Pittsburgh’s James Scanlon and his twin brother Gene first served in the Army Air Corps during WW II, and then they were transferred to the regular Army. A letter from the White House, prompted by a concerned Mrs. Scanlon, ordered the Army to keep the enlisted Scanlon boys together. However, after completing OCS the young 2nd Lieutenants were on their own–Jim serving in the artillery and Gene in intelligence. Disappointed, neither saw any action during WW II.
After WW II and their return to a normal life, the Scanlon brothers’ lives were upended when recalled to active duty during the Korean War. Both served in Asia, but only Jim found himself in-country as field commander of an active infantry company. Not long after, Jim was wounded while on patrol, his leg wounds serious enough to send him home long before Gene finished his own tour of duty.
When we sat down with Jim Scanlon to record his WW II and Korean War experiences on June 4, 2013 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, we immediately knew that our job would be easy. Some veterans are natural story tellers–their stories so rehearsed and often told that they flow forth as a remarkable fountain of vivid memories and colorful words.
During our interview we had very little to say, preferring to let Jim tell his story in his own words, at his own pace. You’ll see what we mean when you listen to Jim’s rich baritone voice in our full length presentation of his interview.
James Scanlon and his twin brother Eugene were eager to join the fighting in WW II, but they never saw any action. After being recalled to duty during the Korean War, Jim finally got his chance–on his first day in Korea. Not long after, Jim was wounded by shrapnel in the foot and leg, ending his reserve duty.
In this full length audio interview, Jim tells his story . . . in his own words. Recorded June 4, 2013 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.
The Final Story
James E. Scanlon of Baldwin Borough, 89, died November 5, 2014. He was the retired Allegheny County Director of Elections Department. A lifelong Pittsburgher, Mr. Scanlon was born and raised in the Lawrenceville section of the city. He was graduated from Central Catholic High School and the University of Pittsburgh.
One of a twin, he was the brother of the late State Senator Eugene Scanlon. They were two of the five sons of the late William and Marie Scanlon, all five of whom served in the military during World War II. Through a letter to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Marie Scanlon asked that as a mother of five sons in the service, would it be possible to keep the twins together? President Roosevelt issued such a directive about twins and the Scanlon twins served together and were discharged as 1st Lieutenants in the South Pacific. During the Korean War, the twins were recalled and Lt. James Scanlon was wounded in combat in Korea. He received the Purple Heart among other citations.
After World War II, he pursued his interest in the theater as both a technician and actor. He worked at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, the South Shore Players in Cohasset, MA, and with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. In later years, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Civic Light Opera and also served as a member of the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Mr. Scanlon worked in the private business sector with Federated Investors, Standard Register, and the Rockwell Corp. He then joined the staff of Allegheny County where he worked for over 20 years, culminating as Director of Elections. His late wife, Alice Chickoon, was a registered nurse who worked in various area hospitals, and for 20 years with the County Health Department. A man of great organizational and administrative skills, he lent his support to family and friends who needed assistance. He was so helpful, one of his friends referred to him as “St. James.”
He is survived by his two children, Patty (Jeff) Osborne of Mt. Lebanon, and Jim (the late Donna) Scanlon of Ross Township. He also leaves five grandchildren, Nick, Ben, Jessica, Josh, and Nate; also surviving is a sister, Betty Lou Tarantino of Pittsburgh. Preceding him in death were his wife, Alice Chickoon; brothers, William, Jack, Eugene and Bob; sister, Patricia Boyle; and parents, William and Marie Scanlon. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.