Con McGrath tells the story of Mayo’s John Thomas Corley
The incredible drive and tenacious action displayed in the military career of John Thomas Corley, led to him becoming one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history.
He would earn a Distinguished Service Cross in both World War II and Korea, and a total of eight Silver Stars during his 28 years of service, five of them in WW2 alone.
His career from Lieutenant to General took him across the globe in many pivotal roles.
In World War II, he landed, as a Major, with the Big Red One in North Africa and two days later earned a Silver Star, America’s third highest award for valour. Then in March 1943, during fighting at El Guettar, Tunisia, he earned the DSC, America’s second highest award for valour. In May 1943 Corley was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, just five years after graduating from West Point.
After he landed at Normandy during D-Day, he fought at the Hurtgen Forest during late 1944. He made history when he accepted the first unconditional surrender of a German city during the war, when he accepted the surrender of Aachen by Col. Gerhard Wilck.
Yet this remarkable Irish-American never forgot his roots, and with the war over he made a trip to Ireland and made contact with his numerous relations.
Research so kindly undertaken by Ms Alla Roylance of Brooklyn Public Library, reveals that: “John Corley was one of two sons of John J Corley and Bridget (or Bridgett) Corley, both born in ‘Irish Free State’. (John J in 1875; Bridget(t) in 1881). In the 1920 US Census, the whole family is there, including grandmother Margaret – born in Ireland.”