic. Max also made frequent requests for candy and cookies, along with advice to his mother on the best way to send packages so the goodies would arrive in one piece.

By early September 1944 the Allies had overrun the V-1 launching sites and the 127th was getting ready for redeployment to France. Unfortunately, German heavy guns in the Pas de Calais region of France were still in position and firing on the Dover area. At 1615 hours on September 15, 1944, the battalion area came under fire from these guns. The first shell did no damage, but sent the men scrambling for cover. Before everyone could reach the protection of slit trenches, a second shell hit the Battery D area, killing Max instantly. Two other Battery D men, Sergeant Karl E. Bowman and Sergeant James H. Myers, were also killed. Five men, Sergeant Loring B. Willis, Corporal Donald A. Slamen, T/5 George S. Signor Jr., Corporal Russel W. Gehr, and Private Russel E. Turner, were wounded.

Max was buried in the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge, England. In 1948 he was brought home to Lincoln, where he is now interred in Soldier’s Circle, Section 24SC, Space 226 at Wyuka Cemetery. A bronze plaque inside the entrance to Lincoln Northeast High School memorializes Max and nine other schoolmates who lost their lives in the Second World War.

With thanks to Shirley Esquivel for giving us access to Max’s war time letters and pictures, the US Army Heritage and Education Center and the National Archives and Records Administration for access to the 127th AAA Battalion’s official history and wartime records, and Maggie at the Dover War Memorial Project for information on Dover during the war.

Max in April 1944. Courtesy the Long family
Family photo taken on Max's last leave home before deploying to England - April 1944. Pictured from left to right - Darrell,  Thomas Sr., Shirley, Ronny, Alama and Max Long. Max's other brother, Thomas Jr., was already serving in the US Army Air Force and therefore not present. Courtesy the Long family
Max's grave in Max Long's grave in Soldier's Circle. His sister Shirley has been decorating his grave for his birthday every year since he died. Courtesy Leland Jacobs

Copyright 2014 © Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved