(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

The Medals and badges Pfc. Alfred Corgan earned

Alfred Corgan's paternal grandfather was Aaron Corgan, and he married Emma Fuller. Aaron G. Corgan (born circa 1858) and Emma E. Corgan (born circa 1866) had nine children in the 1900 census of the hamlet of Colchester, NY; Aaron was 42 and Emma was 34 in 1900. Their children were:

Martha, born in August, 1883, was 15 in 1900
Darwin W., born in September, 1885, was 14 in 1900
Royal I., born in May, 1890, was 10 in 1900
Henry S., born in April, 1892, was 8 in 1900
Anson B., born in February, 1894, was 6 in 1900 (Alfred Corgan's father)
William A., born in March, 1896, was 4 in 1900
Olive May born in April, 1899, was 1 in 1900

The remainings of the house the Corgans lived in
(Pictures Courtesy of Linde Santana)

Alfred's maternal grandfather was Alpha Dewey, and he married Harriet (Hattie) Smith (1877-1932) on May 22, 1893. They had eight children:

Roy David (1895–1966), Gertie's father. Gertie is Alfred's first cousin, and is still alive.
Earl Henry (1898-1981)
Clarence (1900-1967)
Eunice Mae (1903-1938)
Bernice R. (1906-1998)
Alpha Warren (March 10, 1910–October 14, 1910)
Jennie Amelia (August 23, 1911–October 7, 1911)
Augusta Harriet (June 14, 1915–June 17, 1915)

Alpha Dewey
(Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce Boyd)

Alfred Corgan's father was Anson Berton Corgan, and he was born on February 1, 1894. His mother was Eunice Mae Dewey, and she was born on June 21, 1903 .

A WWI Militaria enrollment list for Delaware County, New York, shows the names of Alfred's father, together with three of his uncles:

Anson Corgan, living in Walton
Henry J. Corgan, living in Walton
Walter Darwin Corgan, living in Franklin
William A. Corgan, living in Walton

Anson Corgan's Military Registration Card (Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce Boyd)

Anson B. Corgan (27 years) married Eunice M. Dewey (18 years) on December 25, 1921.

Anson B. Corgan and Eunice M. Dewey Corgan, December 25, 1921
(Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce Boyd)

On June 22, 1925, Alfred Corgan was born on Crane Hill, at 3:45 a.m., near Unadilla, NY. On March 31, 1936 Alfred Corgan's parents had a stillborn baby. The baby was named Nancy Jane. On August 6, 1938, they had another stillborn baby (male). Both the stillborn children were buried on the farm by the father in a shoebox, not unusually back then. On August 26, 1938, Alfred's mother died, the immediate cause of death on the deathcertificate is a spontaneous miscarriage due to or as a consequence of a heart attack; she was 35 years old. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Unadilla, N.Y. Alfred was 13 years old at that time. Gertie, Alfred Corgan´s cousin, speculated that perhaps Eunice was undernourished after coming through the hard Depression times and suffered these miscarriages as a result. In 1941, at age 16, Alfred quited school and moved to Walton, to work.

Alfred was somewhat of a loner -or shy- but quiet pleasant fellow according to Alfred's cousin, Gertie. A friend of Gertie's, from Delaware County, said that he remembered Alfred and his father coming to Chambers, which is a place that sells livestock. They would be there every week. Gertie said it was an outing for both of them to go and look at the animals. Alfred did not have many close friends.

Tina Pabst, A close friend of Gertie, talked to a school friend of Alfred by the name of Sam Peck. They were not close but he knew Alfred Corgan. Mr. Peck described Alfred as ''his own person'', he kept to himself, he walked to school thru the woods and they did not own a car. The family seemed to Mr. peck very poor.

Anson B. Corgan and Eunice M. Dewey Corgan
(Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce Boyd)

Ken VerValin, a schoolmate of Alfred Corgan, also talked with Tina about Alfred. He did not know Alfred well -he was not a pal and Alfred was 3 years older. He did say Alfred liked horses and had one. He walked to school and lived on Butternut road then, 1.5 miles out of Unadilla and worked some for a farmer by the name of MacIntosh. Ken VerValin remembers seeing Alfred's father, Anson, in the post office when he had mouth cancer and could not talk too well.

Tina Pabst also contacted another classmate, Jean Winsor, she was in the 7-8th grade together with Alfred. She said he was very shy and quiet, in fact did not remember hearing him say anything! He sat in the back of the class. He would smell of leeks which he ate on the way to school. She felt he had no breakfast at home. The house he lived in was neat in appearance. She felt he had a hard childhood without his mother. He dropped back a class in school. They had no electricity or running water. She worked at a soda fountain in Unadilla which also sold bus tickets and remembered Anson Corgan coming in for a ticket, perhaps to Poughkeepsie. He bought a lot of tobacco or snuff which probably lead to his mouth cancer.

