Without proper Memorial Day exercises due to COVID, visit one of Jamaica Plain’s Hero Squares and learn about history

There are over 1,700 Hero Squares across Boston and several in Jamaica Plain that pay tribute to residents that made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for their country during wartime. 

“These squares are found in intersections like the one we are in today,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “These squares deserve to be noticed and those memorialized for their commitment to service should be remembered.”

In 1898, the first Hero Square in Boston was named Dewey Square at South Station. Since then, the city has dedicated more than 1,700 Hero Squares for service members killed in action. The gold star on each sign represents the ultimate sacrifice that was given. It is designated only for those killed in action.

In 2013, the city created and added biography plagues at each Hero Square. These plaques have a barcode you can scan that takes you to a website with more details and photos about the service member.

For example there is a Hero Square for Charles H. Arnott at the corner of Brookside Avenue and Minton Street. 

On 13 November 1942 Arnott was aboard the USS Monssen during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Monssen was hit by some 39 shells; including three of battleship caliber. Twenty minutes later, the ship was completely immobilized and was ordered abandoned. After daybreak the Monssen was still afire and continued to blaze until early afternoon, when she sank. Sixty percent of the crew couldn’t escape the inferno and went down with the ship… Arnott was one of the sailors who were trapped or killed and his remains are buried with the ship at the bottom of the Pacific. In 1992, an expedition found the wreck of the Monssen. 

“The wreck of the Monssen lies upright on the bottom of the Iron Bottom Sound, with gun turrets still trained out to the starboard side as they had been in combat.”

Arnott was awarded the Purple Heart, Victory Medal, Presidential Citation, American Campaign Medal, and the Atlantic and Pacific Campaign Medals. 

There’s a Hero Square for John A. Coughlin at Asticou Road and St. Ann Street. 

Coughlin was born to Alfred C. and Jean H. Coughlin on December 4, 1917. After graduating from Jamaica Plain High Graduate, Coughlin enlisted in the United States Air Force on February 17, 1942. Staff Sergeant Coughlin served as a gunner on a B-24D in the 9th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group, Heavy. 

On March 13, 1943 his crew was part of a four plane mission to bomb the Pazundaung Bridge at Rangoon, Burma. At least seven Japanese fighter planes attacked the formation. Half of the formation, including Coughlin’s plane, were gunned down. The aircrafts crashed into the Gulf of Martaban, leaving no survivors. For his extraordinary heroism in service to our country Coughlin was awarded the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation. He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery. 

On the corner of Creighton Street and Sunnyside Street there is a Hero Square for John J. Magee. 

Magee was born on February 21, 1947 in Boston, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Magee, and grew up in Jamaica Plain. 

He was inducted into the United States Army on July 27, 1966 and began his tour of duty in Vietnam on October 6, 1967. He served as a Light Weapons Infantryman with Company A, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade, American Division in Vietnam. 

On February 28, 1968 in Quang-Ngai, Vietnam, Magee was killed by metal fragments from a landmine. For his heroism displayed in his service Magee was awarded the Purple Heart. 

Then there’s James L. Maguire’s Hero Square at Centre Street and Orchard Street 

Maguire was born on May 23, 1917 in Boston. Living in Jamaica Plain prior to WWII, he worked as a library assistant. Before joining the army Maguire was a graduate of Boston College Class of 1938 and attended the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

On June 10, 1943, Maguire was inducted into the United States Army. There he served with the 95th Infantry Division as a Private First Class (PFC.). 

Maguire was killed in action on November 26, 1944 while fighting in France. He was awarded the Purple Heart and is memorialized on the walls of the Harvard Memorial Church.

“Hero Squares allow us to pay tribute and honor to our fallen service members in a very visible and permanent way,” said the City’s Veterans Commissioner Robert Santiago. “The Hero Square program is very meaningful to the family and friends of a fallen soldier as well as the community they lived in.”

To check our more Hero Squares in Jamaica Plain and for a complete list visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/veterans-services/hero-squares-veterans. 

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