Home > Poteau Area History > The Story of a Poteau War Hero

The Story of a Poteau War Hero

Clarence Coggins was born on July 3, 1920, in Poteau, Oklahoma.  Growing up, he probably would have never dreamed that he would go on to become one of the nations most celebrated heroes.  During world war II, he did exactly that.

Before joining the war effort, Coggins dream was to own his own dairy business.  He attended college at Oklahoma A&M and was active in ROTC.

In his early 20s, Coggins joined the United States Army to help with the war efforts.

Capture of German Forces

In early 1944, Coggins was captured by German forces on a Wednesday night while on reconnaissance northeast of Grenoble.  Once they learned that he was an officer, they separated him from the rest of his men for questioning.  Instead of finding answers, Coggins persuaded them to surrender.  As a prisoner of war, he convinced 942 German soldiers and 17 German officers to surrender in Grenoble, France, on August 25, 1944.  At only 24 years old, he was immediately promoted to the rank of Captain.

It was at a small white church in France during the Battle of the Bulge where Clarence Coggins gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.


In 1945, their company was trapped in a church with heavy shelling all around them.  The men decided that they needed to escape during one of the lulls in battle.  They came up with a plan where Coggins would send up a signal flare to show they were ready.  When the other American forces in the area saw the flare, they would cease fire until the church was evacuated.  Afterward, they would renew their efforts to drive the German forces out of the area.

Coggins lit the flare and his company began their escape.  He waited until the last soldier was out before setting off at a mad dash through the church doorway.  German gunfire stopped him on the church steps, where he was shot to death.

Clarence Coggins passed away on January 7, 1945.  He received two Silver Stars, one Bronze Star, four Oak Leaf Clusters, two Purple Hearts, and one Gold Star.

Leave a Reply