Steve Corgan remembers that his dad had a great picture of Alfred as a teenager. He said: "Unfortunately, I was unable to locate it, and many other pictures from his youth after his death. The picture of Alfred was one of him on horseback dressed up in a cowboy outfit. A ten gallon hat, chaps, scarf and gloves, the whole nine yards. I was always enjoyed looking at that photo as a child, and whenever I questioned my father about it all he would say was Alfred was "wild" or he was "difficult to manage". Maybe no different than any other teenage boy of that time. ( Or any other time for that matter)."

Mrs. Mildred J. Howland (a.k.a Dale Howland), Alfred’s sister-in-law, said; "I can understand Alfred being described as a very lonely guy, as that was my very first impression of him. I genuinely liked him. First of all, he was an only child. Next, he lost his mother at a very young age, and was raised by his father.

Alfred's cousin, Gertie, described the father as deeply religious and very strict with Al. Alfred´s father never really worked much. He loved to read Gertie told me. “I wonder”, said sister-in-law Dale, “if there actually was a close bond between father and son. He enlisted in the Army at age 18, several months prior to his 19th birthday. Was he really interested in fighting for his country, like so many other young men, or was it a way out of his lonely life on a farm? Not too many months later, he married my sister. They hardly knew each other when they married. He no doubt turned to marriage in the hopes of having someone to love him and to fill a void in his life. This young man has been on my mind most of my life”.

Dale’s husband, Alfred's brother-in-law, was also a career military man. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, when war broke out with Japan, and became a fireman. He served in the Navy for 5 1/2 years, and then enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. The Air Corps eventually became a separate military branch—the United States Air Force. He served about 29 years in the military. He was a veteran of three wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 1967, he retired at the highest enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant, and his career field was firefighting. After retiring from the USAF, he worked for the United States government as a fire chief on military bases. At the time of his death, in 1982, he was the Fire Chief at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., which is a presidential support base.

Alfred enlisted in the Army on Jan. 21, 1944, at age 18, several months prior to his 19th birthday. He enlisted in Utica, NY. He had, at the time of his enlistment, one year of high school, and he worked as an automobile serviceman. Alfred's term of enlistment was for the duration of the war or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law. On February 11, 1944 he went into service.

Alfred first went to Camp Upton, Long Island, for processing (nowadays the site of Brookhaven National Laboratory). It is located near the town of Yaphank, in the heart of Long Island's Pine Barrens. Located about 80 miles from New York City, Upton was easily reached by the railroad network that linked the Northeast states in the 1940s. New recruits from New York, Connecticut, and other New England states, after reporting to their local draft boards in response to a Selective Service notification, or after volunteering, were usually given orders to report to the Army's reception center at Upton. The average reception center was often located inside a sprawling installation (others included Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina). The recruit might be there four days or four weeks, depending on how long it took to process him and decide where to send him. The average stay was nine days. Recruits were evaluated mentally and physically so that they could be assigned to a particular branch of service, or even utterly rejected.

Upton was a two-hour train ride, on the Long Island Railroad, from New York City's Pennsylvania Station. For the average recruit, the journey from Manhattan to the camp was a rude awakening, especially during the winter months. The station at Yaphank was tiny, and made of wood. Once off the train, there was nothing but wind, sand, and pine trees. The scrawny pines offered no shelter from the wind, which blew the coarse yellow sand peculiar to Long Island everywhere. Soon, the sand was in clothing, duffel bags and boots. Those who went to Camp Upton in the winter have never forgotten the frigid winds, the stinging, ever-present sand, and the stands of thin, ragged pines that surrounded the whole place.

When they arrived, the recruits found themselves in a virtual sea of uniforms. They lined up in their civilian clothes, a single overnight bag at their feet, and listened alternately to the jeering of other soldiers and the barking of sergeants. Even in World War I, the boot camp was overcrowded. But with the advent of WW II, the older barracks buildings were filled with dozens of new recruits. Men stayed an average of nine days at Camp Upton, before being assigned to a particular unit and shipped out to another camp for six weeks of basic training and any additional specialized instruction. They were tested for mental aptitude and physical condition, received a uniform, and got their first taste of the Army. Then, they were marched back to the train station with orders to report to various places.

View from Hq Hill, Camp Upton, L.I.N.Y.

