Self-Guided Tour: Gold Star Memorials in North Cambridge
By Marion Severynse, 2021
Veterans Day is an appropriate time to pay homage to the role that North Cambridge and its residents have played in the military history of Massachuestts and the United States. There are nine Memorial Pole and Dedication Markers commemorating Gold Star service members in the area bounded by Rindge Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and Alewife Brook Parkway. In addition, a number of streets and squares have been named or renamed to commemorate persons and events going back to the Revolutionary War.
The map below shows the location of the Gold Star Memorials in this part of North Cambridge.
Photo Caption: Base map courtesy Cambridge GIS.
Service members from World War I, World War II, and Vietnam are represented. You can visit all of them in an hour’s walk through the neighborhood.
- Thomas O’Callaghan Playground Named in honor of Cpl. (US Army) Thomas J. O’Callaghan, killed in action July 10, 1918 in France. [NB – the memorial reads September 10, but the actual date is July 10] He is buried in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, Belleau, Département de l’Aisne, Picardie, France.
- Joseph R. Theriault Court Renamed (from Neal Court) in honor of Pvt. (US Army) Joseph R. Theriault, killed in action November 15, 1944, in France. He is buried in Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, France.
- William Harrington Road Renamed (from Wilbur Street) in honor of S.Sgt. US Army William Harrington, killed in action November 11, 1944 in France.
- Gold Star Road Renamed (from Yorktown Road) in honor of nine men killed in action whose mothers lived on the street. No names are listed on the memorial street marker for Gold Star Road, but the honorees are:
- S.Sgt. Leo Ford, May 15, 1944, New Guinea
- Pvt. John P. Fogarty, July 3, 1944, Normandy
- Pvt. John O’Connor, April 27, 1945, Ie Shimo
- Pfc. John D. Lynch, Tennessee (USA), July 10, 1943
- S.Sgt. Joseph Oppedisano, November 7, 1943, Cassino, Italy
- Pfc. Paul S. Woods, January 16, 1945, Battle of the Bulge
- Sgt. Paul F. Meharg, January 13, 1945, France
- Pvt. Bernard J. O’Rourke, August 5, 1943, Camp Polk, LA (USA)
- T/5 John F. Bellis (also commemorated at Bellis Circle), July 17 1945, Normandy
- Morrison Place Designated in honor of T/Sgt. (US Army Air Force) Robert J. Morrison, killed in action September 17, 1944, in the South China Sea. Morrison Place is at the intersection of Gold Star Road and Morrison Court. Morrison Court, however, was not itself named after Robert Morrison, as it is listed in the Cambridge Directory for 1911 in that location with that name.
- Shea Road Renamed (from Frank Street) in honor of Commander John J. Shea, US Navy, who was MIA in 1942 when the USS Wasp was torpedoed. Cmdr. Shea was declared dead the next year; the remains of the ship were not discovered until 2019. See the exciting story of the discovery of the Wasp at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/magazine/uss-wasp-lost- world-war-ii-aircraft-carrier.html
- James F. Walsh SquareB Designated in honor of Pfc. (US Army) James F. Walsh, killed in action August 8, 1944, in Bamsar, India.
- Paul R. Theriault Square Designated in honor of Cpl. (USMC) Paul R. Theriault, killed in action May 24, 1968, in Vietnam. He is buried in Cambridge Cemetery.
- Thomas R. Dwyer Square Designated in honor of Cpl. US Army Thomas R. Dwyer, killed in action July 6, 1969, in Vietnam. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum, Malden.
In addition to the Gold Star Dedication Markers noted here, a number of other streets were named or renamed for their military associations.
During the Civil War, North Cambridge was home to Camp Cameron, the barracks and encampment for the First Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, where recruits were housed and trained from 1861-1862. The camp extended for 140 acres bounded by what is now Massachusetts Avenue, Cameron Avenue, and Shea Road, extending up to what is now Holland Street in Somerville. It occupied the site of the present trolley car barns and the large apartment building at 2353 Massachusetts Avenue. The camp was named for Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War at the time, and Cameron Avenue was named for the camp.
After the war the site of the camp was subdivided and John C. Stiles laid out three streets: John, Camp, and Stiles. The land was subsequently purchased by C. A. Mason, who laid out new streets and renamed others in commemoration of battles in which Massachusetts regiments had fought:
- John Street was renamed Fair Oaks Street for the Battle of Fair Oaks (May 31 – June 1, 1862)
- Stiles Street was renamed Seven Pines Avenue for the Battle of Seven Pines, VA (May 31 – June 1, 1862)
- Camp Street was not renamed.
- Malvern Avenue (a cul-de-sac off Yorktown Road in Somerville) was named for the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862).
- Yorktown Street was named in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle (or Siege) of Yorktown (September 28 – October 19, 1781). It extended from Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge into Somerville. The Cambridge portion was renamed in 1947 as Gold Star Road. Two additional culs-de-sac, Yorktown Place and Yorktown Court, were respectively renamed as Gold Star Road Place and Gold Star Road Court. The Somerville portion of the street is still named Yorktown Street.
Other streets that were renamed include
- Foch Street was renamed in honor of the French WW I Commander Marshall Ferdinand Foch. The former name was Bismarck Street.
- Sherman Street, just beyond our area of concern, was renamed from Dublin Street in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman.
- Verdun Street, a bit east of Sherman, was renamed (from Vernum Street) in honor of the World War I battle.
- Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com
- Kenney, Michael, ed. The Streets of Cambridge. Cambridge Historical Commission, 2017.
- MacInnes-Barker, Neil (Director of Veterans’ Services for the City of Cambridge) in collaboration with the Cambridge Mayor’s Summer Youth Program. 2019 Veterans’s Summer Monument and Sign Report. City of Cambridge (MA), Department of Veterans’ Services 2019.
- Krim, Arthur J., et. al. Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: Report Five, Northwest Cambridge.
- Cambridge Historical Commission, 1977
- The New York Times Magazine, March 13, 2019: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/magazine/uss- wasp-lost-world-war-ii-aircraft-carrier.html