Agnew, John, PFC

Deceased
 
 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
8 kb
View Time Line
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.

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
 
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 

Honorably Discharged WW II 101st Airbone Division


 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.
 

   
 Photo Album   (More...



Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Siege of Bastogne
Start Year
1944
End Year
1945

Description
The Siege of Bastogne was an engagement in December 1944 between American and German forces at the Belgian town of Bastogne, as part of the larger Battle of the Bulge. The goal of the German offensive was the harbour at Antwerp. In order to reach it before the Allies could regroup and bring their superior air power to bear, German mechanized forces had to seize the roadways through eastern Belgium. Because all seven main roads in the Ardennes mountain range converged on the small town of Bastogne, control of its crossroads was vital to the German attack. The siege lasted from December 20–27 when the besieged American forces were relieved by elements of General George Patton's Third Army.

Initial combat at Noville[edit]
On 19–20 December, the 1st Battalion of the 506th PIR was ordered to support Team Desobry (Maj. William R. Desobry), a battalion-sized tank-infantry task force of the 10th Armored Division assigned to defend Noville[7] located north-northeast of both Foy and of Bastogne just 4.36 mi (7.02 km) away. With just four M18 tank destroyers of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion to assist, the paratroopers attacked units of the 2. Panzerdivision, whose mission was to proceed by secondary roads via Monaville (just northwest of Bastogne) to seize a key highway and capture, among other objectives, fuel dumps — for the lack of which the overall German counter-offensive faltered and failed. Worried about the threat to its left flank in Bastogne, it organized a major combined arms attack to seize Noville. Team Desobry's high speed highway journey to reach the blocking position is one of the few documented cases wherein the legendary top speed of the M18 Hellcat (55 mph (89 km/h)) was actually used to get ahead of an enemy force as envisioned by its specifications.

The attack of 1st Battalion and the M18 Hellcat tank destroyers of the 705th TD Battalion together destroyed at least 30 German tanks and inflicted 500-1,000 casualties on the attacking forces in what amounted to a spoiling attack.[citation needed] A Military Channel expert historian[who?] credited the M18 tank destroyers with 24 kills, including several Tiger tanks, and believes that, in part, their ability to "shoot and scoot" at high speed and then reappear elsewhere on the battlefield and therefore appear to be another vehicle entirely played a large part in confusing and slowing the German attack, which subsequently stalled, leaving the Americans in possession of the town overnight. The 3rd Battalion was ordered forward from a reserve position north of Bastogne to ease the pressure on 1st Battalion by occupying a supporting position in Foy to the south.

The heavy losses inflicted by the tank-destroyers induced the German commander into believing the village was being held by a much stronger force[7] and he recoiled from further attacks on the village, committing a strategic error while seeking tactical advantage — significantly delaying the German advance and setting the stage for the Siege of Bastogne just to the south. This delay also gave the 101st Airborne Division enough time to organize defenses around Bastogne. After two days, the 2nd Panzer Division finally continued on its original mission to the Meuse River. As a consequence of its involvement at Bastogne, and its failure to dislodge the airborne forces, the column ultimately ran out of fuel at Celles, where it was destroyed by the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and the British 29th Armoured Brigade.

By the time the 1st Battalion pulled out of Noville on the 20th, the village of Foy half-way to Bastogne center had been captured from the 3rd Battalion by a separate attack, forcing the 1st Battalion to then fight its way through Foy. By the time 1st Battalion made it to the safety of American lines, it had lost 13 officers and 199 enlisted men, out of about 600 troops, and was assigned as the division reserve. Team Desobry lost a quarter of its troops and was reduced to just four medium tanks when it passed through the lines of 3rd Battalion.

Battle
19–23 December 1944
The 101st Airborne formed an all-round perimeter using the 502nd PIR on the northwest shoulder to block the 26th Volksgrenadier, the 506th PIR to block entry from Noville, the 501st PIR defending the eastern approach, and the 327th GIR scattered from Marvie in the southeast to Champs in the west along the southern perimeter, augmented by engineer and artillery units plugging gaps in the line. The division service area to the west of Bastogne had been raided the first night, causing the loss of almost its entire medical company, and numerous service troops were used as infantry to reinforce the thin lines. CCB of the 10th Armored Division, severely weakened by losses to its Team Desobry (Maj. William R. Desobry), Team Cherry (Lt. Col. Henry T. Cherry), and Team O'Hara (Lt. Col. James O'Hara) in delaying the Germans, formed a mobile "fire brigade" of 40 light and medium tanks (including survivors of CCR 9th Armored Division and eight replacement tanks found unassigned in Bastogne).