The first procedure at Upton was for the men to drop their trousers for an examination of the genitals. The purpose was to determine whether soldiers had contracted venereal disease, and it was repeated regularly, especially whenever a soldier reported to a new post. Next, the men were subjected to a lecture on sexual morality. The men were advised that sex would weaken them and make them easy prey for the enemy. Later in the war, the lecture was replaced by graphic films on the subject of sexually transmitted diseases.

Next, the recruit received his clothes and boots. Inductees were sometimes issued entire WW I uniforms. As a followup to what the recruit heard at the induction office, he now had to listen to a reading of the complete articles, which covered military crimes. Some instruction was also given on military courtesy, for example, on how and when to salute, as well as some close-order drill, but not to the degree that both would be covered in basic training.

Then came the shots—the legendary injections that men referred to as "the hook." Generally, these were the first of a series that would haunt a soldier throughout reception and basic, and they started with smallpox and typhoid inoculations. During this same period, the Army General Classification Test (AGCT) was given. A soldier who may have indicated a particular skill, like sharpshooting, would be given a special aptitude test in addition, but, by and large, the AGCT was the most important, and was given to everyone. The classic version consisted of 150 multiple-choice questions that had to be completed in 40 minutes. There were three types of questions, embracing block counting, synonym matching, and simple arithmetic. “Liza had 15 books. She bought two more and gave seven to her friends. How many did she have left?” The tests were machine-graded and the scores were used to place or classify the new soldier, which was the main function of Camp Upton. A GI generally got his Army assignment on the basis of what he had done as a civilian. The 15-minute interview with the classification specialist (CS) was as important, sometimes, as an AGCT score. The CS recorded the inductee's work history, education, and training, as well as the sports he played, his hobbies and his talents. These attributes were considered in the light of the Army's needs, and the assignment was made.

The real purpose of reception centers like Upton (beyond classifying the recruit) was to begin the processes of adaptation and acceptance of the Army lifestyle. The Army liked their men young, since adaptation was easier for younger men. At least a third of the population lived in homes that lacked central heating and running water. The Army barracks offered both. The Army offered three square meals a day, shelter and clothing.

Alfred in his Cavalry uniform next to their house (Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce Boyd)

Camp Upton, and the other reception centers, were only way stations. Every day, men were shipped in and out, bound for one of the 242 (by 1945) training camps where they would learn the real aspects of soldiering. They never knew where they would be sent. Then, they all then made the short—or long—haul to another Camp or Fort. For all intents and purposes, they were in the Army now, and didn't ask questions. In a few short weeks, they would have learned to follow orders.

Alfred was probably sent to the Cavalry, because of his experience with horse riding and taking care of them.

After processing, Alfred went to Camp Blanding, Florida, for his basic training. In 1940, Camp Blanding was leased to the United States Army as an active-duty training center. The post was originally used by New England and Southern troops, preparing for deployment overseas. However, during the course of the war, Camp Blanding also served as an infantry replacement training center, an induction center, a prisoner-of-war compound, and a separation center. Alfred served there in Company D, 218th Training Battalion, 67th Training Regiment, I.R.C.T. At the height of the war, thanks to leases with local landowners, Camp Blanding sprawled over more than 170,000 acres. From 1940 to 1945, more than 800,000 soldiers received part or all of their training here. Alfred Corgan was stationed at Camp Blanding for 17 weeks, and won medals for rifle sharpshooting, marksmanship with machine guns, and expert pistol shooting.

(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Camp Blanding, Florida, where Alfred went for his basic training

Then, Alfred asked for a transfer to the paratroopers. He passed his examination and was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and became a member of the Currahees. He completed four weeks of jump training, during which he made five jumps from a plane in flight. The last was a jump at night involving a combat problem on landing. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division—the Screaming Eagles.

Left: Patch of the 506th PIR
Middle: Newspaperclipping about Private Corgan being a Paratrooper (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Right: Currahee ID

Meanwhile, Alfred met a girl named Muriel Dorothy Cross. Muriel was born on April 14, 1925, in Albany, New York, the oldest of three children born to William Henry Cross and Viola Koons Arkills. Muriel's sister, Mildred Jean (Cross) Howland, aka Dale was born on June 2, 1927, in Poughkeepsie, New York. William Henry Cross, Jr., their younger brother, was born October 7, 1929, also in Poughkeepsie. They were raised in Poughkeepsie and neighboring towns. Muriel and her brother, William, are deceased now. Muriel's father served in France and Belgium in World War I. He was a member of the United States Cavalry, and served about 14 years in the Army. His first wife was Lucy Buss. She was born in Belgium, and William married her about 1919. Muriel's mother told their children that their father was gassed in the war, which resulted in his having one lung.

