Agnew, John, PFC

Deceased
 
 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
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Last Rank
Private First Class
Last Primary MOS
745-Rifleman
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1943-1945, 745, RHHC, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) 101st Airborne Division
Service Years
1943 - 1945
Private First Class



Two Overseas Service Bars


 Last Photo   Personal Details 

31 kb

Home State
Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
Year of Birth
1922
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper to remember Agnew, John, Pfc.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Huntingdon Valley

Date of Passing
Apr 10, 2010
 
Location of Interment
Forest Hills Memorial Park - Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

101st Airbone Division Honorably Discharged WW II


 Unofficial Badges 






 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Member of Unit Linked to 'Dirty Dozen' Dies in Pennsylvania

AP

 John "Jack" Agnew belonged to the Filthy Thirteen, an unofficial unit within the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, that parachuted into France to take a bridge over the Douve River during World War II.

PHILADELPHIA -- John "Jack" Agnew, one of the original members of a U.S. Army unit that operated behind enemy lines in World War II and is often credited with having loosely inspired the movie "The Dirty Dozen," has died at age 88.

Agnew belonged to the Filthy Thirteen, an unofficial unit within the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He was pronounced dead Thursday at Abington Memorial Hospital after becoming ill at his home in the Maple Village retirement community in Hatboro, where he and his wife moved about a year ago, his daughter Barbara Agnew Maloney said.

On D-Day, the Filthy Thirteen parachuted into France to take a bridge over the Douve River. It was "a mission that would cost most of the men their lives," according to an article in the winter 2008-09 edition of American Valour Quarterly, a publication of the nonprofit American Veterans Center.

Before the Battle of the Bulge, Agnew and other members of the unit were requested for pathfinder duty and parachuted into Bastogne, which was besieged by German forces. Agnew operated a beacon to help guide in planes carrying badly needed supplies.

Tales of the unit's exploits and a Stars and Stripes military newspaper photograph are said to have inspired "The Dirty Dozen," not because any of the unit's members were convicts like the movie's characters -- they weren't -- but because of their reputation for brawling, drinking and spending time in the stockade.

In interviews, Agnew, a private first class, said that came directly from the unit's leader, Jake McNiece.

"We weren't murderers or anything, we just didn't do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways," he told the quarterly. "We were always in trouble."

Agnew was among those interviewed in a documentary, "The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines," that was included in a 2006 special edition DVD of "The Dirty Dozen."

The 1967 movie, about an Army major who has to train and lead 12 convicts into a mission targeting German officers, starred Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Jim Brown.

Maloney said her father told her about 30 percent of the movie was true.

"And, actually, the scene where they captured the officers, Dad said that was true and he really coordinated that," she said Sunday.

Two months ago, Maloney said, she accompanied her father to a military history convention in Louisville, Ky., where she met with three of the four surviving Filthy Thirteen members and three members of Easy Company, which was the focus of the HBO series "Band of Brothers".
"Dad, when we were little kids, he'd always say, 'I won the war; I know you don't believe me, but someday you'll know,'" she said. "We didn't really realize it until the 'Band of Brothers' came out."

Agnew will be buried with full military honors Tuesday at Forest Hills Cemetery in Huntingdon Valley, in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he and his wife, Elizabeth Agnew, lived for 56 years, Maloney said.


Book Description - "The Filthy Thirteen"


