The Irish in America


A Time to Remember Irish American War Heroes

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 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!