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  The Missing Man

This is a story I would work on, consider the facts, explore new avenues, grow frustrated and then stuff it all back into a folder. It would sink into the chaos of my desk, get shoved to the floor, buried and churning with other fellow lost travelers, names without stories and faces without facts. Sooner or later, it would surface, catch my attention and get a second, then third look.

Spring cleaning comes and this time - what few facts there are get hammered into a narrative. I am sure of a few things, archives are usually accurate and there are reliable data points, maybe the most significant milestones of a life but the story also advances with educated guesses, conjecture and pure speculation.

Allan A Lagoy was a traveling child, a lucky man, a missing man and then a lost man. Through bad luck or poor judgment, he was well known at Regimental Headquarters and at Heidelberg for about one week. It was the type of publicity you might want to avoid.

This is as far as I can take you in the search for one 14th Cavalry trooper on the trails near Fladungen, in the newspaper and city archives and in the distant recollections of other troopers. He’s lost on the border, in the snow, the cold and darkness and may well have been captured. We are running out of sunlight, the trails are slick and we have a long way to go. Get in the jeeps and let’s go!

Soldier Drives Jeep into Russian Zone

7 Nov 1952 // Bad Neustad // AP

An American sergeant drove a radio equipped jeep across the zonal border into Soviet occupied East Germany last night the United States Army reported today.

Army authorities reported that master Sergeant Allan A Lagoy of Guadalupe, California presumably is in Soviet hands. The Seventh Army began an investigation to determine whether the border crossing was accidental or intentional.

Lagoy, a member of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment was on a routine border patrol in the hills of the Franken forest when he crossed over the frontier at Fladungen into soviet occupied Thuringia province, the spokesman said.

German border police said the sergeant, driving alone headed straight into the Soviet zone. An American spokesman said Lagoy should have been familiar with the area.

Reds May Have U S Sergeant

8 Nov 1952 // Heidelberg // AP

US Army Headquarters said tonight that an American sergeant, absent from his unit since Wednesday, may be in a prisoner in the Soviet zone.

The Army announcement said that the sergeant, a member of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment, was riding in a jeep on an authorized mission near the Hessian town of Fladungen when he disappeared.

West German border police said the sergeant, unofficially identified as M Sgt Allan A Lagoy ( hometown unavailable ) was seen driving across the border by two farmers and a forest worker. The German witnesses said that two Communist People’s Police stopped and climbed into the jeep after it had gone 300 meters into the Soviet zone territory. The three were then seen heading for the East German town of Melpers, about one mile from the border.

Lagoy is said to be a Korean veteran now serving his second tour in Germany.

Army authorities said the border in the Fladungen area is of a “ twisting nature and it would have been relatively easy to take a wrong lane and end up out of the American sector. “

Soviet Held U S Soldier was ‘Threatened‘ by Captors

15 Nov 1952 // Fulda // AP

An American sergeant held by Soviet zone authorities said yesterday, “they threatened me with disciplinary action if I refused to divulge United States military information.“

M/ Sgt Allan A Lagoy, 29, a Korean War veteran was seized November 5 when he accidentally drove across the border while on a classified mission in an armed and radio equipped jeep.

“I got mixed up and got lost,” he told the news conference.

The sergeant said he was exhaustively interrogated for a week until he was unexpectedly released to the U S Army two days ago at the East West border town of Rasdorf, twenty miles east of Fulda.

“I didn’t tell them anything, “ the sergeant said, “ except my name, rank and serial number.“

Treated Well, Sergeant Says

16 Nov 1952 // Fulda // UP

An American Master Sergeant who was held for a week by the Communists after he strayed into the Soviet zone said today, “ I was treated better than I expected. “

Master Sergeant Allan A Lagoy of Guadalupe California said he was questioned by German and Russian speaking men in uniform and was asked questions about the American military.

He said his interrogators made a few threats but they were not too serious. They threatened disciplinary action but did not say what that consisted of.

“Lagoy, an Army veteran with 11 years of service including a year in Korea was driving a jeep on Nov 5 on official business when he became lost and blundered across the border,“ intelligence officers said. They refused to discuss the nature of the mission.

East German authorities took him to a police station where he was questioned and held for a few hours. He was then taken to another location and locked in a small guarded room.

Last Wednesday, he was taken to the border and returned to American authorities.

Allan A Lagoy is Missing at the Border

In 1952, it would have been very easy to drive across the border in that Fladungen - Melpers region. The trace between the Germans states of Bavaria and Thuringia, which was the line of demarcation between West and East Germany followed a very tortured path and East German barbed wire certainly was not yet strung along every meter. For someone unfamiliar with the region, it is plausible that a huge error could be made. But then so many other question spring to mind and so few answers were forthcoming.

What was he doing in the border area? To which unit was he assigned? Was he part of a patrol or absolutely alone in the area and if so - why?

