William Donahue, once the voice of many veteran issues in Milford, has died.
According to an obituary notice, Donahue died Tuesday at age 95.
“A consummate American patriot, Bill never missed a parade or a chance to pass out flags in the center of town or place flags on veteran graves,” according to an obituary notice. “He was a tireless warrior for aging vets for over 20 years. He is credited with helping to set up satellite health care centers in Connecticut and helped to initiate free flag logos for veterans in their notices with the local newspapers.”
A long-standing active member of the US Disabled American Veterans, he was a former State Commander of the US Disabled American Veterans, was named Veteran of the Year by the DAV in 1999 and also served as vice commander of the DAV, Milford Chapter No 15.
“Dedicated, passionate, kind and generous, Bill will be a man whose loss will be deeply felt by all who knew him. His motto was ‘It is important that we remember,’” loved ones wrote in his obituary notice.
Donahue, who was a Ph.D., continued to fight on behalf of Milford veterans and was a spokesman on veteran issues in Milford even as his health started to wane.
Jill Dion, editor of the Milford Mirror, said she often had contact with Donahue, who kept the newspaper aware of many issues, including local parades and veteran services, and challenges that veterans were facing.
“I had been talking to Bill for a few years before I noticed he was a Ph.D.,” Dion said. “He’d gone back to school after the service and gotten his doctorate. But he never mentioned that. So when I noticed, I said, ‘Oh, I should be calling you Dr. Donahue,’ and he just laughed. He was very humble.”
Commander of the local DAV Chapter Elizabeth Walsh said Donahue was a constant support when she needed direction with her duties as commander.
“I found his guidance to be invaluable, he always knew and had the right answers,” Walsh said. “Doc always had his fellow veterans best interest first in line. I will miss our talks and his quick wit.”
Donahue was featured in a compilation of interviews by resident Thomas Beirne in recent years, when Beirne was working to honor World War II veterans in Milford.
“During World War II, I served aboard the USS Vicksburg, a light cruiser. My job was in fire control, which directed our ship’s guns to targets,” Donahue told Beirne.
“Three days before the Marines landed we were off the shore of Iwo Jima to draw fire from the Japanese in an effort to pinpoint the targets, their gun positions. Since there was only one stretch of shore on the entire island where a landing could be made, the Japanese had that beach heavily fortified.”
Donahue told Beirne how spotters had difficulty locating the guns because the gun powder used by the Japanese was smokeless. The spotters had only the flash of the gun, and no lingering smoke, to judge the gun’s location.
“During the invasion our cruiser was close to the beach,” Donahue told Beirne. “Her propellers were churning up sand from the bottom. The battle for the beach was ugly. We were firing our 12 6” and 12 5” guns into the Japanese positions and our anti-aircraft cannon at their planes.”
After the beach was secured, at least 20 marines raised their flag on top of a hill over the beach, Donahue recalled during the interview.
“The brass thought it to be too small and had a larger one raised by the six men in the famous picture,” Donahue told Beirne. “We won the battle of Iwo Jima, but at what a cost.”
State Senior vice Commander for the VFW Gregory Smith said Donahue was the kind of man who was unique to that generation.
“He made the best of the often difficult times he lived through,” Smith said. “He served our country and community without complaint, always with a smile.
“Bill had many accomplishments to his credit. I will always remember the wonderful Veterans Day shows he helped produce at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Our city has lost one of its finest citizens, but we still have the fine example he set for us all.”