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William's Story 

                  William Winfield  Colgan

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Williamís Great Niece Carries on the Colgan Military Tradition

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World War II Stories

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Go to "Share Your Stories" to read accounts of WWII.

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

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Recipients:

William Colgan

Osteen M. Hinson

John Robert Colgan

Harold W. Etheridge

 

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American Campaign Medal

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information

William Winfield Colgan

(1924-1944)

William Winfield Colgan was born February 3, 1924 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

He was the eldest of nine children born to William Blackburn and Amelia (Pavlosky) Colgan.

William held as many as three part time jobs while attending elementary and High School.

As a young lad, he delivered magazines, two local weekly newspapers, shined shoes and in season, mowed lawns and shoveled snow.

When he attended high school, he delivered Special Delivery Mail for the U.S. Post Office, three times a day on a bicycle, rain, sleet or snow.

At a movie theater on evenings and weekends, he ran the movie projector.

He worked in his cousinís pharmacy.

He had about 20 chickens he raised as pets, whose eggs he sold to neighbors. He used the money to buy feed for the chickens. He never had the heart to kill any of the chickens for food and when called into service, he gave them all away.

He was employed by, "Merck Pharmaceutical Company," of Rahway, New Jersey, when his enlistment came through.

William graduated from Carteret High School, Carteret, New Jersey, in June of 1942 and enlisted in the Navy one month before graduation. He was called to active duty November 24, 1942. He completed boot camp at the Naval Training Station in Sampson, New York on December 17, 1942.

William attended the following Hospital Corps Schools:

San Diego, California       1/6/43.

U.S. Naval Hospital, Oakland, California      2/20/43.

N.A.S. Moffett Field, California     Lion Four      4/3/43.

San Bruno, California     Lion Four      6/23/43.

On completion of his training, William was received aboard HQ.CO, 3rd BN. 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division F.M.F.

William received the following awards:

H.A. 1/c Colgan received the Bronze Star with V, for saving the lives of three wounded Marines under very hazardous conditions at Cape Gloucester, New Britain on January 2, 1944.

PhM. 2/c Colgan received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart, Posthumously for extra ordinary heroism on October 4, 1944 in the battle of Peleliu.

A 1st Marine Division Presidential Unit Citation, 52 years after the fact (and because of an inquiry made by the family) for the battle of Peleliu.

The hometown newspapers wrote many articles about Colgan and described him as an unassuming, hard working lad and said he was one of the finest young men to have been raised in Carteret. Still another one of the papers he worked for editorialized him on the editorial page, written by people who knew and admired him.

William loved and thought of his family at all times (even during lulls in the fighting in the South Pacific). The family has letters he wrote home in which he says, "Iím buying the turkey for Thanksgiving. Mom you need a new dress and dad needs a new suit. Take the money out of my bank account and get them."

In the October 1945 issue of "True Magazine," there is an article titled "Hell in the Umurbrogal," written by T/Sgt Jeremiah OíLeary, Marine Combat Correspondent that contains Williamís and other Marines story on Peleliu, Palau Group.

It is the story of 48 Marines of  L, company. He writes about a mopping up operation and the trap that was set by the Japanese. The Japanese let the Marines advance far up the knob, then opened fire on the group.

Each Corpsman dragged a wounded Marine to a narrow ledge halfway to the bottom of the ravine. Leaving two corpsman, to tend to the wounded, already there, Corpsman Colgan climbed back to the fire-swept peak and began to shout orders:

"Take it easy you guys! Bandage each other while we get you out of here!" And to the unhurt, he barked: "Get out of here a few at a time!" Damn it, donít all take off at once!"

Colgan organized the difficult evacuation of the wounded remaining on the crest and then stood up to see if he had missed anybody on Knob Three. He was killed outright by enemy bullets. Of the 48 Marines, only 11 came back alive.

It is as the author put it, "a brutal story of a few men and a hill".  It is a small part of the History of WWII. William gave his life for his country and his fellowman.  He was buried October 13, 1944 in Peleliu Armed Forces Cemetery #1, grave #182, section 4.

Williamís story also appears in Tom Brokawís latest book, "The Greatest Generation Speaks."

Williamís death was a great shock to his family, friends and the community. William died as he lived, looking out for others. That was typical of William.

Submitted by Shirley (Colgan) Goodwyne

 

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