Brookline War Memorial
Gerald B. Fagan

2nd Lt. Gerald B. Fagan
United States Army Air Corps (1942-1943)

United States Army (1775-present)

Gerald Benedict Fagan was born on March 21, 1914 in Castle Shannon to parents Patrick T. and Ida E. Fagan. He had five brothers, Charles, Thomas, Patrick, William and Phillip. The Fagan family moved to Brookline and settled at 822 Woodbourne Avenue. Gerald and his brothers attended Resurrection Elementary School.

Gerald's father Patrick, a former coal miner, served as president of United Mine Workers District #5 from 1922 to 1943. He survived a 1931 assassination attempt by using the attackers gun to defend himself, eventually killing the would-be assassin. In 1936 he helped create the Steelworkers Organizing Committee and, when war broke out, became Area Director of the War Manpower Commission.

Gerald B. Fagan

After three years at South Hills High School, Gerald, following in his father's footsteps, entered the coal mining business. He worked as a Coal Inspector for the City of Pittsburgh. On February 17, 1941, the Pennsylvania National Guard was federalized and designated as the 28th Infantry Division. On September 9, Gerald was drafted into the famous "Iron" Division, named for it's heroic resistance against the Germans in World War I.

After completing boot camp, Pvt. Gerald Fagan joined the division at Camp Livingston, Louisiana. The division was then placed under the IV Corps of the U.S. Third Army. During this time Gerald entered Officer's Candidate School and, upon graduation, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant assigned to the 109th Infantry Regiment, another storied unit which carried the nickname "The Old Gray Mare."

        

From September through November 1942, the 28th Keystone Division took part in Third Army Maneuvers in Louisiana. It spent the first three months of 1943 receiving special training in amphibious warfare at Carrabell, Florida and was assigned to the VII Corps of the U.S. Second Army. In August 1943 the division began two months of maneuvers in the mountainous terrain of West Virginia.

GOING OVER THERE

On October 8, 1943, the division departed the United States for the European Theatre of Operations. Upon arrrival in the United Kingdom, 2nd Lt. Fagan and the rest of the 28th Division, now part of General Omar Bradley's U.S. First Army, received six months of extensive training in Wales.

In April 1944 the division was relocated to England and, because of their prior amphibious training, was transfered to General George S. Patton's Third Army. During this time the 109th Regiment was located in Wiltshire, England for three months. The highlight of this training was time spent at the Assault Training Center at Braunton, Devonshire, England.

The 28th Division did not participate in the D-Day landings. Third Army was held in England for an additional month before embarking for France. This was part of a calculated plan to trick the Germans into thinking that the Normandy Invasion was only a diversionary attack. It was also designed to give General Bradley's First Army time to soften the German defenses in preparation for Operation Cobra, the Third Army's offensive breakout.

On July 19, 1944, Lt. Gerald B. Fagan and the 109th Regiment were transported to a marshalling area near Southampton to prepare for crossing the English Channel that evening. They landed on Omaha Beach the following day. The men disembarked from the ship onto the beach and saw their first vivid images of war. Debris were everywhere, but there were no bodies. Once they moved inland, that changed. They soon witnessed the human cost of war.

BAPTISM OF FIRE

The Keystone Division gradually moved into positions behind the 35th Division, not far from the strategic town of St. Lo, to await their orders to replace those battered troops and experience front line combat and their "baptism of fire" for the first time in the hedgerows of Normandy. While the 110th and 112th Regiments began their first day of combat by taking the town of Percy on July 31, the 109th Regiment was still held in reserve.

Officers of the 109th before their first combat    109th members with Stars and Stripes
Officers of the 109th Infantry Regiment before their first engagement with the Germans in Normandy (left)
and members of the regiment with the latest edition of the GI newspaper "Stars and Stipes."

Lt. Fagan and the 109th Regiment saw their first combat action on August 5, when they attacked German positions at Foret de St. Sever. The engagement took place on the north edge of the town. The regiment fought in this general area, during the "Breakout from Normandy" for the next five days along with units of the 2nd Armored Division as they pushed toward the town of Gathemo.

