13th Airborne division
677th Glider Field Artillery Battalion
Lifelong resident of Connellsville
1924 - 1992
John J. Patrick was drafted into the Army on April 15, 1942, 15 days before his 18th birthday, and one month prior to his formal graduation from Immaculate Conception High School. Due to his IQ and high test scores, he was selected to participate in the Army's Specialized Training Program, designed to educate young men in the field of engineering and increase the pool of officer candidates. He was assigned to the 2nd Corps Area Service Command (covering New Jersey and New York) and sent to New York Polytechnic Institute to study. After just one year the Program was suspended due to the escalation of the war in Europe.
Patrick entered active duty on April 22, 1943, assigned to the newly formed 13th Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was trained as a Gliderman. Gliders were a new weapon in WWII. They were towed to the combat zone by C-47 aircraft, and then released, floating silently onto the battle field inserting soldiers and equipment. Being un-retrievable, they were designed to be disposable and therefore, were cheaply constructed of canvas covering frame of wood or thin pipe. Gliders were notorious deathtraps, known as "Flying Coffins". They were hard to maneuver, susceptible to wind and anti-aircraft fire, and would disintegrate upon impact with trees, other obstacles, or just a hard landing. Far more glidermen were killed or seriously wounded from glider crashes than combat. Patrick was assigned to the 677th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (B Battery) whose mission was to ride the gliders into combat, then assemble and fire 75mm Howitzers for infantry support. Many glidermen also volunteered for paratrooper training in order to be more versatile Airborne soldiers. Patrick volunteered and earned his wings, completing 18 jumps in training.
The 677th shipped out to the European Theater on January 26, 1945, arriving 12 days later at Joigny, France, 30 miles South of Paris. Patrick often reminisced how very cold and dismal it was. The unit was in France for 6 months, involved in the liberation of Northern France and at least one Nazi death camp. Back home, his mother Anne Clark Patrick, served as a block chairwoman with the Connellsville Canteen. Upon the surrender of Germany, the 13th Airborne returned home on August 20, 1945, to prepare for their reassignment to the South Pacific. Before their re-deployment, Japan also surrendered and the war was over. Most of the men of the 13th Airborne Division were discharged. Patrick served out his final months as a supply sergeant at Fort Bragg. He was honorably discharged on February 1, 1946, having received the Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Medal, European and Middle East Theater Service Medal with 2 Bronze Stars, and the Victory Medal.
Returning to Connellsville, Patrick had three jobs during his life: repairing street cars for the West Penn Railway at the car barn on South 7th Street (1945 - 1953); a patrolman for the B&O Railroad Police Department (1953 - 1966), and finally, Executive Director of the Connellsville Housing Authority (1967 - 1987). His first love in life was the New Haven Hose Company, where he was a member for 35 years. He died unexpectedly in his easy chair while watching a Pirate game on August 19, 1992, n the same house on North Pittsburgh Street in which he was born in 1924.