Quentin R. Walsh, a retired Coast Guard captain and expert on commercial whaling who was awarded the Navy Cross for his World War II exploits, died May 18 at a hospital in Easton, Md. He was 90.
Born in Providence, R.I., Walsh graduated in 1933 from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. His first assignments were aboard the Coast Guard cutters that captured rum runners between Cuba and Nova Scotia.
In the late 1930s, he spent a year as an observer on a whaling factory ship cruising 30,000 miles from Sweden to Australia, the Indian Ocean and Antarctica. He wrote a three-volume report on modern open-sea whaling, which the Commerce Department cites in its policy opposing commercial whaling.
Perhaps his most heroic moments came after the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944.
Serving on the staff of the commander of the U.S. naval forces in Europe, Walsh helped formulate plans to seize the strategic port of Cherbourg, on the northern edge of Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula. Possession of the port was vital for expediting cargo needed to supply the Allied armies as they pushed inland from the beaches of Normandy after the D-day invasion.
Walsh’s plan called for a specially trained naval unit to determine the condition of the port after its capture. He led the mission, which arrived off Utah Beach on June 9, 1944, only three days after D-day.
Walsh’s 53-man unit made contact with elements of the U.S. 79th Infantry Division at Cherbourg. The Allies faced off against the Germans in fierce fighting.
The Allied forces quickly captured the eastern part of the port, while most of the Germans retreated to the western section of the city. Knowing the port was essentially unusable while pockets of resistance remained, Walsh led a 16-member unit of his task force on a raid to an arsenal area and adjacent waterfront on the western side of the port city.
Armed with grenades, rifles and submachine guns, he and his party overcame sniper fire and blew open steel doors of underground bunkers. About 400 Germans surrendered. Walsh’s command went on to capture Ft. Du Homet and its 350 men.
After the war, Walsh lived in Arizona while recovering from respiratory problems. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and served at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.