A hero from a different time

Posted 10/16/19

Francis Currey was a big name in Sullivan County. He was a World War II hero who was regularly celebrated on a day named in his honor in Hurleyville. Currey passed away on October 8 at the age of 94. …

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A hero from a different time

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Francis Currey was a big name in Sullivan County. He was a World War II hero who was regularly celebrated on a day named in his honor in Hurleyville. Currey passed away on October 8 at the age of 94. A recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal and seven other military decorations, his passing was noted in The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other publications.

On learning of his passing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed that flags be flown at half-staff for a day. Cuomo posted, “He was the last living New Yorker to have earned the Medal of Honor during WWII—for his valor during the Battle of the Bulge. We salute him.”

Currey was born in Loch Sheldrake in 1925, and became an orphan at age 12. Foster parents raised him on a farm in Hurleyville. After graduating high school, he joined the army at age 17.

Curry was one of thousands of military personnel who entered Europe via Omaha Beach a few weeks after D-day. On December 21, First Class Private Currey was an automatic rifleman guarding a bridge when his platoon was attacked by advancing enemy tanks and was forced to withdraw to a nearby factory.

His Medal of Honor citation tells what happened next. “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 machine gun 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.”

After the war, Currey came home and lived a quiet life. The Town of Fallsburg and Hamlet of Hurleyville were proud of their home-grown hero. During a day-long celebration in Hurleyville in 2004, a statue of Currey was unveiled at the county museum; the Fallsburg Town Board declared that day to be Francis S. Currey Day and a road was renamed Francis Currry Boulevard.

The town noted at the time that Currey is the “only Sullivan County resident to have been awarded the nation’s highest award for valor in the 20th century. He was also New York State’s only living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from World War Two.” The town repeated the honor in 2008.

In 2005, he was honored at Shay Stadium in Queens in front of a crowd of 40,000.

He worked as a counselor at the VA Medical Center in Albany, beginning in 1950. He retired from the position as a supervisor in 1980. After that, he started and ran a landscaping business. He also worked booking conventions in South Carolina.

Currey never made too much of the fact that he won the Medal of Honor by acting with such bravery while under fire and intense pressure.

In a post on a website that tells his story, Currey suggests he and his cohorts were able to escape from the enemy that night because they were young. “Now, visualize, five young men, the oldest 21-years-old, in the middle of Belgium, when it was dark. We couldn’t use lights on the jeep. We were surrounded by Germans. That’s youth!”

Of serving his country he said, “I can only say one thing. I hope that my country can be as proud of me as I am proud of this country.”

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