W. R. McMahon Jr., 81, ironworker, paratrooper


William Robert McMahon Jr., a retired ironworker and World War II paratrooper, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Conover, N.C. He was 81 and a former resident of Anne Arundel County's Poplar Ridge neighborhood.

Born and raised in South Baltimore, Mr. McMahon left school in the ninth grade to help support his family. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned as a paratrooper to the 101st Airborne Division, known as the Screaming Eagles.

On June 5, 1944, the eve of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, Mr. McMahon's 501st Parachute Infantry unit was flown to France, where it jumped and landed behind Utah Beach to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the area.

He also fought in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge, when the 101st was sent to relieve beleaguered Bastogne, Belgium.

Though wounded, he refused to put in for a Purple Heart, family members said.

Last year, Mr. McMahon traveled to Eerde, Netherlands, which his unit liberated in 1944, for a 60th anniversary reunion.

Discharged as a corporal, he returned to Baltimore and, as a member of Ironworkers Local 16, worked on many projects including construction of the second Bay Bridge.

Mr. McMahon retired in 1974 and had lived in Conover since 1980. His hobby was reading Civil War and World War II histories.

Services were held Saturday in Conover.

Surviving are his wife of 63 years, the former Thelma Burch; three sons, William R. McMahon of Palmer, Alaska, Duane M. McMahon of Stevensville and Paul M. McMahon of Conover; five daughters, Pauline M. Cooke of Conover, Pamela J. Snyder of Westminster, Elaine M. Pitz of Stevensville, Helen M. Flors of Federalsburg and Debra L. Vaughan of Martinsville, Va; 14 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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