James Daniel Nolan, a retired lawyer and former president of Blue Shield of Maryland who landed at Normandy with the 1st Infantry Division on D-Day, died Wednesday of cancer at Mercy Ridge in Timonium.
He was 86.
Mr. Nolan, the son of Irish immigrant parents, was born in Baltimore and raised on McKean Avenue and later in Howard Park.
"His father was a streetcar motorman for United Railways and Electric Company, and his mother was a housekeeper," said a son, Stephen J. Nolan, a Towson lawyer and a Timonium resident.
After graduating from City College in 1943, Mr. Nolan was drafted into the Army. After completing basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, he was assigned to Company B of the 741st Tank Battalion at Camp Polk, La.
In the fall of 1943, the 741st embarked aboard the Cape Town Castle in a convoy bound for England through U-boat-infested North Atlantic waters.
"I went over as a private in Company B, 741st Battalion, and returned with the rank of sergeant major," Mr. Nolan wrote in an unpublished memoir of his World War II years.
"The training for D-Day would be our first action with the enemy; for this day[,] we worked long and hard for months learning all we could on our mission to win the war and defeat Germany," he wrote. "Weeks before D-Day, we were tense, nervous, afraid and prayed to God to help us."
Before D-Day commenced, the 741st was attached to the 1st Infantry Division, a unit that had seen action in the North Africa and Italian campaigns.
On D-Day, the 1st Infantry Division's objective was to land at Easy Red on Omaha Beach, which resulted in disaster.
"Capt. Thornton, Company Commander of B Company, was the first tank off his LCT with all, but one, tank platoons following orders, as he did, all these tanks immediately went to the bottom of the English Channel," he wrote.
"Some crews were buried at the bottom of the Channel; some tank crews got out of their tank and were swimming in the water, until being picked up by Navy boats taking some to the hospital ship, some to the beach."
Reflecting on the D-Day landing, Mr. Nolan wrote that the first few days of the operation were a "complete failure for nothing went according to plan."
"It was confusion in combat and the most horrible conditions for the men there," he wrote, recalling the enormous number of wounded and dead lying on the beach.
Mr. Nolan wrote that the D-Day operation was saved from failure by the heroic actions and determination of the noncommissioned and junior officers and enlisted men.
He recalled the gratitude of the French citizens who lined the route and warmly greeted the 741st with shouts of joy and bottles of wine as they swept toward Paris and the city's liberation.
After fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, the 741st liberated the Flossenburg, Germany, concentration camp in the spring of 1945.
Mr. Nolan earned the Bronze Star during his military service. He remained an active Army reservist as an associate judge advocate general until 1965, when he retired with the rank of major.
After the war, Mr. Nolan attended the University of Maryland on the GI Bill of Rights, where he earned his law degree in 1951.
He was an assistant Baltimore County solicitor before founding Nolan, Plumhoff and Williams, a Towson-based law firm, in 1969.
Mr. Nolan, whose expertise was in land-use law, was elected president of the Baltimore County Bar Association in 1975 and later served on the board of governors of the Maryland State Bar Association.
"Jim Nolan was the most respected zoning attorney in Baltimore County," recalled Tom Toporovich, former secretary to the Baltimore County Council and a Dundalk community leader.
He was a founding director of the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service and was a founder, with 10 other lawyers, of the Dissenters Club.
Beginning in 1968, Mr. Nolan served as general counsel to Blue Shield of Maryland, and in 1980 was appointed its president. He held that position until stepping down in 1985 after its merger with Blue Cross.
After retiring in 1985, the Lutherville resident moved the next year to Florida, where he lived until 2003. He then returned to Baltimore, where he was of counsel with his son's law firm.
After retiring again in 2005, he served as a volunteer lawyer with the Legal Aid Bureau of Baltimore County.
"Jim epitomizes the greatest generation," said Herbert S. Garten, a longtime friend. "Although he did not often refer to his personal experiences in combat, he did express his opinion that World War II was won by the GIs and not the generals."
In 1999, Mr. Nolan returned to Normandy with several family members.
"I recall my father going to the cemetery office to obtain the locations of the grave sites of the buddies in his company who had lost their lives in the invasion, and then watching him kneel at each cross to say a prayer," his son said.
Mr. Nolan was communicant of the Roman Catholic chapel at Stella Maris, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.
Also surviving are his wife of 59 years, the former Dolores Chiaruttini; three other sons, Kevin Nolan of Easton, J. Daniel Nolan II of Towson and J. Mark Nolan of Mahomet, Ill.; a daughter, Patricia Englehart of Timonium; and 10 grandchildren.