Coffin Corner: The True Story of Kenneth Horrigan, World War II POW in Stalag 17B. By Kenneth Horrigan. Durham, Ct.: Eloquent Books, 2010. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Pp. ix, 96. $26.50 ISBN: 978-1-60911-011-6
During my decades as a docent at the National Air and Space Museum's facilities, I have often implored World War II veterans to put their stories down on paper. That way, after they pass on, the kids, grandkids, or great grandkids who find the old shoebox full of yellowing photos in the attic and have no idea who any of the people, places, or equipment in those photos are, don't just give toss them into the trash. There was meaning associated with that relative's life and, particularly, youth.
Ken Horrigan has done just that with his small book--and it is a small, easily read book. Only 32 of its 141 pages are Horrigan's narrative of his USAAF time, incarceration in a Stalag, and return to civilian life. There is a also a one-page introduction by his daughter--the one who convinced him to write his story--and three pages of dedication to the four Horrigan brothers who served in the war written by their sister.
The story is similar to that of many young American men. Horrigan was inducted into the Army Air Forces in February 1943 and trained as a radio operator and mechanic and then as an aerial gunner. In September 1943, he was assigned to Martin B-26 Marauders in the 587th Bomb Squadron, 394th Bomb Group near Kalamazoo, Michigan. The group departed the next February for service with the Ninth Air Force in England. On his eleventh combat mission over northern France, April 22, 1944, Horrigan's plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Landing near German troops, he was immediately captured. By the end...