Request a Catalog
Contributions of the Irish
Contributions of the Irish
provided by 1stLt Gerald Merna
While this recent St. Patrick's Day email message forwarded from my Brother Jim (who got it from his friend who received the original) is a 'tad' long, it is not only priceless but also chock-full of colorful Marine Corps History that many of us, including me, were not aware of. I'd bet your Marine readers and their families would love to know, recall or learn of these historical gems of Irish Marine lore, humorously related as only a real Irishman could. (For privacy reasons, I have omitted the name of personal friends of the writer. The writer is a senior retired Marine Corps Officer).
Gerald F. Merna 1stLt USMC (Ret.)
All, May you have a grand time celebratin' the High Holy Day. Be sending this out a wee bit early as I will be TAD [Traveling Around Drunk] at the fringes of the Empire. Be hoisting more than a jar or two in your direction on Monday
1 Greetings and Salutations to all, This year will be another grand chapter in the history of celebrating as I will be in Tartu, Estonia in the Wilde Irish Pub for Paddy's Day. I will be teaching at (a College)–what a deal for this old Mick. And as the High Holy Day [17 March for you Heathens] is rapidly approaching, I want to be taking a minute of your time to share few thoughts with you. Like many Irishmen at this time of the year I'm keenly awaiting celebrating St Paddy's Daynot that an Irishman ever needs an excuse to celebrate anything. Two Irishmen together is a party, add a third and you've got a family reunion.
You know, I often wonder why amidst all the other ethnic celebrations- Black History Month, Hispanic-American Heritage week, Woman's History Month, Left-handed Powerpoint Slide Creators Day and Asian-American Heritage Week to name but a few, that there is no formal recognition of the contributions of the Irish among us. At this time of year, I particularly remember what me sainted grandmother, (name) used to tell me about her brother (name), one of the Big Fella Himself's who was killed in 1922 when his convoy was ambushed by Republican elements during the Irish Civil War] Lieutenants. Me Uncle was murdered in Galway by the Black and Tans. When told that the Tans were on the way, he simply said, "Well, then, let them come. I'll leave me home for no man." Maybe that's where "Die First, Then Quit" (DFTQ) came from after all. What many Marines may not know was that the Irish had a lot to do with the history of our Corps.
In 1792 the Count de Provence (afterwards King Louis XVIII of France) presented the Irish Brigade, who were helping him fight the Brits, why am I not surprised, with a "farewell banner" bearing the device of an Irish Harp embroidered with shamrocks and fleurs-de-lis. The gift was accompanied by the following address: "Gentlemen, we acknowledge the inappreciable services that France has received from the Irish Brigade in the course of the last 100 years; services that we shall never forget, though under an impossibility of requiting them. Receive this Standard, as a pledge of our remembrance, a monument to our admiration, and of our respect, and in future, Generous Irishmen, this shall be your motto:
16921792 ` Semper et ubique Fidelis. Early American folk history records that the only thing that Irishmen liked to do more than fight was drink. The only reason the Irish like to fight among themselves is that they have yet to find a worthy opponent. In Ireland in 1848 during the Young Irish Disorders the following men were captured, tried and convicted of treason against Her Majesty, the Queen, and were sentenced to death: John Mitchell, Morris Leyne, Pat Donoghue, Charles Duffy, Thomas Meagher, Richard O'Gorman, Terrence McManus, Thomas McGee and Michael Ireland. Before passing sentence, the presiding Judge asked if any of them had anything to say. Meagher, speaking for all said: "My Lord, this is our first offense but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to do better next time. And, next time, we won't be fools to get caught." Thereupon, the indignant judge sentenced them all to be hanged by the neck until dead and then be drawn and quartered. Passionate protest from all over the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation to far away, wild Australia, where they would remain for the rest of their natural lives. In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria, that the Sir Charles Duffy, who had just been elected Prime Minister Of Australia, was the same Charles Duffy, who had been banished there 25 years before. On the Queen's demand, the records of the rest of the transported men were revealed and this is what was uncovered: Thomas Francis Meagher, BGen, USA and Founder of the Irish Brigade, later the Governor of Montana Terrence McManus and Patrick Donahue, Brigadier General's, US Army Richard O'Gorman, Governor General of Newfoundland Morris Leyne, Michael Ireland , both served as Attorney General of Australia. Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Member of Parliament, Montreal, Minister of Agriculture and President of Council, Dominion of Canada. 3 John Mitchell, NY Politician, and father of Mayor of NYC at outbreak of WW I. Just goes to prove what a couple of displaced Lads are capable of when given a chance and they put their minds to it. Coupled with Irish courage, blind daring, love of excitement, and conflict of any kind, it's no wonder in Colonial America, that the Tun Tavern Marine Recruiter, one Robert Mullan, easily made quota.
