Last week I announced the release of my new book, We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories. In future posts I will introduce veterans from the book whose stories may inspire you as they have done to me.
Gene Cogan was a veteran recommended to me by a friend and am I glad I pursued an interview with him! His personality is friendly and informative. He is proud of his military service and was happy to talk with me about it, not bragging but happy to be able to help his country in this way. Below are segments of his story from my book, We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories:
Born in 1922 in Kendallville, Ind., Cogan graduated from Avilla High School in 1941 and worked at a machine shop in Mishawaka at 50 cents an hour before being drafted in February 1943.
After completing 11 weeks of basic training at Camp Wolters in Texas, Cogan was assigned to B Company, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division.
In spring 1944 he and approximately 16,000 other troops boarded the prestigious Queen Elizabeth, converted to a troop ship, at New York City.
After landing at Plymouth, England, the troops began training for an invasion of somewhere in Europe, though they were given no idea when or where it would take place.
On June 5, the troops moved to Portsmouth where they were told they would hit France’s Normandy beaches the next day.
Cogan was leading troops through an orchard on a steep bluff when enemy fire hit him across the back. He was knocked out and awoke to the site of bodies of fallen comrades around him. When Cogan tried crawling up the bluff to get to an aid station, a German sniper shot him in the leg. He rolled down the hill and lay unconscious.
The sun was high when excruciating pain caused Cogan to awaken. Wrapping his belt around his legs to hold them together, he again attempted to climb the hill, but his energy was depleted. Retrieving a raincoat from his pack, he wrapped it around himself before falling into an exhausted sleep.
Cogan was startled awake by movement, but it was the faces of men from his unit who stared down at him. “They had returned to retrieve dog tags from dead soldiers,” he said. Cogan was placed on a stretcher on the hood of a jeep to a field hospital where he received care before being flown to an Allied hospital near Liverpool, England.
Luckily, the bullet to his back only grazed him. However, his left leg was broken and needed more intense attention. Cogan was ordered to be sent to a hospital in the U.S.
From the 250 World War II interviews I’ve conducted I’ve heard about men receiving Purple Hearts for being injured by the enemy in combat. However, this soldier’s determination to persevere really struck me.
The book even includes a poem this soldier wrote about his time in Normandy and what it meant to him.
Tales from men and women around the nation fill the pages of We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories, along with dozens of photos the vets shared with me and others from the war.
I purposely created the book to be educational and written for a non-military audience. It would be a patriotic addition to any high school library and public library to encourage students and adults to appreciate what our nation’s oldest veterans have done for them.
We Gave Our Best: American WWII Veterans Tell Their Stories is Book 3 in my series called World War II Legacies. The other titles are We Fought to Win: American World War II Veterans Share Their Stories and
They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans (all available on Amazon).
If you’d like to meet several of the ones from my new book and thank them for their service, plan to attend my book launch event (it’s more like a party) at Allen County Public Library downtown on Saturday, November 3, 2018, at 900 Library Plaza in Fort Wayne Indiana. The public is invited to thank them for the service from 1-3:00 p.m. All ages are invited for this unique event. As most of the veterans are in their mid-90s, I can’t guarantee if there will ever be another event like this. You don’t want to miss it!
Did Gene Cogan’s story inspire you? Maybe you know a World War II veteran who has share his/her story and taught you to appreciate our freedoms. If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Thank a veteran for his/her service today!