Veteran Stories:
Orison Corcoran

Army

  • Orison Corcoran received this letter from his mother in June of 1944, notifying him that his brother, John, had been killed while serving with the Navy.

    Orison Corcoran
  • Invasion currency Mr. Corcoran collected during his travels through Europe with the Canadian Army. This selection of currency was for France, Belgium and Holland.

    Orison Corcoran
  • Photo of Mr. Corcoran's brother, John, who served on the HMCS Givenchy before he was killed on April 4, 1944, at the age of 19.

    Orison Corcoran
  • Photo from the Evening News that ran on July 12, 1945. Mr. Corcoran was among the 7000 Canadians aboard the Queen Mary when it docked in New York carrying 14,474 armed forces personnel.

    Orison Corcoran
  • Mr. Corcoran found this snapshot on the ground at an abandoned Nazi airbase in Holland.

    Orison Corcoran
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"There were a bunch of Germans coming back into our line because they wanted to get away from the shelling and the fighting."

Transcript

My name is Orson Martin Corcoran and I was born in Fort William, Ontario, which is now called Thunder Bay. I joined the Army when I was still eighteen, but turned nineteen in a couple of months. I served in Thunder Bay and Camp Borden, and then went over to England. Stayed in England for the battle of Britain, and then went in shortly after D-Day with a Light Aid detachment with the RCEME – the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. I was actually what they called an armoured fighting vehicle fitter. My job was to keep the things going. If anything mechanical went wrong, we were there to keep it going. If we couldn't fix right on the field, we'd just push it to one side and keep on going. We did that right through France, Belgium, Holland, and into Germany. After we first landed, for a few nights there they were shooting all night long. We wouldn't be working on any motors, so we'd be passing shells up to the gunners. For a while the guns would be going so bad they'd block out our ears and we couldn't hear anyone talking. Then things would quiet down, we'd sleep on the ground, and hope we lived through the night. Later, when I got across the Rhine into Germany, there were a bunch of Germans coming back into our line because they wanted to get away from the shelling and the fighting. There were a whole bunch of them walking by. This guy… he was trying to pull it off his arm [Nazi armband]. He was kind of crazy to be wearing a Nazi thing like that. I didn't want to start shooting at him, so I just took it off him and told him to keep going. I stayed in as far as Hamburg, and the war was over and I stayed there about a month. Then I put in for compassionate leave to come home because my dad was sick and we'd just lost my brother in the Navy. So then I came home. All of a sudden they decided my dad wasn't that sick, so they kept me in the Army. So I volunteered to go to Japan, but then the war ended in Japan so they gave me my discharge. My dad died a year later, but that's the way life goes. Shortly after I got married, one night my wife woke up and she said, "What the Devil have you got here?" I had an alarm clock between the two of us. It comes from when I was on the beach in Normandy. We used to keep hand grenades close to us. Our rifles, our shoes – anything we could keep close to our bodies. It seems that when I got home, I used to do the same thing with shoes, socks, alarm clocks, and stuff like that.
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