Francis S. Currey, above, was one of the last few surviving World War II veterans who received the Medal of Honor. Tom Heffernan Sr. / Special to Spotlight News
SELKIRK — Francis Sherman Currey, one of the last three living World War II veterans who received the Medal of Honor, died peacefully at his Selkirk home on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at the age of 94.
This article is the follow-up for a previous one published by Spotlight News on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Currey’s death was announced in a Facebook post on the day he died by the Delmar-based Nathaniel Adams Blanchard Post 1040 of the American Legion, which he had been involved in. “Our Post’s highest-decorated member Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Francis S. Currey was called home to the lord. He passed this morning,” it read. “May he rest in peace! A truly great man! … Thoughts and prayers to his family!”
According to his obituary, Currey, of Selkirk, was born in Loch Sheldrake, New York on June 29, 1925 and joined the U.S. Army when he was 17, just one week after graduating from Hurleyville High School. While he later became a technical sergeant, he was an automatic rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 120th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division.
According to the Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum, on Dec. 21, 1944, Currey risked his life when German infantrymen shot at his direction in Malmedy, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
In a 2011 filmed special by Medal of Honor, Currey recalled how he and his platoon had been ordered to defend a bridge near the aforementioned Belgian town, and one morning, numerous German tanks arrived. Currey said he tried to shoot at one of the approaching tanks’ commanders who had stood up and saw him. After failing to stop his tank which then crossed the bridge, Currey said he went to engage in a standoff in a nearby factory building.
He shot at a tank with a bazooka, rendering it immobile and forcing its men to abandon it; he then shot three German soldiers in a nearby house’s doorway. Traveling alone to within 50 years of that house, he used his bazooka again to take out half of a wall which helped save five fellow American soldiers there who had been trapped under German tank rounds for hours.
Then, three more German tanks arrived and Currey threw anti-tank grenades at them. “An anti-tank grenade was supposed to not knock down a tank,” he said in the filmed special. “Believe me, it will not knock down a tank. All it does is hit the tank, makes a hell of a noise, a lot of flames, a lot of smoke but it scares the hell out of the crew and they abandoned the tank. They gave me credit for all three tanks because they abandoned them.”
This led to the Germans falling back due to losing more tanks and increasing casualties.
Currey was just 19 at the time. “I hope that my country can be as proud of me as I am proud of my country,” he said.
Currey’s heroic actions earned him the Medal of Honor — the highest and most prestigious decoration for an outstanding U.S. military service member for acts of valor — and has been said to win the battle and shorten the war. He also received the Belgian Order of Leopold, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. A July 14, 2006 article by the Times Herald-Record reported that a GI Joe action figure was crafted in his image back in 1998.
The National Medal of Honor Museum posted on its social media platforms that it has extended “heartfelt condolences to his friends and family and remain grateful for his service.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed flags to be flown at half-staff on state government buildings on Friday, Oct. 11 in honor of Currey.
Spotlight News has reached out to Currey’s family and the American Legion Post 1040 Nathaniel Adams Blanchard Post for comment but did not receive any at the time of this publication.
After the war, Currey became a counselor at the Albany VA Medical Center for three decades, retired in 1980, moved to Bonneau, South Carolina and returned to Selkirk in 2009.
Throughout the Capital District, he was a South Bethlehem Volunteer Ambulance Service volunteer, a Hudson Valley Little League coach, a Bethlehem Conservation Committee member as well as being involved in the RCS Men’s Association, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the American Legion Post 1040 Nathaniel Adams Blanchard Post and the Albany-based VFW Sheehy-Palmer Post 6776.
Currey is survived by his wife of 70 years, Wilma Eileen French Currey; his children, Michael, Kathryn, Domery and Jonathan Currey; his grandchildren Jessica Moran, Kyleen D’Ambrosio, Diane Lammers, and Christopher, James, Kevin and Travis Currey; and 12 great-grandchildren.
Currey’s funeral with full military honors will be at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Babcock Funeral Home in Ravena. He will then be interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in South Bethlehem. People can make contributions in his memory to Senior Projects of Ravena, 9 Bruno Blvd., Ravena, NY 12143 or Community Hospice of Albany County, 445 New Karner Road, Albany, NY 12205.