Since World War II, the American public has become fully aware of the exploits of the 101st Airborne Division, the paratroopers who led the Allied invasions into Nazi-held Europe. But within the ranks of the 101st, a subunit attained legendary status at the time, its reputation persisting among veterans over the decades. Primarily products of the Dustbowl and the Depression, the Filthy13 grew notorious, even within the ranks of the elite 101st. Never ones to salute an officer, or take a bath, this squad became singular within the Screaming Eagles for its hard drinking, and savage fighting skill and that was only in training. Just prior to the invasion of Normandy, a "Stars and Stripes" photographer caught U.S. paratroopers with heads shaved into Mohawks, applying war paint to their faces. Unknown to the American public at the time, these men were the Filthy 13. After parachuting behind enemy lines in the dark hours before D-Day, the Germans got a taste of the reckless courage of this unit except now the men were fighting with Tommy guns and explosives, not just bare knuckles. In its spearhead role, the 13 suffered heavy casualties, some men wounded and others blown to bits. By the end of the war 30 men had passed through the squad. Throughout the war, however, the heart and soul of the Filthy 13 remained a survivor named Jake McNiece, a half-breed Indian from Oklahoma the toughest man in the squad and the one who formed its character. McNiece made four combat jumps, was in the forefront of every fight in northern Europe, yet somehow never made the rank of PFC. The survivors of the Filthy 13 stayed intact as a unit until the Allies finally conquered Nazi Germany. The book does not draw a new portrait of earnest citizen soldiers. Instead it describes a group of hardscrabble guys whom any respectable person would be loath to meet in a bar or dark alley. But they were an integral part of the U.S. war against Nazi Germany. A brawling bunch of no-good niks whose only saving grace was that they inflicted more damage on the Germans than on MPs, the English countryside and their own officers, the Filthy 13 remain a legend within the ranks of the 101st Airborne.

 

Members of the Filthy Thirteeen

Jake McNiece, Jack Womer, John Agnew, Lt. Charles Mellen, Joseph Oleskiewicz, John Hale, James T. Green, George Radeka, Clarence Ware, Robert S. Cone, Roland R. Baribeau, James E. Leach and Andrew Rassmussen. Others including Frank Palys and Charles Plaudo were sometimes members of the group.
   
Other Comments:

Jack Agnew was one of the original members of the "Filthy 13," the 506th Parachute Regiment's demolition section. Famed for their Mohawk haircuts, rebelliousness, and crack fighting ability, the Filthy 13 became the inspiration for Hollywood's "Dirty Dozen." Before the Battle of the Bulge, members of the Filthy 13 were requested for pathfinder duty; Jack Agnew was among the volunteers.

A pathfinder's job was to parachute into a drop zone prior to the main force, whereby he would set up radio beacons and brightly colored panels to guide-in a force of C-47s laden with paratroopers or supplies.

When the Germans encircled the town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, Agnew and other pathfinders jumped into the beleaguered city. Climbing atop a brick pile within the Bastogne perimeter, Agnew secured his spot in history's spotlight when he operated a beacon to guide-in the first wave of C-47s that dropped parapacks containing desperately needed supplies for the Screaming Eagles.
 

   
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Operation Overlord/D-Day Beach Landings - Operation Neptune
Start Year
1944
End Year
1944

Description
The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic, and contributed to an Allied victory in the war.

Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on D-Day was far from ideal, but postponing would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days in each month were deemed suitable. Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.

The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 British, US, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France starting at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs. At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled using specialised tanks.

The Allies failed to achieve all of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five bridgeheads were not connected until 12 June. However, the operation gained a foothold that the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. German casualties on D-Day were around 1,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area host many visitors each year.
   
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Year
1944
To Year
1944
 
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
   
Personal Memories
   
My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

  322 Also There at This Battle:
  • Accattato, Rocco, PFC, (1943-1945)
  • Amerman, Walter G., CPT
  • Beck, Carl, M/Sgt, (1942-1963)
  • Bolling, Alexander Russell, MG, (1939-1973)
  • Brooks, Elton E., 1LT
  • Brown (MOH), Robert Evan, CPT, (1918-1952)
  • Bush, William Douglas, 1LT, (1942-1951)
  • Clemente, Frank, MAJ, (1942-1945)
  • Coe, Jim, Sgt, (1942-1945)
  • Crager, Howard, LTC, (1942-1945)
  • Edlin, Robert Thomas, CPT, (1934-1954)
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