Dale said: “As a young girl, Muriel had no hobbies that I recall. I was the only one of us who loved fishing and hiking with my dad. I loved and owned dogs; they did not. As a young adult, however, Muriel, bought a little duck, at Easter. It was quite the sight to see her taking off on a date with the duck waddling right behind her. She had an early interest in cats . . . I never liked cats. Muriel, as well as my brother, disliked school. Both dropped out of school, and never went to high school.”

  Muriel Corgan with her Nephew Walter Howland, May 1948
(Picture Courtesy of Dale Howland)

"I feel certain that Al and Muriel did not know one another before he entered the service, or while he was in training. I believe that they met early in the summer of 1944. “Unadilla and Poughkeepsie are too far apart for them to have met, known each other, and have had a relationship before he went into the Army. How and where they met has always been a mystery to the family”. She believes that Alfred was stationed in Ft. Benning when they met. “He may have been on leave in our city and met her”.

Early Model Paratrooper Patch for Cap

Paratrooper with jumpequipment

“I never heard her mention the fact that she was dating someone named Al. She suddenly tells us she is marrying a paratrooper by the name of Al and they were going to Maryland to get married - our surprise. We never met him until after their marriage”. They were married on 11:15 AM on November 8, 1944, in Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland by a Reverend I. Marshall Page, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, Maryland. They went to the State of Maryland to get married, because New York State, their home of record, required prospective brides and grooms to have blood tests before getting married. The process took time, something they did not want to wait for. Maryland did not require blood tests, so one could get married quickly there. Many servicemen desiring to marry quickly before going overseas went to Maryland to get married. After Alfred and Muriel married, Muriel continued to live at home in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Alfred and Muriel's Marriage License (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

“Our family didn't have the opportunity to know him. After our initial meeting, he spent several weekend leaves at our home before being shipped overseas. From what we observed, he was a quiet young man and very much in love with his wife. Movies were about the only entertainment they had . . . TV wasn't in existence at that time. I don't believe he was the type that visited bars for entertainment . . . he was very quiet”. Dale also remembers that Alfred had no car. He rode the bus or train from Ft. Benning to Poughkeepsie. “The short visits didn't give us ample time to know much about Al. I have no idea if they wrote letters to each other, or made phone calls, or if he sent her gifts. I never saw pictures of them together.”

Ft. Benning

After Alfred earned his “Jump Wings,” he was ready for combat and sent to Camp Shanks, near New York City (in Orangeburg, about 15 miles away, on the west side of the Hudson River). Camp Shanks was also know as “Last Stop U.S.A.” From there he embarked, in December 1944, for ETO (European Theater of Operations). The troops leaving from Piermont Pier crossed the Atlantic on boats, and the North Atlantic was really rough in that time. It was winter, with 45-foot waves. Nearly everyone was seasick, including some sailors. All the way across the Atlantic, the smell on board ship was that bad.

Camp Shanks, know as “Last Stop U.S.A.”

Operation Varsity was launched at the time Alfred saw real combat for the first time. It was the first airborne invasion over the Rhine into Germany itself, and by the 25th of March, 1945, the Division had secured bridges over the Issel River and had entrenched itself firmly along the Issel Canal. Moving eastward, it captured Haltern on March 29, 1945, and Munster on April 2. The 17th Airborne Division then entered the battle of the Ruhr Pocket, where it relieved the 79th Infantry Division. It crossed the Rhine-Herne Canal on the 6th of April, and set up a secure bridgehead for the attack on Essen. The “Pittsburgh of the Ruhr” fell on April 10, 1945, and the industrial cities of Mulheim and Duisburg (see map) were cleared in the continuing attack. The 17th Airborne Division then undertook military government duties on the 12th of April, 1945, and active contact with the enemy ceased on April 18, 1945, when the Division came under the XXII Corps.

The Area where Alfred Corgan arrived as a replacement after The Battle of the Bulge. Notice the town Pfaffenhoffen (not far from Haguenau, which can be seen in the movie Band of Brothers) where Alfred came into 2nd squad, 2nd platoon, A Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

At the time Alfred arrived in Germany, the 101st Airborne became part of a blocking force that later became known as the “Reduction of the Ruhr Pocket”, and they also played a small role in Operation Varsity. An entire German Army Group was set up in the Ruhr River region of Germany and was one of only a very few cohesive German units remaining. In the beginning of April 1945, the United States First and Ninth Armies attacked the Ruhr Pocket. Knowing that retreat meant more German soil lost to the Allies, the Germans fought with everything they had, but they could not hold. They were desperately short of supplies, with virtually no hope of receiving more. They could not withstand the onslaught of the American armies.

Alfred’s sister-in-law doesn't know if Al and Muriel corresponded. “I doubt there was time for that, because of his immediate overseas departure”, she said. “Being in a combat zone in Germany didn't leave him much time to write”.

