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Monday, April 12, 2010



Comrades in Arms:

A fellow "Screaming Eagle" has passed on, and here is his story:


John "Jack" Agnew's life was the stuff of legends.

It was so extraordinary, you could have made a movie out of it, - - - and in fact, they did.

The former United States Army Pathfinder's Second World War experiences were loosely immortalized in the 1967 film classic "THE DIRTY DOZEN".

But just like every good movie has to come to an end, so does every good life. Agnew passed away Thursday 08 April 2010 at the age of eighty-eight years old at his home in Hatboro.

Having lived in Huntingdon Valley for fifty-six years, Agnew had moved into a retirement community in Hatboro with his wife, Betty.

The couple was married for sixty-two years but Agnew's daughter, Barbara Maloney, said Friday, that her father was also married to the military.

Agnew was a paratrooper who served on a demolition team with the One Hundred and First Airborne Division that dropped into Normandy on D-Day.

"Our job was to go in and create as much havoc as possible," Agnew recalled during an interview with the newspaper about eight years ago. "We were holed up in an embankment that held in a river. As soon as you would come out of your hole, you were fired upon."

He later saw action in Holland and Belgium, suffering a shrapnel wound in the arm.

Maloney said during her father's time in Belgium, her father joined the Pathfinders. The special forces unit was responsible for bringing supplies into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

The unit, also known as the "Filthy Thirteen" became the inspiration for the film, "THE DIRTY DOZEN".

Trained to demolish enemy targets behind the lines, they were known for being on a bit on the unkempt side, and sported Mohawk haircuts and painted faces when they jumped into battle.

They had a reputation for living and fighting hard, but weren't condemned criminals, a poetic license Hollywood made up for its storyline.

Maloney said her father told her, "THE DIRTY DOZEN" was only about twenty percent factual.

Agnew also trained with members of the "BAND OF BROTHERS" Easy Company, whose heroics became a book and a popular television miniseries.

Agnew's special unit was also featured in special 2006 re-release of the "THE DIRTY DOZEN", and was the subject of the 2005 book, "THE FILTHY THIRTEEN: FROM THE DUSTBOWL TO HITLER'S EAGLE'S NEST: THE TRUE STORY OF THE 101st AIRBORNE'S MOST LEGENDARY SQUAD OF COMBAT PARATROOPERS."

Mark Marcarian was about to become Agnew's nephew-in-law.

He said he will miss the stories, too.

"I saw him speak a lot at different places about his experiences, but you can't even compare it to having him right in front of you - - - I really love him and I am really going to miss him."

Earning a Purple Heart Medal, several Bronze Star Medals, and other awards, Agnew was the oldest living member of the National Rifle Association after joining the organization in 1938.

Although Maloney said her father's health was in decline for over a year, she said his passing was a shock. She is thankful, however, he lived long enough to recently reunite with some old war buddies.

"I took him to the Louisville Military History Show of Shows convention in February and he got to spend time with the only three other living members of the Filthy Thirteen. There were also three members of the BAND OF BROTHERS there, too", Maloney said. "They reminisced and told their stories. He loved it."

Maloney said one of things her father was most proud of was his involvement in liberating a concentration camp during the war.

"I think what he would be like to be remembered for, is what he did in World war Two, so it doesn't happen again."

Agnew will be laid to rest Tuesday 13 April 2010 at Forest Hills Cemetery in Huntingdon Valley with full military honors.

Maloney said she expects several member of her father's extended military family to attend.

And to tell more stories.


At the web site of DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL, it is stated that John Agnew was an immigrant from Ireland.

However, the source of that information is not cited.

Thank you.
Offical Bard of Clan Henderson
Washington, D.C.  20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions do not represent my Scottish clan."

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