A Final Tribute to a Fairfax native: World War II icon dies at 82
The Fairfax Forum, Fairfax, Missouri, Jan 26, 2006

By Penne Usher, Auburn, CA, Journal Staff Writer
He made history on June 6, 1944, when he jumped from an airplane into Normandy during World War II, but the family of James Flanagan, who died recently at the age of 82, remembers not only a soldier, but a gentle man.
Flanagan, of Auburn, California, was only 21 when he and other paratroopers of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Di­vision, participated in "The Longest Day" in history on June 6, 1944.
The jump into Normandy behind enemy lines put Flanagan into the history books. A photograph of him holding a Nazi flag was wired to newspapers across the United States and appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in July, 1944.
"James was a great American, a true patriot, and an inspiration to all," said family friend, Ken Dwelle. "I am proud to have known him and grateful for the lessons he taught me. We lost a great man."
Tom Dwelle, general partner of Nella Oil and longtime friend of Flanagan, said the soldier and airplane enthusiast was a "phenomenal individual". He said Flanagan was  not only a legend in the 101st  Parachute Regiment, but also in Auburn.                                           
"For more than 18 years,   Jim taught us airplane construction and single-handedly rebuilt a crashed 1953 British-Hawker Sea Fury piston engine fighter and made it go  520 mph," Tom Dwelle said, "This was his happiest time."          
His family said history aside, Flanagan was also a caring man. "He's was an animal lover, a gardener and a  real piece of work," his daughter, Lucy Flanagan, said from her Austin, Texas, home.                 
Lucy Flanagan, 54, said she remembers her father, who, after the war, repaired small-engine aircrafts, working in his airplane hangar. "His shop  was full of cats," she said. "It was great to visit him at work,         He'd be fixing airplanes and the cats would be hiding in them."                                                  
Flanagan had been ill for  some time, according to his wife of 12 years, Dorothy Flanagan. She said he suffered from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. "He was  so stubborn," she said.                      
Dorothy Flanagan took her  husband to the hospital, where she said his condition deteriorated. "He laid down and knew it was time," she said.
Flanagan was born March 14, 1923, in Fairfax, Missouri. He graduated from high school in 1941 and joined the military in December, 1942, enlisting in the Army's Airborne Infantry Division. He had three children with his first wife, Nell Danner.
Flanagan said in an interview with the Journal in June, 2004 - on the 60th anniversary of D-Day - that he and other soldiers collected some German memorabilia after taking over the German command post near Ravenoville. He said he shoved the flag into his jacket. A photograph coming up from the beach was the first indication Flanagan had that the 4th Infantry Division had landed at Normandy. The photographer snapped the photo of Flanagan holding the Nazi flag, which was donated to the 101st Airborne Museum in Kentucky in 1986.
The World War II veteran's daughter, Sara Short, 51, of Texas, said it wasn't just the cats that loved her father. "All the animals preferred him," she said. "I had a parakeet that would sit on his books at night while he was reading." Flanagan was an avid reader, devouring Westerns and history books - often one a night, his children said.
The softer side of Flanagan was evident to Short. She said before her brother was born, her father would take her and her sister to the movie every Friday night. "We saw all the Westerns and all the Disney movies," Short said. "It was mom's break night."

The youngest of the Flanagan children, Mike Flanagan, 47, now lives in Overland Park, Kansas. He said his father didn't talk much of his war experiences. "He was a very strong and powerful man," he said. "It was after he went to Normandy for the 50th anniversary that he became more comfortable talking about the war. It took a long time for him to heal."

More To This Soldier's Story Submitted by Janice Rosenbohm, Daughter Of Dott Flanagan Lawrence

There is more to the story of Jim Flanagan's military service in the Second Platoon, C Company, 502 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. A few days after D-Day, most of this original platoon was killed at the Battle for Carentan, that vital area which would link Utah and Omaha Beach. On September 17, Flanagan's regiment jumped into Holland for the Market-Garden operation where Jim received wounds requiring three motnths of rehabilitation in England. Jim rejoined his company's new faces at Mourmelon, France, and he was soon at Bastogne fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Near the end of his European military service, in Alsace, Jim had a chance encounter with his older brother, Mac, who was also serving in another infantry division in that theatre. Jim was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and many other commendations for his service as a rifleman, scout, and mapmaker for the 502nd of the 101st Airborne.

If anyone would like to read more about Mr. Flanagan's service, he tells some of his story in the journal, World War II, 60th Anniversary Edition, published in June, 2004. In 1998, Layton Black wrote a book called The Last First Sergeant. This is the story of the personalities in 2nd Platoon, Company C, 502nd 101st, who served in Europe in World War II. Both the magazine and the book will soon be available at all three of the local libraries in Atchison County. The Flanagan family is donating the books and the magazines to the Atchison County Library facilities.
Jim Flanagan was one of the 12 children of Mac and Nancy Flanagan, who lived most of their lives in eastern Atchison County, Missouri. Five Flanagan sons served their country in World War II and/or the Korean War. The Flanagan brothers were well known in the late 30's and 40's around the Daleview, Dotham and Fairfax areas. At that time, they were only infamous for their orneriness.

Comments from Rock Port, Missouri, sixth grade teacher, Kayla Sierks, include, "The Man Behind the Picture is how I refer to Jim Flanagan. Teaching my students about World War II led me to learning more about this man and, each year, I pass on his story to sixth graders. My personal story of how I came to know Jim Flanagan is what I consider fate, and one I enjoy sharing with others. It began with Seth Showalter showed Jamie Evans and me the D-Day picture in a book. I was familiar with the famous picture of Jim and fellow comrades holding the Nazi flag, but did not know the man's name or have the slightest idea that he was a native of Atchison County and related to many people I knew! I began contacting some of Jim's relatives and Tiffanie Sly Gaines, his great-niece, gave me his address and I began corresponding with him. I treasure the autographed pictures that he sent to me and was thrilled to meet Jim at his family reunion in Rock Port in 2004.1 was saddened to here of his passing, but I'm very fortunate to have met him. The medals on his uniform and the D-Day picture tell the story of a hero and his remarkable life and I will continue to keep his story alive in my classroom and through my students."