As World War II came to an end in Europe 70 years ago, families back in Puyallup continued to mourn their losses.
It was a Sunday morning when Puyallup City Attorney M.F. Porter and his wife Alma learned that their son Mark had been killed in action. Pfc. Mark Porter was an Army journalist for Stars and Stripes, Yank and the Army’s hometown news program. He had dreamed of becoming a journalist back home after the war. His life was ended just short of his 27th birthday.
Growing up, Mark was a quiet kid who liked to ride his bike around town, said his sister, Betty Porter Dunbar. A 1937 graduate of Puyallup High School, Mark studied journalism at the College of Puget Sound, serving as business manager for the college paper. He contributed articles off and on for Puyallup and Tacoma newspapers.
After graduating from college in 1941, he joined the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
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Assigned as an Army journalist in the Third Infantry Division, 15th Regiment, he was overseas by November of 1942 to cover the allied invasion of Fedala in French Morocco. In time, he would also cover the invasions of Sicily, Italy and France.
“This job is a lot of fun, folks,” Mark wrote home to his parents from the beach at Anzio, Italy on April 17, 1944. “I get good experience from it, build up a reputation for when I return to civilian life and newspaper work and I thoroughly enjoy it. The fellows around here kid me a lot. They call me ‘Scoop,’ ‘Ernie Pyle Porter’ etc.”
Mark found it rewarding when a fellow soldier would come to him with a clipping of his work in their local newspaper, forwarded to them by family members. “Some kid will come up to me with a big grin and a clipping, proud as the devil at seeing his name in the hometown paper. From then on he’s your bosom friend.”
The Third Infantry moved from Anzio to Naples by August, and from there they prepared to invade France. D-Day for the Third Infantry Division happened at St. Tropez on August 15, 1944. “The French are almost hysterically happy at our arrival,” Mark wrote home two days later.
A more detailed description followed in a later note. “I’ll never forget ‘D’ Day,” he wrote. He described the boat trip to the beachhead and the uncertainty of conditions as they neared the landing. “A few hundred yards from the beach we met the first wave (of) boats returning,” he wrote.
In late October of 1944 in France, the skies were clear and the air was crisp as the leaves turned color and fell from the trees. Mark thought of autumn in the Northwest. “Back home football season would be in full swing, gad! How I wish I could see Sumner and Puyallup play their annual Thanksgiving game and then go home for a big dinner. Then maybe a date with Phyllis. I guess that will all have to wait for at least a year at the very least, maybe longer.”
He was awarded the Bronze Star that fall for “excellent work accomplished in an ardent and devoted manner. Voluntarily making trips to the front lines and spending time with the front line units, he wove into his stories a realism that would otherwise have been lacking.”
The Third Infantry made its way east through Europe that fall and winter, clearing the Colmar Pocket, penetrating the Siegfried Line, and ending up in the town of Nuremberg. For four days in Nuremberg, April 17-20, the Third Infantry fought through the town taking ground inch by inch. The fight was intense. On the first day of the battle at Nuremberg, as Mark was helping to evacuate wounded comrades, he was struck and killed by an enemy bullet.
The memorial service for Porter filled the sanctuary of First Methodist Church, where Puyallup Schools superintendent Paul Hanawalt delivered the eulogy. “Of exemplary habits and high ideals,” wrote the Puyallup Valley Tribune. “Mark was one of the younger generation whose future was painted in brightest colors, had not war interrupted his career. When the call to arms came, Mark was one of the first to answer.”