The Route 32 bridge over the Liberty Reservoir in Eldersburg will be dedicated to Joseph A. Farinholt, who served in the Maryland National Guard before mobilizing with the U.S. Army during World War II.
Farinholt, who lived in Finksburg, died at the age of 79 in 2002. During World War II he earned four Silver Stars, the third-highest decoration for valor in military combat, as well as a Bronze Star, Belgium’s Croix de Guerre and a Purple Heart.
Maryland Del. Haven Shoemaker, who represents Carroll County in District 5 and won the Republican primary in July for Carroll County State’s Attorney, announced the bridge dedication Thursday.
A ceremony to dedicate bridge signs honoring Farinholt will be held Nov. 19, at the American Legion Post 31 in Westminster. Shoemaker and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Weaver plan to speak at the event.
The bridge dedication was a project of Post 48 of the 29th Division Association, an organization dedicated to keeping the history of the 29th Infantry Division alive. Members of Post 48 worked to prepare the application and petition to secure the Maryland Department of Transportation’s approval to name the section of the state road.
Born and raised in Catonsville, where he attended high school, Farinholt was just shy of his 16th birthday in 1938, when he walked into the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, lied about his age, and enlisted in the Maryland National Guard, according to his obituary.
According to Maj. Drew P. Sullins, a public information officer for the Maryland National Guard, who researched Farinholt’s career in Army archives, Farinholt earned four Silver Stars in less than five months.
“It was all accomplished in a remarkable period of time — four months and 13 days,” Sullins told The Sun in 2002.
“It is believed that only one other service member of World War II earned more Silver Stars. John T. Corley, who retired from the Army as a major general, earned five during World War II, and three more in Korea,” Sullins said.
Farinholt’s first Silver Star was earned in Normandy on July 13, 1944, when he exposed himself to fire while neutralizing an enemy mortar and anti-armor weapon.
Five days later he earned a second Silver Star for “leading multiple and daring raids behind enemy lines to recapture equipment and weapons,” Major Sullins wrote in a biographical sketch of Farinholt.
Nicknamed “Lightning” by his commander for his quick responses, Farinholt risked his life during a heavy enemy artillery barrage in Germany to aid and evacuate wounded soldiers. He was awarded a third Silver Star on Oct. 13, 1944.
On Nov. 26, 1944, Farinholt earned his fourth Silver Star. A technical sergeant, he went to the aid of an anti-tank gun crew that had been knocked out of action by an advancing German tank in Bourheim, Germany. Personally manning the gun, he stopped the tank but in the process was wounded 26 times by bullets and shrapnel.
Dazed and unable to walk because of a shattered left leg, he crawled to a jeep and drove to the 3rd Battalion command post to warn of the German advance. He resisted all offers of medical help until he delivered his report, which was responsible for an American airstrike that saved the day, Sullins said.
He spent the next two years at the Army Hospital in Staunton, Virginia, and was discharged in 1946 after 5 1/2 years of active duty, returning to Carroll County where he spent the rest of his life.
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Shoemaker’s office worked with the state to help bring the bridge dedication to fruition.
“As someone who served in the 29th Infantry Division, it has been a pleasure to gain this much deserved recognition for a valiant Carroll County icon, Joe Farinholt,” Shoemaker stated in a news release. “As one of the most decorated enlisted men to have served in World War II, this dedication is a small token of our esteem.”
American Legion Post 48 Commander Frank Rauchenberg praised the Department of Transportation for its decision to dedicate the bridge to Farinholt, who “fought bravely for the freedom of many people on foreign soil.”
Bill Rosier, a member of Post 48, was a friend of Farinholt.
“He was loyal to a fault,” Rosier said. “Beyond being a hero, he was really good person. Joe is well deserving of this recognition.”