The son of Albert Marvel and Minnie Carey Marvel, William Short Marvel (2/26/24 – 7/31/44) was descended on his father’s side from a family with roots in Sussex County as far back as the mid-18th century, when Thomas Marvel, Sr. moved there from Maryland. Thomas’s father John was the first of the line to immigrate to America, settling in the Virginia colony and marrying there in 1663.
At the time of his draft registration in 1943, William was working at the Middle River Aircraft plant outside of Baltimore. Inducted on May 17, 1943, he trained throughout the remainder of the year before being transported to England, arriving in January of 1944. There he would train for the invasion of Normandy as a private in the 53rd Armored Infantry, 4th Armored Division – a unit made famous as the spearhead of General George S. Patton’s Third Army. The 4th Armored Division came ashore on D-Day, June 6, 1944, at Utah Beach.
Seven weeks after D-Day, Allied forces had not moved significantly beyond the Normandy peninsula, and on July 25th, the Army launched Operation Cobra. Designed to take advantage of German forces’ preoccupation with another operation conducted by American and Canadian forces to the east, the objective of Operation Cobra was for American forces to break out of the bocage landscape of sunken lanes, impenetrable hedgerows and small woods that were restricting mobility and maneuver. The 4th Armored Division entered combat for the first time on July 28, 1944.
Operation Cobra was successful. By July 31, U. S. forces had seized the town of Avranches from the Germans despite fierce resistance; the runup to this battle is where Private Marvel was killed. A German counterattack on August 4 failed as well. Henceforth, the campaign in France would be transformed into one of rapid maneuver.
His remains were returned to his family in Milton in May of 1948. The Milton News letter in the Milford Chronicle of 5/21/48 reported his funeral rites as follows:
Military honors at the funeral service for Private William S. Marvel, son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Marvel of Milton, was supplied by the Milton Posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars on Sunday afternoon, held at Pilgrim Holiness Church, conducted by Rev. Elmer Hocking, assisted by Rev. William Tull, of Milford. Interment was made in Odd Fellows Cemetery, Milton. Surviving are his parents, two brothers, Harry, of West New York, N. J., and Raymond of Milton, and two sisters, Roberta and Lottie Marvel, of Milton. The body of Private Marvel, killed in action in France in the early days of the Normandy invasion, was returned home on Monday of last week. Before entering the army he attended Milton High School and worked at an aircraft plant near Baltimore. He entered the service July 1, 1943, landed in England the following April and went ashore with the 4th Armored Division at Utah Beach, France on July 11, 1944. He was killed in action near Ducey; Normandy, twenty days later.