Left: Pfc. Alfred Corgan (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Right: 101st Airborne Divion Patch

Alfred came into Sgt. Donald Burgett’s squad (Sgt. Burgett was squadleader of 2nd squad, 2nd platoon, A Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) as a replacement shortly after the company had left Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. Most of these new men did not get onto the company’s roster because of the combat situation, and the “older” men did not get to know most of them by name. They had entered the small town of Pfaffenhoffen, Germany, and received a group of replacements. Alfred Corgan was one of this group.

The company was so depleted of men after Normandy, Holland and Bastogne, that, each time, they received loads of replacements. They really didn’t get to know most of the replacements before they went “in” again, and most new replacements “went” in the first couple of days. Sgt. Burgett said, “I do recall Al Corgan joined us after we passed through Pfaffenhoffen, as we moved into Germany (Alsace), along the Moder River”. River reconnaissance along the Moder was difficult because of the cold, swift-moving water. The Germans also controlled the other side of the river.

The company, including Alfred, marched to a spot along the River, dug in, and had a long-range shootout across the river for a few minutes, then all became quiet again. They stayed there for a couple of quiet days, then moved to a small vacant town near–and across the Rhine River from—Himmelgeist, Germany.

They made a Company-sized night patrol across the Rhine river into Himmelgeist as a diversional tactic, to draw the armored reserve away from Patton’s front, so that Patton could make an attack to split the Ruhr Valley, the Arsenal of Germany. They had to hold that town until the Germans shifted their reserve armor, and then retired to the Allied side of the Rhine. They crossed the Rhine river—126 A company men and four men from the 321st Artillery Battalion—in 16 assault boats, just after midnight on April 11/12.

The area where Pfc. Corgan fought. In the middle of the map is the place of Alfred Corgan's Fatal patrol

They received very little small arms fire (Home guard), and only a few artillery shells came in. Those few shells killed three of their men outright on the other side, and wounded four; Alfred Corgan was one of those wounded. Two defenders were killed, and the company entered the town of Himmelgeist (translated, it means heaven(ly) ghost, or Holy Spirit). In Himmelgeist, they captured seven civilians suspected of having taken part in the defense of the place, and then they withdrew, getting back to the far shore by 0415. Their attack went well and the Germans shifted their armor as planned; then, A Company retired to the Allied side of the Rhine, as planned. The men waited until just before daybreak and started back in the assault boats manned by an Engineer Company.

German tanks arrived on shore in Himmelgeist as the men were on the river, and began firing in their direction. The Germans could not see them for the dark moonless night, but they fired toward the sound of their assault boats. None of the boats received direct hits, but two had close hits and were turned over by the shellbursts. Eight of the men who were spilled into the water drowned.

Alfred Corgan was wounded in his arms and bleeding badly; the medics bound his arms tightly to his body in an attempt to stop the bleeding. A shell landed close to his boat, and it capsized. When he went into the water he could not swim for his bandaged arms. “We heard him call for help and two men stripped off their clothes—one of them Thaler—and swam back to look for the wounded, but because it was so dark without a moon they couldn't find them”, Sgt. Burgett said. “The Rhine River is about a mile wide at this point, with a swift current; he didn'’t stand a chance in his condition, even if he were an expert swimmer”.

Two other new replacement men in Sgt. Burgett’s squad were also drowned that night. He didn’t recall their names, for they were among the new men that came to the company as replacements when the 4th Armored broke into Bastogne.

Sgt. Burgett described their return as following: "We lay soaked and shivering in the ruins of the buildings and houses until every member of A Company was either present or accounted for. We had eight men drowned, and four killed in fighting and shelling. We formed up in combat formation and walked back to our billets. No one talked, no one boasted of our mission, no one laughed at the funny little things that happened on the other side, we just walked."

Other men that died during that same crossing:

Sgt Joseph A. Caivano
Pfc Robert E. Morneweck
T/Sgt Russel J. Bright
Sgt Nick Demkowicz
Pvt Harold E. Howard
Pvt James M. Lovett Sr
Pfc Floyd J. Roberts
Pfc Marcos S. Santillan
Pfc Charles A. Syer
T5 Alex M. Abercrombie

Sgt. Burgett told me that several men's bodies, including Al Corgan's, were recovered on the shore two or three days later—about two miles downstream from Himmelgeist, on the Rhine River—on a patrol led by Sgt. Jack Bram, now deceased.

