Last Living New Yorker to Have Earned the Medal of Honor During World War II
War Hero Distinguished Himself During 1944's Battle of the Bulge
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff tomorrow, October 11, in honor of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Francis S. Currey, a Selkirk resident. Currey died on October 8, 2019 at age 94. Currey was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 when he knocked out an enemy tank, drove back enemy troops and rescued five American Soldiers who had been pinned down under enemy fire. After the war, Currey, who was born in Loch Sheldrake and raised in Hurleyville, returned to New York and worked at the Albany VA Medical Center from 1950 until 1980. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society he was the last living New Yorker to have earned the Medal during World War II and one of only three living World War II Medal of Honor recipients.
"Francis S. Currey was a true American hero who made great personal sacrifices to serve his country during World War II," Governor Cuomo said. "His significant contributions during the Battle of the Bulge and beyond helped to defeat fascism during the war, and he continued to serve his country after returning home to New York through his work with veterans. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend our sympathy to his friends and family and express our sincerest gratitude for his service, bravery and accomplishments."
Currey was serving as a Private 1st Class in the Army's 30th Infantry Division when the massive German offensive against American troops in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium kicked off in December of 1944.
On Dec. 21, 1944 Currey's unit, 3rd Platoon of Company K of the 120th Infantry Regiment, was defending a bridge over the Warche River in the Belgian town of Malmedy. A German attack overran the position that Currey and five other Soldiers were defending. Currey and the other Americans retreated to a nearby factory under heavy German fire. Currey located a bazooka—an anti-tank weapon—and then ran across the street in full view of the enemy to secure rockets for the weapon. With assistance from another soldier he knocked out the German tank with one shot.
Currey then moved to another position and killed or wounded three German Soldiers emerging from an enemy-held building with his automatic rifle. He took the bazooka and moved to a position 50 yards from the enemy-held building, stood erect, and then fired at the building, collapsing a wall.
From this position, Currey observed five American Soldiers trapped by fire from the enemy held building and three German tanks. He moved to an abandoned vehicle, retrieved an armful of anti-tank grenades and launched them at the German tanks using an M-1 rifle. This forced the enemy soldiers to flee. Currey then climbed into an abandoned half-track and fired its .50 caliber machine gun at the German occupied position. He moved again to an abandoned .30 caliber machine gun position and opened fire on the enemy, allowing the trapped Americans to escape.
His actions forced the enemy to withdraw, securing the flank of his battalion's position and slowing the German advance for 12 hours. After night fell Currey and the other Americans withdrew.
Along with the Medal of Honor, Currey was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Belgium awarded him the Order of Leopold, their nation's highest honor. Currey was memorialized with a special G.I. Joe military figure in 1998 and appeared on the cover sheet of a series of Medal of Honor stamps in 2013.
Since 2003 Hurleyville, the town where Currey grew up, has marked Francis S. Currey Day with him as a guest, and former New York Governor Paterson declared July 12, 2009 as Francis Currey Day throughout the state. He will be interred Saturday in South Bethlehem, NY.