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First Name: John

Last Name: Agnew

Birthplace: Belfast, IRL

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 10 January 1922

Date of Death: 08 April 2010

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served:
John Agnew

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John "Jack" Agnew
Private First Class, U.S. Army

John "Jack" Agnew was born on 10 January 1922 in Belfast, Ireland. His family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5 years old. He graduated from Olney High School in 1940, and earned a certificate at the Pennsylvania Institute of Criminology in Philadelphia in 1950.

Military Service - WWII

Jack began his military service in the U.S. Army in 1942 and the parts of his service that made him famous occurred while he was a Private First Class ('PFC') in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment ('PIR') of the 101st Airborne Division.

Jack Agnew was preparing for the D-Day invasion of Normandy when the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, labeled his unit "The Dirty Dozen." In the 1967 movie of the same name, Mr. Agnew said his unit's exploits were "blown out of proportion . . ." "We were a rough-and-tumble group of guys, and we had some run-ins with the MPs," he said "But there were some things in the film that have no relation to us."

What was true, he said, was that his unit did not have an easy stroll through daisy fields during the battles of D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and Battle of the Bulge.

In a 1999 interview with Joseph S. Kennedy of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jack said that on the night before the dawn invasion of 6 June 1944, his unit parachuted into the countryside outside Carentan, Normandy. "The regiment's members were dropped off course and widely scattered," Kennedy wrote. "Yet the Dirty Dozen managed to blow up the bridge, which cut off German reinforcements to Utah Beach." "Joined by other paratroopers, Agnew was in continuous combat for more than a week, which included a mistaken bombing by planes of the U.S. Army Air Forces."

Later in 1944 Kennedy wrote, Agnew's unit of the 506th parachuted into the Netherlands and survived a devastating German counterattack during the failed Operation Market Garden.

His final combat jump, Agnew told Kennedy, came when the 506th tried to help rescue other units of the 101st that the Germans had surrounded during the Battle of the Bulge. A historical report of the 506th PIR actions says that 20 paratroopers jumped into fields southwest of Bastogne to scout ground where cargo planes could safely drop supplies.

The historical account names Agnew as the soldier who set up a device "on top of a large brick pile" which sent out "a clear radar signal" to guide C-47 cargo planes to a safe drop zone. "By the late afternoon of December 23, 1944," the account reads, "241 C-47s of Troop Carrier Command delivered many tons of urgently needed supplies to the joyous and thankful 101st Airborne." Agnew's military record reports that he was wounded on that date, earned a Purple Heart and, during his 1942-45 service, earned a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Medals and Awards

Bronze Star Medal (2 Awards)
Purple Heart
Good Conduct Medal


Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge
Pathfinder Badge

Civilian Life

Jack Agnew's 36-year career as an installer began with Western Electric Co. and his granddaughter, Jenifer Bateman, said it continued through the evolution of the Bell system.

He joined the National Rifle Association in 1938, and was a longtime instructor for the NRA. He was also a lifetime member of the Langhorne Rod and Gun Club.


He was the beloved husband of Elizabeth "Betty" Potts Agnew; devoted father of Barbara Maloney and Lynne Cooper; grandfather of Damian, Molly, Jenifer, Bryan and Bradley; great-grandfather of Jack and Daniel; and brother of Charles C. Agnew.

Death and Burial

John "Jack" Agnew died on 8 April 2010 at Abington Memorial Hospital of complications from heart disease. He was 88. Agnew was a resident of Maple Village, PA. He is buried at Forest Hills Memorial Park in Huntington Valley, Montgomery County, PA.

Honoree ID: 3258   Created by: MHOH




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