Video Of The 28th Division At Gathemo

The 28th Division began their attack on Gathemo on August 10, as they pushed beyond Normandy to squeeze the Germans into the rapidly closing Falaise Pocket. All during the night of August 11 the fighting continued. Gathemo was reduced to rubble as the stubborn defenders refused a full retreat. German 88mm guns were still hitting the positions of the 109th Regiment at the edge of the woods outside of town. American casualties mounted.

109th in Argentan    109th and Canadians in Elbeuf
Infantrymen of the 109th Regiment pass through Argentan (left) and with Canadians in Elbeuf.

It was recorded that on August 19, near Argentan, the men of the 109th Regiment got their first showers and clean clothes since landing in France a month earlier. Unfortunately for the men there was no time to relax. The next day the Falaise Gap was sealed and the 28th Division pushed on to capture the town of Elbeuf.

The units were now moving 15-20 miles per day, held up only by snipers. Towns like Vernauil, Breteuil, Damville, Conchos, Le Neubourg fell in rapid succession. Along the way Lt. Fagan and his men saw the carnage heaped upon the retreating enemy. Thousands of dead horses, vehicles, machinery and the mangled bodies of German soldiers littered their path.

Falaise Pocket devastation    Falaise Pocket devastation
Scenes of devastation were a familiar sight after the Battle of the Falaise Pocket during the German retreat.

THE LIBERATION OF PARIS

The Germans were fighting a rearguard action and offered only token resistance at Elbeuf while the bulk of their forces crossed the Seine River and evacuated the French capital city. After taking Elbeuf the division hurriedly crossed the River Seine and reached the outskirts of Paris on the 28th of August. The division quickly assembled in the Bois de Boulogne as they were chosen to march in the upcoming parade to celebrate the Liberation of Paris.

Map of France in August 1944
Map showing movement of Allied units towards the River Seine. The 28th Division movement is in red.

On August 29, the Keystone Division entered the City of Light. The men paraded through the French capital, under battle conditions before a populace delirious with joy. They marched 24-abreast up the Avenue Hoche to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs Élysées. As the procession passed, Generals Omar Bradley and Charles De Gaulle laid flowers at the foot of Napolean's Triumphal Arch. Once through the heart of Paris the columns continued on to assigned attack positions northeast of the city.

Video Of The 28th Division Marching Through Paris

The 28th 'Iron' Division marches through
liberated Paris on August 29, 1944
The 28th Division, including 2nd Lt. Gerald B. Fagan, marches through Paris on August 29, 1944.

NO TIME FOR CELEBRATION

For Lt. Gerald B. Fagan and the men of the 28th Division, there was no time to rest or celebrate. The rapid advance continued on through the Forest of Compeigne, La Fere, St Quentin, Laen, Rethel, Sedan, Mezieros and Bouilion. On September 6 the crossing of the Meuse River was accomplished.

The Division swept into Belgium averaging advances of seventeen miles a day against the sporadic resistance of German roadblocks and small “battle groups.” The city of Arlon, Belgium fell to a small task force while the bulk of the Division fanned out into Luxembourg. On September 11, the 109th sent small patrols over the Our River to be the first Allied soldiers to cross into the German fatherland since the Army of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Crossing the Siegfried Line on September 11, 1944
Members of the 109th Infantry Regiment cross the Siegfried Line on September 11, 1944.

Here is where the German resistance stiffened. Pillboxes, minefields, pre-sighted artillery and prepared gun emplacements awaited any Allied soldiers who dared attempt an advance into German territory. It would take days of heavy fighting against deadly bunkers before the men of the 109th Regiment were able to make a substantial movement beyond the infamous Dragon's Teeth of the Siegfried Line.