There are no good answers. I contacted the few retired troopers from the Regiment who were assigned to the unit during this period and no one recalled either Lagoy or the border crossing. It has been a lot of years so the best we can do is fill in a few gaps and offer some plausible scenarios.

The newspapers reported that Lagoy was taken to Melpers by his captors and assuming he crossed the border in that vicinity, this places him in what would have been the northwestern part of the 2 - 14 ACR border area. This assumes that the 14th Cavalry divided the border into the same sectors as the 11th Cavalry. In the late 1960s this appears to have been the case but in 1952, your guess is as good as mine.

And in 1952, the border mission had only just been assumed by troopers of the 14th. The soldiers who really knew the border were the men of the 24th Constabulary Squadron and at Bad Kissingen, it was Troop C. The exact date that the 24th handed the mission off to the 14th is unknown but it probably was in the late Fall of that year. Simply stated, the troopers of the 14th ACR were not that experienced in the border mission.

To which battalion was Lagoy assigned? If we allow that the Fladungen region was part of the 2 - 14 border responsibility, then unless Lagoy was really lost, he would have been in the 2nd Battalion at Kissingen. Lagoy is not found in the 1952 yearbook rosters for the Regiment but the narrative portion of the book stops reporting significant events in mid Summer of that year. He simply could have joined the unit sometime in the second half of 1952. If he was in the 2nd battalion, his specific unit and position is unknown.

Interestingly, Allan Lagoy does appear in the 1954 14th Cavalry yearbook, reduced in grade to sergeant and assigned to Recon Company G, 3rd Battalion at Hersfeld. One retired officer who was with the 14th in the mid 1950s recalled that someone who had received such significant punishment might have very easily been transferred within the Regiment to accommodate a fresh start.

What was Lagoy’s job when he crossed the border? Looking at the unit roosters from yearbooks in 1952 and 1954, it was not uncommon for line recon companies to have two or even three master sergeants assigned. One would be the unit First Sergeant, a second senior grade slot was often listed as Training NCO or Liaison NCO. Lagoy could have been in any of these slots and what was he doing on that particular day in November, on the border, without a driver and without an accompanying jeep escort is now and will remain a complete mystery.

Allan A Lagoy is Found in the Records

Allan Legoy was born on 18 May 1923 in Northampton Massachusetts. His father, Louis Napoleon Lagoy, was a house painter his mother, only seventeen at the time, gave no occupation. Together, they had four children over the next ten years; Allan had two brothers and a sister. The family listed various residential addresses in Vermont, mid state New York and New York City.

At some point in the mid 1930s, the family left the northeast and moved cross country to Guadalupe, California, a tiny seacoast town northwest of Los Angles. There are no records of Allan Lagoy graduating from any of the nearby high schools. As years passed, he occasionally would list the town of Santa Maria, just a few miles away, as his permanent home of record. He is next found upon enlistment in the Army in October 1945.

This is curious for a few reasons. He is twenty - two at the time and somehow, he was not drafted or had earlier joined millions of other Americans in the enlisted ranks. In fact, when Lagoy signed on - the war was already over although years later, he was classified as a WWII veteran.

There is a plausible explanation for this late enlistment. If he was working in a war effort related industry, he could have been exempt from the draft and once the war ended, this exemption would have been lifted. At any rate, he’s in the Army as of 1945.

Amazingly, a photo of Lagoy appears in an issue of the 1950 Pacific Region Stars and Stripes. The rendering from microfilm is not particularly clear but the caption certainly is legible; Master Sergeant Lagoy is found draping his blade tank with camouflage netting. In the Korean War era, an effective soldier could rise through the ranks quite quickly and apparently Lagoy must have been good at his job.

Crossing Over

Once the barbed wire and barriers began to go up along the border in Germany, there were numerous incidents of US personnel accidentally blundering into East Germany and their subsequent return. Such events were certainly considered serious but were usually worked out within a few days. The incident at Fladungen followed the basic pattern but was notable for both the rank of the individual and the loss of his jeep and radio.

There was a flurry of newspaper articles in early November 1952 reporting the crossing and return of Lagoy and a photo of his post release press conference shows him quite clearly. It appears as though he is wearing green tabs on his epaulets, could he have been an acting platoon leader or platoon sergeant at the time of the incident?

The next found photo of Lagoy is a postage stamp portrait in the 1954 14th Cavalry Regiment yearbook. He is listed as a sergeant in Troop G and then he drops from sight.

California - the Final Crossing

Lagoy is missing for the next fifteen years. Whether he continued in the Army or separated at some point is unknown. The next hard data point is his death in Los Angeles County in 1966 at the age of 43. The death certificate reported that he suffered with heart disease and there may have been a genetic component at work, one of his brothers also died in his early 40s and none of his siblings lived beyond 70 years. The certificate listed his final occupation as a newspaper vendor in central Los Angeles.

His father claimed the body and he was buried at a veteran’s cemetery in San Francisco.

A few years back, a distant relative posted the Lagoy family tree and a few images of Allan on a genealogy web site and the lost man was again found.

April 2016 

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