Official British historical records indicate "that most of the early successes in America were immediately owing to the vigorous exertions and prowess of the Irish immigrants who bore arms in that cause"… "You have lost America through the Irish." "It is a fact beyond question". American history shows that the loyal Sons of Erin did well wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. In fact, on 24 April 1778, a detachment of salty, swaggering, audacious Leathernecks led by Lieutenant Wallingford on the Colonial Sloop Ranger, prevented a mutiny and rescued the Captain, one John Paul Jones, USN. You might say the Navy owes us one for saving their "Old Man". This same John Paul Jones' most climatic sea battle aboard the "Bon Homme Richard" was also greatly influenced by Marineschiefly Irishmen, led by Lt Edward Stock, an Officer in the Irish Regiment of the French Army, who was Commissioned as a Marine, and Lt James O'Kelly. In 1801, another Irishman, known for his military ardor, thirst for glory, womanizing and general quest for adventure, won fame in Derna, Tripoli. That name rolls off your tongue in its own broguePresley O'Bannon.
Of course, it should come as no shock that the only Commandant of whom we have no picture, the Fourth CMC–Anthony Gale, an Irish immigrant, was cashiered. The first charge was that he was publicly intoxicated in the city of Washington on six specified dates—during the month of August. [Why am I not surprised that any Boyo ever gets tanked in DC. After all, Matt Kanes, the Dubliner, Murphy's, Pat Troy's and the Irish Times are not monasteries, and TAD really stands for: Traveling Around Drunk. There were also several specifications under the charge of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer," first, that he had visited a house of prostitution near the Marine Barracks, "in an open and disgraceful manner." Second, that on 1 September he had, before witnesses, called the Paymaster of the Marine Corps, "a damned rascal, a liar, and a coward." Sounds like an early WESTPAC liberty to me…And we still have problems dealing with the bean-counters at Disbursing!! An anthology of those awarded the Medal of Honor provides true testament to an Irishman's proclivity for placing himself in the middle of a donnybrook. More Irish-Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor  than any other nationality. Of the 258 immigrants who noted on their enlistment papers that they were born in Ireland, 134 also provided their county, town or land of birth. Cork leads the honor list with 19 medalists, followed by Dublin and Tipperary with 11 each. Limerick has 10; Kerry 8; Galway 7; Antrim and Tyrone tied with 6; Kilkenny and Sligo each have 5. And five of the nineteen who were awarded the MOH twice, were Irish-Americans: one Gunnery Sgt Dan Daley and Chicago's Corporal John Joseph Kelly. Men the likes of: Pvt Michael McNamara, Pvt James Dougherty, Pvt John Fitzgerald, Sgt Michael McNally, to name just a few. With monikers like that, where else could they be from? The first causalities in the Civil War were Irish:
(Pvt Daniel Hough and Pvt Edward Galway) and the first Marine to be awarded the MOH, Corporal John F. Mackie was Irish. The tradition continued in WWI, as the first bombing mission flown by Marines in WW I was led by one Capt Francis P. Mulcahy in a flight of roaring, snorting Dehavillands, supposedly borrowed ??? for the occasion from the French, to support a surrounded Allied Regiment. It was no surprise to me that the first Marine to be awarded the MOH in Viet Nam was one Robert O'Malley of I 3/3. O'Malley was a first generation American as his parents had emigrated from the Old Country. The Viet Nam Wall in Washington D.C. lists the names of 21 Irish born service