12 - 15 April 1945

During this period reconnaissance patrols and one Raiding Party consisting of 7 officers and 125 enlisted men (A Company) were sent across the RHINE RIVER. On 12 April First Battalion relieved Third Battalion on the line, the Third Battalion, closing in Regimental Reserve Nievenheim. Memorial Services in honor of THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES were held by all units at 141000B. Firing South of the 83rd Grid line was restricted to the Regiment after 142030 and patrol contact by boat under a white flag with friendly forces on the East bank of the RHINE RIVER would be initiated upon orders.

Colonel, 506th Prcht. Inf.

“There isn’t much more I can say,” Sgt. Burgett told me, “for Al was with us only a few days. He was a good trooper and went with us in our attack into Himmelgeist as a veteran. We all lost a good man.”

Sgt. Burgett wrote several books about his WWII experiences; in one, “Beyond the Rhine,” Pfc. Corgan is mentioned several times.

By the end of April, the entire German force had been eliminated and the Allied forces had captured 325,000 prisoners. The final mission for the 101st came at the end of April. Teaming up with the 3rd Infantry Division, they assaulted Hitler’s vacation retreat at Berchtesgaden. On May 6, 1945 the 506th reached Obersalzberg and Hitler’s “Eagles Nest”. Here, the Division accepted the surrender of the German XIII SS and LXXXII Corps. The 101st Airborne also captured several key member of the Nazi Regime who were later brought before the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. There, in Austria, the 101st stayed until the Germans capitulated. The final World War Two chapter of the 506th would be written when, on November 30, 1945, the regiment was officially deactivated.

Colonel Sink's Casualty Report of April indicates that A Company was the last company of the 506th PIR with a lot of casualties.

The 506th PIR Casaulty Report for the month April 1945 (Picture Coutesy of Dale Howland)

The price of victory was high; 2043 Screaming Eagles were killed in action, and 7,976 were wounded. 1193 Were missing in action, and 336 were taken prisoner.

Newspaper article about Alfred Corgan's Missing in Action status
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred Corgan's Battle Casualty Report

(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Notice the wrong date of death
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

The telegram about Anson Corgan's missing son was sent on April 30, 1945, 18 days after Alfred's Missing in Action status.

Alfred was about three months in a combat zone when he was killed in action. “I think,” Dale said, “Muriel was first notified that Al was missing in action. Then, a short time afterwards, she was notified that he was killed in action in Germany. That date will always remain in my mind because it was also the same day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Roosevelt’s home and estate in Hyde Park, N.Y. are only six miles from Poughkeepsie, New York. ” After Alfred’s death, Muriel remained in Poughkeepsie.

Newspaper article about Alfred Corgan's Killed in Action status
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred Corgan's Report of Death (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred's Inventory Form (Notice the wrong KIA date!)
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Immediately after his death, Alfred's body was temporarily interred in the United States military cemetery in Margraten, Holland.

Alfred's Grave with Wooden Cross (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred Corgan's Disinterment Directive Forms (Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Muriel met Al’s father for the first time after Al’s death. “Muriel had never met her father-in-law, so it was a surprise when he came to visit us”, according to Dale. “Muriel lived at home at the time, so he stayed with my family for about a week. He seemed so at a loss. He appeared to be a nice man. He, too, was a quiet man—and so very lonely. He missed his son, his only child, and I think he was looking to Muriel to fill the void in his life . . . perhaps looking towards her as a daughter to replace his son. We, too, felt sorry for him. I believe he thought he could build a daughter-father relationship with Muriel. He followed her about like a lost sheep. That was the only time we had contact with him. I really wish there had been a closer relationship between Muriel and Al’s father. We might have learned more about the Corgan family. ” He returned home; Muriel said that he was a farmer. Dale said she thought that there was a brief exchange of letters between Muriel and Al’s father.

Alfred Corgan's Prayer Card
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

In December 1947, about 2 1/2 years after his death, the Army sent Al's father a form to fill out, a “Request for Disposition of Remains”, but wrote him again three months later, informing him that the form had been sent to him in error. They told Al's father that, when they mailed him the original form, there was nothing on record in their office to indicate that Alfred was married at the time of his death. The second letter said that information had been received which showed that Al was married and was survived by his widow, Mrs. Muriel Corgan. As his widow, she was the next of kin and the person legally authorized to determine the final resting place for Alfred’s remains. There must have been some sort of communication between Muriel and Al’s father after the notification of Al's death, because it is Dale’s understanding that both Muriel and her father-in-law, Anson, decided to leave Al in Holland, with his comrades. So, upon Muriel’s request, his remains were permanently interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland.

