Francis Currey, 1925–2019
The Medal of Honor recipient who fought off a Nazi attack
In December 1944, Army Pvt. Francis Currey was sitting in a foxhole outside the Belgian town of Malmedy when a column of German tanks suddenly rolled out of the mist. Currey and several other soldiers were forced to take cover in an abandoned paper factory, where they found a bazooka—but no ammunition. Currey, a lanky 19-year-old from upstate New York, raced outside under enemy fire to grab rockets from a smashed U.S. half-track. He loaded and fired the bazooka, disabling a Nazi tank, then fired again, collapsing a house occupied by enemy soldiers. Spotting a group of GIs trapped in a foxhole, he became a one-man army, hurling grenades at approaching tanks and infantry and, when the grenades ran out, blasting them with a machine gun. Having suffered heavy casualties, the Germans retreated. Currey was awarded the Medal of Honor but always downplayed his bravery, saying, “It was just one day of nine months of steady combat.”
Raised on a farm in the Catskill Mountains, Currey “worked for an embalmer during high school and planned to enter the profession,” said The Washington Post. But a week after his graduation in 1943, he decided to join the Army instead. Currey shipped out to Europe the following spring and found himself in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
“By the time the European war ended,” Currey had been awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts, said The New York Times. Back in the U.S., he worked as a benefits counselor at a veterans hospital and ran a landscaping business. Currey was made into a GI Joe action figure in the 1990s, but didn’t seek accolades or attention. “I got it,” he said of his Medal of Honor. “That’s all.”