Harold Newton Barr, a Baltimore resident and former Army radio operator who announced from a schoolhouse in Germany the death of Adolf Hitler, died at his home Dec. 22 of natural causes. He was 91.
Mr. Barr was born March 4, 1921, in New Haven, Conn., grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and earned a ceramic engineering degree from Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y. He joined the Army in 1942 and underwent basic training in Atlantic City, N.J., at Camp Boardwalk, a military encampment in the area during World War II.
"He told me about practicing on the beach and marching in the Convention Hall and on the boardwalk while residents and tourists were watching," said his son, Richard Barr, of West Orange, N.J.
Harold Barr served as a radio operator with the 1282nd Engineer Combat Battalion in Europe and the Philippines, his son said. He was stationed on the third floor of a schoolhouse in Friedrichsthal, Germany, in 1945 when he received and then retransmitted the message, in German, "Hitler ist gestorben," which in English means, "Hitler is dead."
"He said that very quickly, G.I.'s were in the streets with handmade signs in German saying that Hitler was dead," Richard Barr said. "He didn't translate it over the radio as we would think of [public or commercial] radio. This was communications for the command structure. It would have come to him, and then it would have been disseminated through a predetermined network through other command posts.
"He told me he had one of those big box radios, the size of a stereo speaker, too big to be carried by one person. They set it up in the schoolhouse. My understanding is that he probably communicated in Morse code. As with most G.I.'s, he spoke some German; he knew phrases but was certainly not fluent."
On his return from the war, Mr. Barr met Barbara Weiner while speedskating in Brooklyn, his son said. The couple was married in a blizzard in December 1948 and moved to Oak Ridge, Tenn., where Mr. Barr worked on nuclear energy projects at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
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He went on to pursue a career in nuclear science, earning patents and designing a nuclear battery for pacemakers. His son said Mr. Barr was also among those who worked on the Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft (NEPA) project, which according to the U.S. Department of Energy website began in Oak Ridge in 1946. The Air Force project was subsequently discontinued.
Mr. Barr "has over a dozen patents, the vast majority are related to nuclear fuel," his son said. "Some of [the patents] made their way into the design of what, at the time, was the most efficient nuclear power source for a pacemaker.
"He was also an adventurous world traveler and a lifelong photographer," Richard Barr added about his father. "He grew up not far from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and was a devoted fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Baltimore Colts and Orioles, and, with some recent heartburn, the Ravens."
In addition to his wife, to whom he was married for 64 years, and son, Mr. Barr is survived by two other sons, Alan, of Philadelphia, and Fred, of Lower Merion, Pa.; grandchildren Erin, Jennie, Amy, Nathan, Amy, Julia and Laura; and great-grandchildren Maggie, Grace, Avery and Madelyn.
Funeral services for Mr. Barr were held Dec. 24, and he was buried at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation cemetery in Reisterstown.