Francis J. Mc. Keown

francis

Boarding for Market Garden, Private Francis J Mc. Keown, on the ladder.
Boarding for Market Garden, Private Francis J Mc. Keown, on the ladder.

Francis Mc.keown entered service on Monday 22 March 1943 at New York City, New York, U.S.A.,while not yet a Citizen of the United States of America.

Francis was a Private of the 2nd platoon of D-Company, 501 PIR. He was very loved by his buddies, because he was an easy going guy. His company led the Market Garden invasion and the plane he jumped out of wasthe second plane behind Colonel Howard Johnson’s plane. They jumped on Drop Zone A at Eerde. Francis was unfortunate and landed with one foot on top of the only road running through their sector of the drop zone. Bobby Hunter landed in a short distance from him and Francis called out for him to help. Bobby carried Francis including the equipment of both men off the dropzone to the assembly point. He sprained his ankle upon landing. Because D-Company had the order to capture the road bridge in Veghel,Francis was left behind in care of the medics.

Francis with his sprained ankle
Francis with his sprained ankle

On the 24th of September he returned to his platoon. In the morning he went to the mass held by Father Sampson.

Captain Francis L. Sampson, 501st PIR Catholic Chaplain on a lite motorbike in Holland
Captain Francis L. Sampson, 501st PIR Catholic Chaplain on a lite motorbike in Holland

On his way back to the company he told his buddies he had a feeling he would not make it to the night. They all laughed about his remark, because he had just returned to the company. Two hours later Francis was hit by an “88” round when the 2nd Battalion was spotted by German observers from the church steeple of Weibosch, while moving to Eerde to support the rest of the regiment in the fight which was going on there. He died near a farmhouse close to the railroad that leads from Veghel to Eerde. The farmhouse still exists.
Francis died on the spot of his wounds and all the men from his platoon cried about losing this popular private. 2nd.batallion Sergeant-Major John L. Ghiardi remembered the terrible shelling the battalion underwent as it moved toward Eerde by way of the railroad bridge. “We were beiing led by Major Raymond Bottomly along the road hedged by trees on both sides in the direction of Eerde. I ended the day slightly shell-shocked. Streets was killed instantly and Mero, seriously wounded and died some days later. I just got away with a few shrapnel scratches,largely because I crawled about 30 to 40 yards into the open field, away from the direction from which the shells were coming”.

Company “D” was caught in the same barrage. Pvt. Bobby Hunter described the move toward Eerde: “As we started this maneuver, some of the guys were caught on the road and under trees. John Marnye and Francis Mc.Keown were killed instantly. Wayne McClung died on the way to the aid station. Schmitt and Louis Kill were also wounded”. Two soldiers from division artillery units witnessed the enemy 88 and small arms fire being directed at the 501st units that were on the move to Eerde.

Private Francis Mc. Keown, 501st PIR CO D 2nd Plt, KIA 24 September 1944
Private Francis Mc. Keown, 501st PIR CO D 2nd Plt, KIA 24 September 1944
Bobby Hunter and Bert Collier visiting the grave of their friend, US military cemetry Margraten Holland, Plot A, Row 3, Grave 3
Bobby Hunter and Bert Collier visiting the grave of their friend, US military cemetry Margraten Holland, Plot A, Row 3, Grave 3