William E. Chamberlain, an Essex attorney who became a prisoner of war in Germany at 17 after using his older brother's birth certificate to enlist in the Army Air Corps, died Sept. 23 of cancer at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 68 and lived in Parkville.
"When his father found out that he had enlisted, he went down there to try and get him out, and he begged him to let him stay in," said his wife, the former Marilyn Stover, who met her husband when they were attending Hamilton Junior High School and a teacher cast them as the lovers in a play. The couple married in 1947.
"It's hard to believe that he was only 18 when the war was over," said Mrs. Chamberlain. He had enlisted at age 15.
"He said, 'Shh,' and he went through the entire war using his brother's name," said his brother-in-law, Gilbert E. Stover of Timonium.
Nicknamed "The Kid," Mr. Chamberlain served as a gunner aboard B-17 Flying Fortresses and was stationed at Norwich, England, with the 8th Air Force. While flying on a mission over Brunswick, Germany, his plane was shot down on May 8, 1944, killing most of the crew members. He survived the crash with a broken neck and was taken prisoner by German troops.
He was sent to a POW camp where he met Mr. Stover, who was serving with the 15th Air Force in Italy and also had been taken prisoner. "He kept me alive by sharing his Red Cross parcels," said Mr. Stover.
Mr. Chamberlain was liberated one year after his capture. He was discharged with the rank of staff sergeant. His decorations included the Purple Heart with clusters and the European Theater Medal with two stars.
After returning to Baltimore, Mr. Chamberlain earned his high school equivalency diploma and eventually a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1951. He began his legal career in the trust department of the Mercantile Trust Co., then started a private practice in the Essex-Middle River area in 1955, where he was working at the time of his death.
"He was a lawyer and great patriot who set an example that many practicing attorneys couldn't help but envy," said his longtime friend and client, William Seitz of Essex.
Mr. Chamberlain taught Sunday school at Hiss United Methodist Church and liked to study the Bible. An avid collector of World War II aviation books, he was also a collector of Maryland maps and prints.
He was a member of the Maryland Bar Association, the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association, the Baltimore County Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
He also was active in the American Ex-Prisoners of War Association and the Disabled American Veterans.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens and Mausoleum chapel, 200 E. Padonia Road in Timonium.
Other survivors include two sons, William E. Chamberlain III of Parkville and Robert W. Chamberlain of Severna Park; a brother, Gilbert W. Chamberlain of Parkville; and two grandchildren.