Amazing American Mail
I began researching our family tree a few years ago,it is a slow process as I cannot give it a lot of time. I knew some of my late Dad's relatives had emigrated to the US way back. When our census went online for 1911 and 1901 I found the family with some names I had not heard of before.One was his uncle Michael and when I enquired back in the homeplace in Johnstown Co Kilkenny I discovered Michael had emigrated to New Jersey and had been conscripted into the US army during WW1.We searched online and eventually found his name on the American Battle Monuments Commission site listed as missing in action or Buried at sea. Michael's name is inscribed on the Wall of the Missing in Meuse Argonne cemetery in France . I contacted the American Vets Assoc for information only to be told his files were probably destroyed in a fire back in the '20s.
There were no further developments until last Nov when my eldest son Kevin phoned me to about a programme on our TV channel called Nationwide.It was to commemorate Armistice day on 11/11/1918 about Irish men who had fought in the various wars.there was a segment on Major Ron Howco, who was in the American forces and is now resident in Ireland,he has begun to recover and repatriate with honour the remains of Irish men who fought under the American flag. I emailed Ron with the few details we had and he put me in touch with Mr Pat Gorman in the US who does genealogy research.
We exchanged emails and Pat came up trumps in a short space of time.While records had been destroyed anyone who has died in military service in the US has also some files in the national Archives and Pat sourced and forwarded copies of these to me. They are not comprehensive but relate to contact with his Mother after his death and a short file with his physical details eg height etc!Pat also sent me a large coloured photo of the American cemetery in France and with a close up photo of Michael's name inscribed on the wall.
Pat then pulled out all the stops and there was a beautiful bronze grave marker sent to my cousin in Johnstown.We don't have a grave for Michael but it will be attached to his parents grave so in a way he is coming home to them.The last week I had my amazing mail! A full size American flag which would normally cover a casket and 4 x Presidential Certs. with the President's signature (enlarge photo to read detail) We are having a memorial ceremony in Oct at his parents grave, Ron Howco will attend with American Legion members who will act as Honor Guard and a bugler will play Taps in a moving ceremony which should last about an hour.The flag will be flown and ceremoniously folded to present to a family member and the certs will also be presented.
My daughter Kathryn kept searching online for some reference to Michael and his regiment as they fought in the last desperate days of the war when the fields of France were turned into bloody mud as the war raged.Kathryn found a website for New Jersey and put in Michael's name under WW1 war dead and imagine our shock and surprise when this photo and a short descriptive card was displayed in seconds!We now know he was involved in the Battle in Sedan where he probably died.His name is also inscribed on a War memorial in Bayonne NJ. (click on photo to enlarge)
The last days of the war were chaotic and we have 3 different dates for his death, his Mother thought he died the day before Armistice day but looking back that was probably how long it took for news to travel back to Ireland. The story was told that he was driving an officer and they were both standing beside the vehicle when a bomb killed them.Michael served with 165th Infantry 42 nd division,Company K. They were known as the rainbow division.
Pat Gorman does a fantastic work, it is not a job but a lifetimes work,he will present all of his files on tracing missing military members to the WW1 museum in Kansas city, a coincidence came to light during our online contact, Pat's own family originally came fromGlenmore in Co Kilkenny and his son attended university here in Cork as an exchange student!
I have not met Ron Howco as yet but another coincidence occurred today. I went to Kinsale for a short trip and saw a Pop up Militiary museum!We checked it out and spoke to James Sikora who was curator.I told him some of our story and he told me Ron Howco had been in Kinsale at the museum on sat! The Irish Veterans is being set up to honour people who have served in any army all over the world.We have had the unbelievable and disgraceful official stance here until quite recently that Irish men who served overseas particularly in the British army were more or less ignored and forgotten
The Irish vets are in the process of setting up a permanent museum in Kinsale to cover all of the armed conflicts that the Irish were involved in,and need funds etc so I joined up for a years membership for e25.
Another coincidence.... my son Kevin who started the ball rolling with the TV programme is currently serving with the UN, he wants to attend the ceremony. Kevin will have leave for a couple of weeks in Oct/Nov and at the request of Ron Howco it has to be held on a Sat to allow the members of the American Legion to travel and the only day that ticks all of the boxes? Sat 27th Oct , the exact anniversary of Michael's death according to official records!
I get the feeling Michael is making sure he is coming home at last.