Commentary: Dover, the military and a record of ultimate sacrifice

By Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

This article traces the number of Dover residents who perished in military conflicts from the Civil War through the Vietnam War, as well as those Delawareans who are buried in Dover cemeteries. The number of each is based on data compiled by military enthusiast Russ Pickett. While not entirely complete, these online records nonetheless reveal important trends in each of the latter areas. The method of death varied, including killed or missing in action, along with death from wounds, disease, or the result of being held in captivity.

During the Civil War, most entries of those who died do not indicate city or town of residence. What we do know is that at least three men lived in Dover. Of those, two were buried at Methodist cemeteries in Dover, while the burial location of the third individual is unknown. In two other instances, the city/town of residence is unknown, but one person was laid to rest at the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, while the other was buried at the Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, both in Dover.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

As a result of World War I, at least 90 Delawareans paid the ultimate price. Of these, three men held Dover residence at the time of their passing. One was buried overseas at the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Belgium, and one was laid to rest at the Odd Fellow’s Cemetery in Camden, while the location of burial for the third individual, an Army mechanic, is unknown. The record also indicates that another Army soldier, whose address is simply listed as Kent County, was buried at Dover’s Lakeside Cemetery.

The Pickett data shows that at least 765 Delawareans lost their lives in World War II. Of the 23 known Dover men who died during that conflict, 10 were buried in Dover, most at Lakeside Cemetery and a few at Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery. Other Dover-based residents were laid to rest stateside in New York’s East Coast Memorial in Manhattan, at Arlington National Cemetery and at Honolulu National Memorial Cemetery. The remainder of Dover citizens were interred overseas, including at locations in France, Italy, the Philippines, the Netherlands and Tunisia. The information from World War II likewise indicates that a Magnolia man and a Wilmington resident, both Army personnel, were buried at Dover’s Lakeside Cemetery.

During the Korean War, just one Dover resident – who was in the Air Force – was killed and was buried at the Highland Cemetery in Lawton, Okla. Records illustrate that two other Delawareans – one each from Kent County and Sussex County – were laid to rest at Dover’s Lakeside Cemetery.

Finally, data from the Vietnam War indicates that six Dover men – of which, five were Army personnel and one was in the Air Force – perished. Of those persons, only one was buried in Dover, while three were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, one at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, and another at Odd Fellow’s Cemetery in Camden. Additionally, a Marine from Magnolia was laid to rest at Dover’s Sharon Hills Memorial Park.

Clearly, of the thousands of Delawareans called to military service over the last 150 years, Dover’s contribution has been significant.

Of course, there have been several conflicts after the Vietnam War that have seen combat service by Delaware military personnel, both men and women. While most returned, some did not. One such casualty was Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth Loncki of New Castle, who died after her explosive ordinance disposal team was ambushed in Iraq in 2007. For her, and all Delawareans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, we pause and give thanks on this solemn day of remembrance.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is George Washington Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Delaware State University. He served as DSU’s ROTC Director from 1993 to 1999. All interpretation of data is solely the responsibility of the author.