members who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. And didja know that one of my, and many of my peers heroes, was the first American to engage the NVA in ground combat. None other than Himself: the CO of Charlie Recon… Capt Patrick G. Collins USMC. Ah, Paddy Collins was truly a Marine's Marine and a dangerous lad in a fight or on liberty. Colonel Patrick Collins spent the last years of his life still pouring his energies into improving our beloved Marine Corps. He was a great personality and a spellbinding story teller with unvarnished stories of the Corps he had known, stories from Vietnam, stories of Generals and Captains and Corporals, stories of the Irish in America, of the Irish in the Marine Corps, stories of New York and of his sabbatical in Ireland. Or in more recent times, the likes of Colonel Mad Jack Kelly and the Mangudai Warriors of 3/5; or Col Kevin Kennedy of 2/5, who in Somalia made his CP with the Boyos from Irish Concern. No GenOrder#1 at all!!! All one has to do is look at the Global Address List on NMCI, that is if the damn thing is working, to see that we Irish are still well represented on the Corps honored rolls.
I remember many Paddy's Day past: Khe Sanh '68, RVN where the Gun-bunnies fired a shitpot of green smoke rounds on some NVA positions to add a proper Irish flavor to the task at hand. A tour at HQMC, Guinness all around the office and Novenas at Matt Kanes. The not-so Emerald Isle of Okinawa, where we partied until the sun came up. The Irish Mafia Celebration at Sharkey's at Camp Pendleton that left quite a few of us for dead and missing!! Desert Storm and Somalia were as dry as Quackenbush Lake in July, but we nevertheless paused to recall our heritage, and with Canadians, Aussies, and Kiwis in the AOR we did quite well. And of course, there was the second "Strength thru Celibacy Tour" in Kuwait in '98…a terribly long Lent so to speak. We were a wee bit short then of jars of that elixir of Kings–Guinness. Although (name), (name) and a few of me pals managed to skirt GenOrd#1 with the Embassy Marines. As I've always said, remorse is the feeling you have when the bottle is empty. And let's not forget the Corps Big Fella Himself: Big Jim Conway, who gave the Insurgent's what for in Fallujah and now serves as our Commandant!! The Irish colors that he is holding have been with me in many a clime and place to include the top of Surabachi, several times in Iraq, Somalia, Okinawa, Kuwait to name a few.
You may ask the question, do the Irish ever get any work done? My answer is, if you add up all the wasted hours that most folks spend commuting, the total would show far more time wasted than that which the Irish spend by way of feast, fair and festival. God made the Irish gregarious, loquacious, and addicted to celebration. And He invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world and surely now it works!!! I wish we could be together to hoist a couple of jars together. Despite what may be PC, know that this Lad will be maintaining the right tradition. One only need to view any units alpha roster or look at the GAL read the names of all the Irish that are still servin' today. So keep those Irish eyes smiling, it's good for your soul, and keeps the rest of the world wondering just what ya may be up to? Semper Fi to you all, Up the Republic, and may the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load, may the mist of Irish magic shorten every road, and may you always remember all the favors you are owed. My toasts to you today: HERE'S TO FRIENDS WE'VE YET TO MEET, TO THOSE HERE THAT I GREET, TO PROPHET, BARD, AND SAGE, TO YOUR HEALTH, MAY IT BE ALL BRIGHT, I RAISE MY GLASS TO YOU TONIGHT and I leave you with these toasts and thoughts to liven up your days: IRISH PRAYER MAY THOSE THAT LOVE US, LOVE US AND THOSE THAT DON'T, MAY GOD TURN THEIR HEARTS. AND IF HE DOES NOT TURN THEIR HEARTS, MAY HE TURN THEIR ANKLES, SO THAT WE MAY KNOW THEM, BY THEIR LIMPIN' MAY YOU DIE IN BED AT 105, SHOT BY A JEALOUS SPOUSE LET'S DRINK TO YOUR COFFIN. MAY IT BE MADE FROM