By the evening of September 14th, the regiment was able to secure the town of Sevenig in Germany, after taking out twenty-seven pillboxes. In the process they were dodging persistent artillery fire and mortars. Worse, casualties were mounting rapidly. Dead, wounded and missing now totalled over 360 men. One of those casualties was Brookline's Lt. Gerald B. Fagan, who died that afternoon on the outskirts of Sevenig, Germany.

THE KEYSTONE DIVISION KEEPS ROLLING ON

Roll On

After Lt. Fagan's death the 28th Division kept hammering away in assaults which destroyed or captured 153 pillboxes and bunkers. The division then moved north and cleared the Monschau Forest of German forces in the area east of Elsenborn, Rocherath, and Krinkelt, Belgium. In November 1944, the 28th was moved further north to participate in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest.

After two weeks of savage fighting and appalling casualties, the Iron Division was moved from the Hürtgen Forest south to a quiet section of the front near the Elsenborn Ridge for rest and rehabilitation. Little did they know that they were placed right in the path of Germany's final large-scale assault in the west, known to American's as the Battle of the Bulge.

The resistance by the Division against Field Marshall Von Rundstedt's assault was termed "one of the greatest feats in the history of the American Army." The division took so many casualties during their stubborn defense that it was given the nickname "The Bloody Bucket Division" by the Germans. The men wearing the Blood Red Keystone had thrown the German assault timetable completely off schedule and inflicted tremendous losses on the enemy.

During early January 1945, the Division received nearly 1000 replacements and was tasked with the defense of the Meuse River from Givet, Belgium to Verdun, France. Later that month a move to the south, to Alsace, was made. There the 28th Division had the experience of serving in the French First Army during the reduction of the "Colmar Pocket," and to it went the honor of capturing Colmar, the last major French city in German hands.

109th parading through the town of Colmar.    109th crossing the Siegfried Line
The 109th Regiment parades through the town of Colmar (left) and crossed the Siegfried Line in February 1945.

CROSSING INTO GERMANY

Near the end of February, the Division had returned north to the American First Army and was in the line along the Olef River. March 6 was the jump-off date for an attack which carried the Division to the Ahr River. The towns of Schleiden, Gomund, Kall, Sotenich, Sistig and Blankonheim all fell in a rapid advance. Many prisoners and large stores of enemy weapons, equipment and ammunition were taken.

The Division then crossed the Rhine and occupied an area south of the "Ruhr Pocket" in anticipation of a southward drive by the surrounded German forces. Early in April the Keystoners moved west of the Rhine and took up temporary occupation duties in the area north of Aachen along the Holland-German border. Two weeks later came a move to a permanent occupation area; the Saarland and Rhonish Palatinate.

Early in July the Division started redeployment to the United States, arriving home in August 1945. After V-J Day, the 28th Division reassembled at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and was inactivated on December 12, 1945.

A SOLEMN REQUIEM

Gerald B. Fagan

As for Brookline's 2nd Lt. Gerald B. Fagan, his parents were notified of his death in late-October, 1944. The Pittsburgh Press ran a short obituary on November 2, and a solemn requiem High Mass was sung at Resurrection Church on November 5. After the war, Gerald's body was permanently interred in Plot A, Row 1, Grave 28 of the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Hombourg, Belgium. He shares the same burial location as another fallen Brookline soldier, Sgt. Michael J. Mahoney, who as civilians lived only a block or so away from each other.

Gerald B. Fagan

Three of Gerald's younger brothers also served during World War II and survived to return home. Gerald's father, Patrick T. Fagan, went on to serve leadership roles in the Pittsburgh Central Labor Union and the CIO’s Steel City Industrial Union Council.

He also served on Pittsburgh’s City Council from 1953 to 1968, and was one of only four City Councilmembers ever to live in the Brookline community. Patrick T. Fagan passed away in 1973. The Mount Washington overlook at Shiloh and Grandview Avenues is named for him in honor of his work as a councilman.

* Written by Clint Burton: April 7, 2018 *




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1907-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)  United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, Percy
Mayville Avenue
Army

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Capogreca, James J.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Ketters, Robert
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army


WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
 

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>