Francis Currey (second from left) with fellow Medal of Honor recipients (from left) Walter “Joe” Marm, George “Bud” Day, and Harold Fritz. They were among the honored guests for Heroes Day at the Medal of Honor Grove at Freedoms Foundation in 2012.
This page was prepared before Francis S. Currey passed away on Oct. 8, 2019.
During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with Private First Class Francis S. Currey, of Company K, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division, on Dec. 21, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
“An orphan wo had grown up in a foster home in upstate New York, Francis Currey enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1943, one week after he graduated from high school,” Peter Collier writes in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. “Though he completed the Officer Candidate School course, his superior officers decided he was “too immature” to receive a commission.
“After another eight months of training with the 75th Infantry Division, Currey headed for England in the spring of 1944 as an infantry replacement. As a result of the public furor over the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers aboard a U.S. Navy ship, President Roosevelt had issued an executive order preventing American servicemen from going abroad until they were 19. Currey had to wait until his birthday at the end of June to ship out. He eventually landed at Omaha Beach, but it wasn’t until several weeks after D-Day. he joined the 120th Infantry in the Netherlands in September 1944.
“In the winter of 1944, Private First Class Currey’s infantry squad was fighting the Germans in the Belgian town of Malmedy to help contain the German counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Before dawn on Dec. 21, Currey’s unit was defending a strong point when a sudden German armored advance overran American antitank guns and caused a general withdrawal. Currey and five other soldiers — the oldest was 21 — were cut off and surrounded by several German tanks and a large number of infantrymen. They began a daylong effort to survive.”
Currey’s Medal of Honor citation continues the story:
“He was an automatic rifleman with the 3d Platoon defending a strong point near Malmedy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack.
“Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3d Platoon’s position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away.
“In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with one shot. Moving to another position, he observed three Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all three with his automatic rifle.
“He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of one wall. While in this forward position, he observed five Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and three tanks.
“Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house.
“Once again changing his position, he manned another machinegun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the five soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw.
“Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing five comrades, two of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion’s position.”
“At nightfall, as Currey and his squad, including two seriously wounded men, tried to find their way back to the American lines, they came across an abandoned Army jeep fitted out with stretcher mounts. They loaded the wounded onto it, and Currey, perched on the jeep’s spare wheel with a Browning in his hand, rode shotgun back to the American lines.
“Six months later, after the war in Europe had officially ended, Currey wasn’t surprised when he learned he had been awarded the Medal of Honor — the news had been leaked to a newspaper in his hometown, and a friend had already sent him the clipping. Maj. Gen. Leland Hobbs made the presentation on July 27, 1945, at a division parade in France.”