Friday, October 31, 2014

McErlane Brothers

Peter J. McErlane and Paul M. McErlane were born in Lowell to Irish born Peter and Elizabeth (Kane) McErlane along with six sisters. The family lived in the Pawtucketville section of Lowell at 53 Third Avenue and were founding members of St. Rita's parish.

Peter was the oldest and graduated from the Bartlett, Lowell High School class of 1935 and the evening division of Lowell Textile class of 1940. He enlisted in the army ten months before Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the famed Yankee Division 101st Infantry 26th Division Company K.

First Sergeant Peter J. McErlane

His younger and only brother Paul graduated from the Bartlett and Lowell High School class of 1940. He also was an excellent golfer, winning the Lowell City Caddy Championship in 1940. He joined the Air Force and was a radio gunner of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
Sergeant Paul M. McErlane

On April 25th 1944 the McErlane family got news that their youngest son was Missing in Action. On his second combat mission his plane had to ditch over Germany. Three of the flight members ended up being Prisoners of War and six were lost. They were shot down on Easter Sunday. Right before Paul left for his ill fated mission he sent flowers to his mother for Mother's Day. They held out hope that he had survived but at the end of the war he was declared dead. A mother's heartache.

On December 10th 1944 the McErlane family was notified by the War Department that their other son, Peter was killed in action on November 28th 1944 in Vibersviller near Metz, France. He was part of the Lorraine offensive that was so deadly. He really didn't have a chance. Lots of hand to hand fighting as the Americans marched towards Germany. Trying to clear the towns to get the tanks through. Patton's tanks. It was a deadly affair.

Peter and Paul's sister Rita was serving as a Lieutenant in the US Army Nurse Corps in Italy. On the front line. She survived the war and married in Milan, Italy.

After the war the McErlanes were popular members of St. Rita's and the Pawtucketville neighborhood. The square across the street from the Joseph A. McAvinnue Elementary School is named in their honor. It's at the intersection of Mammoth, 4th Avenue and Woodward Avenue.

Paul never came home. He is memorilized on the Tablet of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery in Margaraten, Netherlands and on the family stone at St. Patrick's Cemetery.

Peter's body came home in 1948 and he had a funeral at St. Rita's and burial at St. Patrick's Cemetery. They were both survived by their parents and sisters Joan Donaghey, Anna Monnahan, Frances Fadden, Rita Miller, Eleanor Sullivan and Patricia Bartlett. Thank you McErlane family.


  1. Thank you, Eileen!
    ~ Erin Monahan (great-niece of Peter & Paul)

  2. Hi - Stumbled across this the other day when I did a random search for Paul McErlane World War ll. I had been looking for my original copies of these 2 pictures of Peter and Paul. It so nice to know more about what happened.
    Thank you so much,

    Maggie, Niece of Peter and Paul. Daughter of Patty McErlane

    1. Hi, Maggie!
      I'm Anna's granddaughter. I'd be happy to share what info I have. I got the photos from Michael Maire via email.

  3. Hi Erin - Nice to meet you, so to speak. That's funny - I'm the one who gave the copy of the photos to Michael Maire.



    1. Maggie,
      Did you, or anyone else on your branch of the tree, get the report on what happened with Paul? My sister has a digital copy that she can email to you, if you'd like. With Peter, what little I can find so far is that 89% of his unit did not survive the battle to retake Lorraine, France from Germany.

  4. Hi Erin - I would love to see a copy of the report and anything else you have.
    Happy Thanksgiving !