Alfred Corgan's Report of Burial (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Letter to Muriel Corgan about her husband's permanently interment
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred's Grave with Wooden Cross
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Alfred Corgan's Grave (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Sgt. Burgett: “I did meet Alfred Corgan’s father in Detroit, Michigan, about 1949 or so, at one of the Divisional reunions; he had traveled there in hopes of meeting someone who knew his son. We spent the evening together, and I told him all I knew about his son, Al. ”

“I am wondering how Muriel knew the details surrounding Al’s death”, which Dale told me. “Muriel had always said that Alfred was in a Red Cross boat, in the Rhine, when the Germans opened fire on the boat and they drowned. It isn’t exactly what Sgt. Burgett told and wrote in his book, but close to it. There was very little communication between Al’s father and Muriel after Al’s death”. So, probably, Alfred’s father didn’t understand, in all the sadness he suffered, 100 percent of what Sgt. Burgett told him at the Divisional Reunion. Most likely, Anson later told Muriel about the meeting with Sgt. Burgett, and the details surrounding her husband’s death.

William Cross, Alfred’s father-in-law, died February 9, 1950, in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Muriel, to the best of Dale’s knowledge, had no pictures of herself with Al. She carried a newspaper picture and clipping regarding his death in her wallet. Several years after his death, she went to visit Dale in Brockton, Massachusetts. While shopping in a local department store, someone stole her purse, which contained the wallet. The purse and wallet were never found. “I don’t recall ever seeing a duplicate of the picture and newspaper clipping, nor any other photos”, said Dale.

On October 16, 1953 the hospital in Sidney, NY, discovered Anson had carcinoma of the tongue. One and a half year later Anson Corgan died (age 58) at the hospital, in Sidney, of malnutrition due to his carcinoma of the tongue. Gertie is one of the last people who visited Anson before he died. He lived on Rod and Gun Club Road, in Unadilla, NY, and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Unadilla, together with his wife and her parents.

Left: Cemetery where Alfred's parents and grandparents are buried (Picture Courtesy of Linde Santana)
Right: Gertie next to Alfred's parents and grandparents grave (Picture Courtesy of Gertie Pierce-Boyd)

Muriel worked in a dry cleaning establishment for a short period after Alfred’ died. When she remarried, in 1954, to Nicholas DeCandio, and moved to Cicero, Illinois, she worked in a bakery. They divorced several years later, and Muriel resumed her name of Muriel Corgan. After her divorce and return to the Poughkeepsie area, she bought and operated a small restaurant. She had several relationsips after Alfred’s death. As she grew older, she became interested in cats—to the point that she had a house full of them. “I remember”, Dale told me, “visiting her when we returned from England back in 1969; her small apartment was loaded down with many, many cats, all of whom were in metal cages. They were show cats, and she traveled all over the country to the cat shows. She had many pictures and awards hung up on her walls. She had one cat—a Coon—that really was her pride and joy. She was a champion, who had won many first place prizes. After Muriel began losing her sight (in the early or mid-70s), she had to stop driving, of course, and had to get rid of all the cats. After she sold her restaurant, because of her loss of sight, she operated a newsstand and food concession for the blind in one of the state office buildings”.

Muriel Corgan, 1968 (Picture Courtesy of Dale Howland)

Muriel’s mother, Viola Cross, died November 13, 1985, in Poughkeepsie.

At the time of Muriel’s death, she worked in a factory which catered to blind employees, and had a live-in boyfriend. “She was one of the smartest blind people that we knew of”, Dale told me proudly. On May 31, 1989, Muriel Corgan died; she is buried in Union Cemetery, Hyde Park, NY.

In 2005, I, Rick Demas, adopted Alfred Corgan's grave.

In 2001, a friend and I went with my brother's school trip to the Military Cemetery in Margraten, and heard that it was possible to adopt the graves. After the guide showed and told us some things about the cemetery, we asked who was the person to contact to adopt a grave, and he gave us the address. When we came home, we immediately took out our ballpoints and started to write. A few days later, we received the grave which we applied for. We received the adoption certificate, some addresses to write to, and a note that we were too young to adopt a grave but, for us, he had made an exception. I wrote a letter to the three addresses I received and, after a year, had gotten useful information from only one. The others said that they could not give any information because there was a privacy law, enacted in 1974, that made my request impossible. In the information I received were some handwritten letters from the parents, and papers from the Pfc. Hass’ Army file. With the information I received, I started an Internet search on my 2003 Christmas vacation. Most people could not help me. A few others started to help me in my search, and I very appreciate the help of people like David Steely, the Division Manager, and Maureen Jakubisyn, a daughter of a 102nd Infantry Division soldier. Thanks to them, I got a major breakthrough in my research. After that, in 2004, I volunteered for two more graves—if possible, from Airborne soldiers, because I like their role in the war very much. That was the grave of Cpl. Fernan and Pvt. Hoskins. Around Christmas 2004 I requested a fourth grave, and that was Alfred Corgan's. I officially adopted the grave in 2005.