Three artillery battalions were commandeered and formed a temporary artillery group. Each had twelve 155 mm (6.1 in) howitzers, providing the division with heavy firepower in all directions restricted only by its limited ammunition supply. Col. Roberts, commanding CCB, also rounded up 600+ stragglers from the rout of VIII Corps and formed Team SNAFU as a further stopgap force.

As a result of the powerful American defense to the north and east, XLVII Panzer Corps commander Gen. von Lüttwitz decided to encircle Bastogne and strike from the south and southwest, beginning the night of 20/21 December. German panzer reconnaissance units had initial success, nearly overrunning the American artillery positions southwest of Bastogne before being stopped by a makeshift force. All seven highways leading to Bastogne were cut by German forces by noon of 21 December, and by nightfall the conglomeration of airborne and armored infantry forces were recognized by both sides as being surrounded.

The American soldiers were outnumbered approximately 5-1 and were lacking in cold-weather gear, ammunition, food, medical supplies, and senior leadership (as many senior officers, including the 101st's commander—Major General Maxwell Taylor—were elsewhere). Due to the worst winter weather in memory, the surrounded U.S. forces could not be resupplied by air nor was tactical air support available due to cloudy weather.

However, the two panzer divisions of the XLVII Panzer Corps—after using their mobility to isolate Bastogne, continued their mission towards the Meuse on 22 December, rather than attacking Bastogne with a single large force. They left just one regiment behind to assist the 26th Volksgrenadier Division in capturing the crossroads. The XLVII Panzer Corps probed different points of the southern and western defensive perimeter in echelon, where Bastogne was defended by just a single airborne regiment and support units doubling as infantry. This played into the American advantage of interior lines of communication; the defenders were able to shift artillery fire and move their limited ad hoc armored forces to meet each successive assault.

The 26th VG received one panzergrenadier regiment from the 15th Panzergrenadier Division on Christmas Eve for its main assault the next day. Because it lacked sufficient troops and those of the 26th VG Division were near exhaustion, the XLVII Panzer Corps concentrated its assault on several individual locations on the west side of perimeter in sequence rather than launching one simultaneous attack on all sides. The assault—led by 18 tanks carrying a battalion of infantry—pierced the lines of the 327th's 3rd Battalion (officially, the 1st Battalion, 401st Glider Infantry), and advanced as far as the battalion command post at Hemroulle.

However, the 327th held its original positions and repulsed infantry assaults that followed, capturing 92 Germans. The panzers that had achieved the penetration divided into two columns, one trying to reach Champs from the rear, and were destroyed in detail by two companies of the 1st Battalion 502nd PIR under Lt. Col. Patrick F. Cassidy and four tank destroyers of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Allied control of Bastogne was a major obstacle to the German armored advance, and the morale of Allied forces elsewhere on the Western Front was boosted by news of the stubborn defense of the besieged town.
   
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Year
1944
To Year
1945
 
Last Updated:
12 days ago
   
Personal Memories
   
My Photos From This Battle or Operation
101st Airborne Pathfinder Pfc.

  70 Also There at This Battle:
 
  • Bahlau, Frederick Arthur, 1LT, (1942-1945)
  • Bailey, Doug, PFC, (1940-1945)
  • Beck, Carl, M/Sgt, (1942-1963)
  • Desobry, William, LTG, (1941-1975)
  • Gibson, Patti
  • Joint, Edward, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • King, E. Alexander
  • Mehosky, Edward, COL, (1940-1971)
  • Peterson, Harry
  • Sallee, Adam, T/5, (1942-1945)
  • Strohl, Roderick, S/Sgt, (1941-1945)
  • Wayne, Forrest G., Pvt, (1941-1945)
Copyright Togetherweserved.com Inc 2003-2011