ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: LT. COMMANDER DANIEL J. MCCARTHY, M.D., '26
Tears welled around Mary Ann McCarthy Miller’s blue eyes as she talked about her father, Lt. Commander Daniel Joseph McCarthy, M.D., who was killed in action at the Battle of Iwo Jima on Feb. 22, 1945.
On Feb. 21, 2020 – a Friday, one day shy of the 75th anniversary of Dr. McCarthy’s death – Benedictine Military School dedicated its technology laboratory, which is named in honor of Dr. McCarthy, a graduate of the BC Class of 1926.
“This makes him more real,” Mary Ann said of her father, who died at age 36 from a large explosion when she was 3 months old. “Although I don’t have a picture with him, I have a picture with him.”
Fighting back tears, Mary Ann pointed to a photo of Dr. McCarthy behind her. She gulped hard, then paused to maintain her composure.
“We were glad to be able to do this,” she said. “It’s wonderful. We’re very proud. We’re sorry he’s not here. We’re sorry my mom’s not here. But that was life. Apparently, he was a very outstanding young man.”
BC Headmaster Fr. Frank Ziemkiewicz, O.S.B., hosted a small ceremony with about a dozen guests and members of Dr. McCarthy’s family, including his daughters Mary Ann McCarthy Miller and Elizabeth Linden McCarthy Lynn, son-in-law Dr. Jim Miller, and grandsons Chris Miller ’89, Greg Miller ’91, and David Miller ’95.
Jim and Mary Ann Miller made a significant gift to the Forward, Always Forward Capital Campaign to name the technology laboratory in honor of Mary Ann’s father. On display outside of the lab was a collection of Dr. McCarthy’s personal memorabilia, including items from his days as a BC Cadet.
Dr. McCarthy was raised in Savannah and attended BC, where he was captain of the Cadet corps in 1926. He attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., where he played on the college’s baseball team. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930, Dr. McCarthy studied medicine at Saint Louis University. He graduated in 1935.
Dr. McCarthy returned to Savannah and served as resident surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital. On Nov. 5, 1940, he married Lillian Helmly of Savannah. A Navy reservist, Dr. McCarthy was called to active duty during World War II, a tour that spanned four years. He arrived at Iwo Jima with U.S. Marines of the 28th Division. A photo of Dr. McCarthy performing surgery while aboard a ship was published in a 1940s issue of Life magazine.
“He was a young doctor who probably would not have been in the war had he not been a doctor but there was no age limit,” Mary Ann said. “He was a surgeon and served in the Atlantic and Pacific. He was in the Navy, attached to the Marines, because the Marines did not have a medical corps. He made it through the landing on Iwo Jima. He just did not make it when they left.”
In addition to 3-month-old Mary Ann, Dr. McCarthy left behind his wife, Lillian, who was 27, and Elizabeth Linden, who was 18 months old.
“The priest and the soldier came to my mother’s house on April 12 to tell her that he died (Feb. 22),” Mary Ann said. “That would not have happened in today’s world. (Notification) would have been just like that.”
Lillian, a nurse, went back to work while her mother helped care for her daughters. There was not much assistance for single, working mothers during that era but Lillian persevered, becoming a nursing instructor, supervisor and eventually an administrator.
“That thrust her into a new role of being a politically correct single mom back when that was an odd thing,” Mary Ann said. “She was a wonderful woman.”
Lillian died peacefully Feb. 26, 2006, at Hospice House in Savannah. She was 88.
In 2008, Mary Ann and Elizabeth Linden established the Lillian Helmly McCarthy Scholarship Fund in memory of their mother. The scholarship was created to help finance the education of a student at St. Vincent’s Academy or Benedictine who has lost a parent in the military.
Now, Dr. McCarthy’s daughters have the technology laboratory at Benedictine Military School in memory of their father.