|Private Gagne was killed where the first bombs dropped in the Pearl Harbor attack fell at Hickam Field.|
Leo A. E. Gagne could have been 100 years old today.
He was born on January 18, 1917 in Massachusetts. His mother was from Maine and his French speaking father was from Canada. According to census records he was the baby of the family with two older brothers and five older sisters. Leo's father was a stitcher in a shoe factory in 1920. He held the same position 20 years later.
Leo had a high school education. Before joining the army air corp he worked as a laborer.
Leo enlisted in the army air corp on September 19, 1940 with assignment to Hawaii. It must have been exciting to travel to an exotic destination like Honolulu and work with the new technology of flying machines. He served as a private in the 22nd Material Squadron, 17th Air Base Group. He was at Hickam Field on the morning of December 7, 1941.
Hickam was the first target attacked by the Japanese, even before they attacked the ships at anchorage in Pearl Harbor. That means Private Gagne and the other 138 soldiers killed at Hickam field that day were the very first American servicemen who died in World War 2. They mostly died while America was still at peace with Japan because the Japanese declaration of war came later in the day.
A week later his family in New Hampshire received a Christmas package he mailed before the surprise attack. It said in part, "I am sorry I can't be with you for Christmas."
|Photo of Leo Gagne provided by Randy Buckner|
As the first casualties of the war, Private Gagne and the other fallen are represented by the very first of the 4.048 gold stars on the World War 2 Memorial in Washington DC.
His remains were buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
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