1st Lieutenant Brian O’Hagan, US Army
Ardboe and New York
Killed in Action at Saint-Lô, France – 9 July 1944
Brian O’Hagan and his bride Peggy Finn – 14 February 1941
Brian O’Hagan was born on 31 January 1919 in Elagh, Ardboe, Co Tyrone. Christened Bernard Garrett, he was the first child of Barney O’Hagan of Carnan and Mary Laverty of Elagh. Two girls – Elizabeth Patricia (Eílís) and Mary Kathleen (Maura) were born in 1920 and 1921 respectively before the parents emigrated to New York in 1923. They sailed from Cobh, Co Cork, on 22 October 1923, leaving their young children in the care of Mary’s parents and sisters – the Felix Laverty family – in Elagh.
The register for Mullinahoe primary school, Ardboe, shows that Brian and Eílís O’Hagan of Elagh started school in 1925, followed by their sister Maura O’Hagan in 1928.
A third girl, Marguerita (Margaret), was born to Barney and Mary on 30 June 1926 in New York. The 1930 census shows the O’Hagan family – Barney, Mary, Margaret – living in Manhattan. Barney, the head of household, is employed as a carpenter on the subway. Also living in the same household are Mary’s three brothers – Bernard Malachy, Francis, and Patrick and his wife Catherine.
In 1930 Mary travelled to Ireland with Margaret and spent some months with her family in Elagh. Many of the photographs in the Laverty collection, including several of the O’Hagan children, date from this period. When Mary returned to New York she was accompanied by her four children. They sailed from Cobh on 7 December 1930 on board the SS Dresden, disembarked in New York on 18 December and were reunited with husband and father Barney O’Hagan. The address of the O’Hagan family at this period was 512 West, 188th Street, New York.
The 1940 census shows the family living in Hull Avenue, Bronx, New York. Barney O’Hagan is employed as a dock labourer, Mary is the superintendent of an apartment house, Brian is described as a delivery boy for a retail store, and his sister Maura is a sales girl in a retail store. Also living in the O’Hagan home is Mary’s brother, Francis Laverty, who is described as a superintendent’s helper in an apartment house.
The United States enlistment records show that Brian G O’Hagan enlisted in the army as a private on 17 January 1941. He is described as a white citizen, born in Ireland, living in Bronx, New York. He has one year of college, is a salesperson, single, without dependents. His height is 67 inches and his weight is 130lbs. United States was not at war at this time – the bombing of Pearl Harbour by Japan did not take place until Sunday 6 December 1941 – but Brian obviously had an interest in the military: it appears that he had joined the reserves in 1938.
On 14 February 1941, less than a month after his enlistment, Brian married Margaret Mary Theresa Finn. Peggy, as she was known, was born in the Bronx to Irish parents, John Vincent Finn and Annie Mary Kelly from Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary.
The United States declared war against Japan and Germany in December 1941, and the invasion of German-held Europe began with the Normandy landings on D Day, 6 June 1944. Lieutenant Brian G O’Hagan, assigned to the 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division, US Army, participated in the D Day Invasion. He and his men landed at Utah Beach. He was killed in action at Saint-Lô, a city in the Manche region of Normandy, on 9 July 1944 during Operation Cobra. He was 25 years old.
After the war ended his widow Peggy travelled to Ireland in hopes that a relative, who had a government post, could help arrange her passage to Normandy. This proved impossible, however, not least because Ireland had upset Britain by remaining neutral during the war. Peggy returned to America, flying from Shannon airport to New York on 7 September 1946. She remarried on 16 February 1947, her husband being Joseph Edward Browne.
Brian’s body was returned to the United States in 1947 and his family laid him to rest in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery (Archdiocese of New York), Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York.
Late in her life Brian’s widow Peggy confided to her daughter Gail the kindness shown to her by Brian’s sisters and family, the details of her journey to Ireland, and her heart-rending decision not to attend Brian’s interment lest her presence (now remarried with a child) might have upset Brian’s parents.
Elagh, Ardboe – around 1930. Adults from left – John Óg Laverty (1870-1954), Maggie Redmond née Laverty (1906-2008), Ellen Duffy née Lavery (1913-2007), Tommy Laverty (1897-1991), Wee Peter Cassidy (1906-1992). Children – Brian O’Hagan, Maura O’Hagan, Eílís O’Hagan
Elagh – 1930. Back from left – Malachy Laverty, Breige Campbell, Brian O’Hagan, Mairead Campbell, Pat Campbell, Mairead Doris, Seamus Doris, Maggie Laverty.
Kneeling from left – Eílís O’Hagan, Brian Muldoon, Emily Bleeks, Eamon Doris (in front), Eamon Laverty, Deirdre Laverty (in front), Maura O’Hagan (partly hidden), Sean Muldoon, Dympna Laverty
Laverty farmhouse, Elagh, Ardboe – 1930
Back from left – Felix Laverty (1853-1938); his wife Lizzie Laverty née Campbell (1873-1935); Fr Colman King of Rexburg, Idaho (1895-1973); John Kelly of Carnan (1870-1931); Maggie Laverty (1906-2008); Malachy Laverty (1894-19??)
Front from left – Tommy Laverty (1897-1991); his sister Mary O’Hagan née Laverty (1892-1973); her son Brian O’Hagan (1919-44)
Wedding photo of Bernard Garret (Brian) O’Hagan and Margaret Theresa (Peggy) Finn
From left – Joseph Horan (nephew of bride); unidentified; Josephine Frances Finn (sister of bride); John Vincent Finn (brother of bride); Peggy Finn; Brian O’Hagan; Francis Laverty (uncle of groom) Photo courtesy Gail Browne Phillips
Saint-Lô in ruins – 1944
Brian O’Hagan’s name on the roster of the dead
Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York
The last resting place of Brian O’Hagan
O’Hagan headstone, New York
Commemorating Barney O’Hagan, his wife Mary O’Hagan née Laverty, their son Brian O’Hagan, their daughter Maura MacDonald née O’Hagan
La Haye du Puits, France – dawn, Sunday 9 July 2017
Lieutenant Brian O’Hagan (US Army) of Ardboe and New York was killed here on 9 July 1944
Looking towards La Haye du Puits from Bloody Hill 84
Inset – Peggy O’Hagan née Finn and Brian O’Hagan, 1941