The Irish in America

A Time to Remember Irish American War Heroes

7 Comments

MemorialDayNext Monday, May 27th, is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day occurs on the last Monday in May each year, and while the long weekend has come to signal the kick-off to summer, traditionally it is a day set aside to remember those members of the Armed Forces whom have died in service to the United States.

For many Americans, the meaning of Memorial Day has broadened to include remembrance of all deceased loved ones – those who served in the military and not. In my book, Memorial Day is a perfect holiday – we get together with family and friends to celebrated the beginning of summer, while keeping in mind those who have gone before us.

When Irish people contact us for help learning more about their relatives who came to America, so often they mention the relatives military service. They say with a sense of pride that their grand-uncle served in World War II after emigration. One woman from Galway shared with me how her family would say an extra rosary at night for “the boys in the war” – American cousins she had never met – during the Korean War in the 1950s.

The Waterford County Museum in Dungarvan makes a special effort to remember the contributions of Irish emigrants to their adopted homelands, and they pay tribute to Ballinroad, County Waterford native John Mansfield. John Mansfield (1906-1965) emigrated to America in 1927 and served in World War II. An exhibit case at the museum contains Mansfield’s medals and honors, photographs, and a biography outlining his service. Read about John Mansfield on the museum’s blog here.

An account of Mansfield’s 4th Armored Division on CombatReels.com indicates that the division trained in England for six months before landing on Utah Beach in Normandy on July 11, 1944. I wonder what it felt like for John to be so close to home?

Since John Mansfield’s medals made their way to County Waterford, it’s probably safe to say he had no children or “next of kin” in the United States. There may be no one left today to remember his service and sacrifice, so I plan to keep him in my thoughts this weekend.

Click here to view a photo of John and Bridget (Power) Mansfield, John’s parents. Waterford County Museum Image Archive has a fully searchable database of all the fabulous photographs in the collection. Plus, if you see something you like, you can buy it for your own collection!

 

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Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

7 thoughts on “A Time to Remember Irish American War Heroes

  1. Is Memorial Day limited to post WW2. Tens of thousands of Irish fought, died, and were maimed on both sides of the American Civil War for example – are they not included ?

    • Indeed. In fact, Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day and began in 1868 (I believe) to honor those who died on both sides of the American Civil War. My great-great-grandfather from County Fermanagh was one of many Irishmen who fought in the Civil War. In the 190s, Memorial Day was formally established to honor those who perished in all the wars. Today, I think it is common to honor all those who served and even all loved ones who have passed away. There are a lot of flags flying this weekend, and cemeteries are extremely busy places. In addition to these remembrances, it is the unofficial kick-off to summer and people get together with family and friends, have cook-outs and parties. 🙂

      • It’s a lovely tradition – we have 11/11 on this side of the Atlantic to commemorate war dead. Glad that all are included and thank you for the history insight! Enjoy your family gathering ! 🙂

  2. Hi Áine, Was lucky enough to visit Omaha Beach in 1998 and Utah in 1999 just four days before I saw ‘Saving Private Ryan’ in the cinema. Today, I showed a party of 40 US visitors, The College of the Ozarks Concert Band from Missouri around West Waterford and some of the Monastic sites here dating back to 5th Century, Yesterday, the Mayor received them at ‘City Hall’ and they enjoyed their visit to the town and area very much.

    • I am sure your US visitors enjoyed their visit! Waterford is one of my favorite counties. They were lucky to have a local guide – there is nothing like being shown the sites by a local! I hope to visit Normandy some day. Enjoy the weekend, and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Definitely inspiring. And he landed at Normandy! I think that Waterford may be where our original emigrant came from. I have to get back to researching him. He is in Maryland in 1755 and 1744, but nothing before that. A few years ago, I was trying to track down his will (by correspondence) in the National Library of Ireland. Must pick up that thread again. Thanks for this post!

    • From which part of Waterford does your ancestor come? The Waterford County Museum is definitely a gem. They do incredible work – thoughtful, original exhibits and a dedicated staff of volunteers. 🙂

      *Aine McCormack*

      *aine@archival-solutions.com*

      *Twitter: @irish_america*

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      *www.TheIrish In America.com *

      ThelrishlnAmerica @ gmail.com @FamilyToursIRL on Twitter + 1-651-222-4402

      304 Dacotah Building 370 Selby Avenue Saint Paul MN 55102 USA

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