A Soldier’’s Spirit Returns

by Wilma Felton-Gray

A lone bag piper stood in the distance in the cemetery as the memorial service began commemorating a fallen soldier of WWII. The ceremony took place in the Evergreen Cemetery in Unadilla on Saturday at 11:00 am where 12 relatives and friends and 9 participants gathered around a flagged draped stone to honor PFC Alfred G. Corgan. The service began with an opening prayer provided by retired state trooper and Chaplin Fred Simrell from the Sidney American Legion Charles L. Jacobi Post #183. Becky Holley, although not related directly to Alfred, gave the account of his life and his tragic death.

Speech next to Alfred's Grave in the US
(Picture Courtesy of Tina Pabst)

The story of Alfred Corgan, tells of a young man from a poor family from the Unadilla area that enlisted on February 11th, 1944 and left for overseas duty in August of 1944. He was one of the "Screaming Eagles" in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, Company A. He died, at only 19 years of age, in Himmelgeist, Germany during "Operation Varsity". He was injured and lived through that, only to die when the boat he was in capsized. Because of his wounds his arms were bound to his sides and he had no chance of surviving in the cold waters and drowned. The date was April 12th, 1945 and his body was interred in a grave in the American Military Cemetery in Margraten of the Netherlands. A young man, Rick Demas, of the Netherlands, has adopted Alfred’s grave as is the custom there. As his search led to Gertie Pierce-Boyd (Alfred’s cousin) he began to learn more about the person whose grave he tends. As Becky’s story of Alfred unfolded, she explained how she became involved and her connection to the family. She and her husband purchased the house where Alfred lived as a young boy. That was the first connection. In the house she found some old books of the family, one belonging to Alfred. Then came the news of the death of her nephew, a serviceman. It occurred on the same date as Alfred’s death, April 12th, only 60 years later (2005). Becky also discovered that her Aunt Ethel Kehr, a school teacher, had taught Alfred in the Unadilla school and remembered him well. Also, her older sister had attended school with him, and her anniversary is the same day and month as Alfred’s birthday. As Becky related her experience and connections, I could not help but think of the television show, "The Ghost Whisperer". Was this only a series of coincidences? Was Albert whispering to Tina, Gertie, and Becky, and Rick of the Netherlands, to tell his story, so that he might in some way, return home?

Tina described how the plaque came about and thanked Brad Volkert of Bainbridge Memorial Works for his help. It was also touching how the death date for Anson, Alfred’s father, is now inscribed on his stone. She mentioned that Alfred will not be forgotten now  and even several web sites mention him.

Alfred's Parents and Grandparents Grave in the US with Plaque (Picture Courtesy of Tina Pabst)

Alfred's Grave in the US (Picture Courtesy of Tina Pabst)

As Tina and Gertie removed the flag from the stone the bronze plaque was revealed and Gertie read the 27th Psalm of the Bible. Gertie also read a moving account of her feelings on this day and that Alfred’s parents would be so proud to see what their boy had done. A closing prayer was given by Chaplin Simrell and the Sidney American Legion Post honor guards presented arms for a three gun salute to honor a fallen comrade. Taps were played by 86 year old Joe Renton of Bainbridge and Barbara Harris Pruitt of Vestal followed with the hymn "Amazing Grace" on the bag pipes.

Honor Guard at the Plaque Ceremony at Alfred's Grave in the US (Picture Courtesy of Tina Pabst)

The occasion was solemn and moving and some tears were shed at the end, not so much in mourning, as so many years had past, but in remembrance and gratefulness as it seemed as if Alfred, if not in body, but in spirit had at last come home, to rest in peace.

Alfred's Grave in the US (Picture Courtesy of Tina Pabst)

It was fitting and honorable that the ceremony took place on Veteran’s Day weekend, which, although it seems the saga has ended here it is not yet quite complete. Thanks goes to those who contributed to the memorial, but the group is still $40.00 short of reaching the final goal of $300.00 to pay for the plaque. If anyone wishes to donate in memory of Alfred or a loved one please call (607) 895-6131. Also if anyone would like to hear a presentation on Alfred for a group or club, please call the above number.

Me next to Alfred Corgan's Grave (Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)

Pfc. Alfred Gilbert Corgan's final resting place is, together with 8,301 brothers in arms, the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Plot D, Row 10, Grave 5.

Roll of Honor
Company A, 506th PIR,
101st Airborne Division

(Click on Picture for the Roll of Honor)

If anyone has information that may be of assistance to me about Alfred Corgan, please contact me at rickmommers@msn.com

For more A Company stories:
S/Sergeant Bill P. Straitiff