Editor’s note: This story is a sneak peek at what’s to come in ‘Sarnia at War,’ a special project The Journal is preparing for Remembrance Day.
Captain Justin Mallon thought his brother Gerald was still fighting in Italy. So it was a surprise when he saw soldiers march past on a road in the Netherlands wearing his brother’s regimental shoulder patch.
Moments later, the two were embracing; Captain Justin Sullivan and Major Gerald Sullivan, who would later be appointed a Member of Order of the British Empire by King George VI.
It was an astonishing reunion in the midst of “Market Garden,” a Second World War military operation famously celebrated in the 1977 movie “A Bridge Too Far.” The film tells the story of the failed attempt to seize bridges in the occupied Netherlands with a view to ending the war by Christmas of 1944.
I have a personal connection to and a fondness for the kind, gentle and respected man who was Justin Sullivan Mallon. I spent a couple summers working in his law office in Sarnia, doing odd jobs and searching titles at the Registry Office. His oldest son, Howard, who died at age 13 in a tragic drowning accident, was my brother Larry’s best friend.
The scion of a prominent Toronto family, Justin Mallon was the son of a lawyer and a concert pianist and harpist with the Toronto Symphony. Justin and his brother Gerald followed their father into the legal profession, with Justin earning his degree in 1938, the year before the Second World War broke out. He knew war was coming, and enlisted as an officer in the Canadian Army Reserve Forces.
When war finally came, Lt. Justin Sullivan was posted to Fort Benning, Georgia as a liaison officer, following which he was posted to London. Here he pursued legal work for the Canadian forces and survived the Blitz, the German bombing of London that was Hitler’s failed attempt to demoralize the British and their fighting spirit.
Promoted to Captain in 1944, Justin entered France following D-Day, commanding a unit responsible for delivering heavy armaments by truck to the front lines. He saw action in the Battle of Caen, and the famous Battle of Falaise Gap, which attempted to encircle the entire German Army’s “Group B,” which included the Seventh Army and the Fifth Panzer Army.
After participating in the Canadian liberation of Holland, Mallon returned to Canada, making his home in Sarnia and serving the community for decades. With his wife Lorraine, truly one of the “grand ladies” of Sarnia, they raised ten children.
When Justin Mallon died in Sarnia in 1986 it was a tragic loss for Sarnia. In a show of respect, the legal community attended his funeral en masse and city flags flew at half-staff.