Thursday, July 18, 2024

Second Lt. Paul Moody with his father Oliver. (Photo: Collection of Nellie D. Paris)

Nestled within a block of each other between Concord Avenue and Field Streets in a West Cambridge neighborhood originally called University Park are two squares honoring the distinguished service of former residents of this close-knit enclave of African American families. Two of these men died in the line of duty. I live midway between the squares and pass them almost every day. I was inspired recently by a high school student who wanted to know if I knew anything about the men for whom the squares were named. This is an expanded version of my response to her.

Cpl. Melvin L. Daly was the youngest of four brothers of William Daly Sr. and Violet (Durrant) Daly. Each of his elder brothers served in World War II and William Sr. was a merchant marine. Melvin graduated from Rindge Technical School in 1948 and enlisted in the Army that same year, though only 17 years old. He served in Japan before being shipped to Korea. He was killed in a vehicle accident there in 1950, just months before he would have entered the U.S. Military Academy, known as West Point. He is buried in Cambridge Cemetery. The marker for Cpl. Melvin Daly Square is in front of the former Daly homestead at Concord Avenue and Fayerweather Street.

Right down the street at the intersection of Fayerweather, Field and Hazel streets is Roland W. Moody Square, steps away from the Moody homestead.

Roland and Paul Moody were born 16 months apart to Oliver Wendell Holmes Moody and Grace (West) Moody. Both graduated from Cambridge High and Latin (Roland in 1941, Paul in 1942). Inseparable as they were, the brothers enlisted together in the U.S. Air Force in 1942 as soon as Paul turned 18. The event was heralded in a 1944 Boston Globe article, “Two Negro Air Officers Carry Their Brotherly Love into War.” They entered the Tuskegee Air Pilot Institute in Alabama and were awarded their wings in 1944.

Roland Moody was stationed at Ramitelli Airfield in Campobasso, Italy, during World War II.

Before the founding of the Tuskegee Airmen in 1941, there were no African American military pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen formed the 332nd Fighter Group, one of the only two African American air units that saw combat. Missions included the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. First Lt. Roland Moody was stationed at Ramitelli Airfield in Campobasso, Italy, on the Adriatic Coast. He died in 1945 in an accident on base involving an exploding aircraft fuel tank. He is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, Italy. Roland was awarded a Purple Heart, an Air Medal for heroism and a Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary aerial achievement.

Second Lt. Moody was assigned to Mather Field in Sacramento, California, and Selfridge Field just outside Detroit. After completing his military service, he returned home to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Northeastern and MIT. He founded Omega Systems, the first African American-owned business to win contracts for refuse removal in Boston. He died in 1998 and requested that his ashes be scattered in Nettuno near his brother Roland.

These are but three stories. We are indebted to the sacrifices made by our veterans to ensure the freedoms of all Americans. We honor them and thank them for their service.

The next time you walk around your neighborhood and spot one of these many markers, you might pause to give a nod of appreciation.


About the Cambridge Black History Project

The Cambridge Black History Project is an all-volunteer organization of individuals having deep roots in Cambridge. We are committed to researching, accurately documenting, preserving and illuminating the journeys, accomplishments and challenges of Black Cantabrigians, and to raising awareness of their stories through educational outreach to the Cambridge community and beyond.

Special thanks for research help to Charles Sullivan and the staff at the Cambridge Historical Commission and Alyssa Pacy at the Cambridge Public Library Cambridge Room.