100 YEAR OLD OAK, FROM A TREE THAT I'LL PLANT SOMETIME NEXT YEAR 7 HERE'S TO DAISIES, ROSES AND LILIES IN BLOOM, YOU IN MY ARMS AND I IN YOUR ROOM, A DOOR THAT IS LOCKED, A KEY THAT IS LOST, A BIRD, AND A BOTTLE, AND A BED BADLY TOSSED, AND A NIGHT THAT IS 50 YEARS LONG. HERE'S TO TURKEY WHEN YOUR HUNGRY, BEER WHEN YOU'RE DRY, A GREAT LOVER WHEN YOU NEED ONE, AND HEAVEN WHEN YOU DIE. LET'S DRINK TO ETERNITY. MAY WE SPEND IT IN GOOD COMPANY AS THIS NIGHT FINDS US. HERE'S TO CHEATING, STEALING, FIGHTING AND DRINKING. IF YOU CHEAT, MAY YOU CHEAT DEATH, IF YOU STEAL, MAY IT BE A WOMAN'S HEART, IF YOU FIGHT, MAY IT BE FOR A BROTHER MARINE, AND IF YOU DRINK, BY GOD, MAY IT BE WITH ME THE MOUSE ON THE BAR ROOM FLOOR SOME GUINNESS WAS SPILLED ON THE BAR ROOM FLOOR, WHEN THE PUB WAS CLOSED FOR THE NIGHT, OUT OF HIS HOLE CREPT A WEE BROWN MOUSE, AND STOOD THE PALE MOONLIGHT, HE SPOTTED THE PUDDLE OF FROTHY BREW, AND AT IT BEGAN TO LAP, THEN BACK ON HIS HAUNCHES THE WEE MOUSE SAT, AND PLAIN AS DAY, YOU COULD HEAR HIM ROAR, BRING ON THAT BLOODY CAT. If You Are Irish You may not be sure there is a God, but are damn sure of the Pope's infallibility, You are very good at weekends, but are allergic to Mondays, You have great respect for the truth and often use it in emergencies, You are irrational in important things and a tower of strength in the trivial, 8 You see things not as they are but as they never will be, You can argue either side of a question, often at the same time, You believe in everything you can't see, and nothing you can, You believe in Leprechauns and Banshees and consider anyone who doesn't to be a heathen, You will never play professional basketball, You swear very well, At least one of your cousins is a fireman, cop, bar owner, funeral home owner or holds political office, You think you sing very well, You are genetically incapable of keeping a secret, You have Irish Al zheimer's… your forget everything but the grudges! You have no idea how to make a long story short, You are very good at playing a lot of very bad golf, There isn't a huge difference between losing your temper and killing someone, You spent a good portion of your childhood kneeling, You're strangely poetic after a few beers, therefore, poetic a lot, You will be punched for no good reason…a lot, Some punches directed at you are legacies from past generations, Your sister will punch you because your brother punched her, Many of your sisters are Catherine, Elizabeth or Mary….and one is Mary Catherine Elizabeth, You don't know the words, but that doesn't stop you from singing, You can't wait for the other guy to stop talking so you can start talking, "Irish Stew" is the euphemism for "boiled leftovers from the fridge." There wasn't a huge difference between your last wake and your last keg party, You are, or know someone, named "Murph"If you don't know Murph, then you know Mac, if you don't know Murph or Mac, then you know Sully, and you'll probably also know Sully McMurphy, You take the pledge not to drink at age 12, and every two years thereafter, All of your losses are alcohol related (loss of virginity, loss of drivers license, loss of money, loss of job, loss of significant other, loss of teeth from punch…) but it never stops you from drinking !!! You won't eat meat on Friday but will have a beer for breakfast. You believe that God is Irish, or at the very least catholic. You consider anyone who disagrees with you to be hopelessly stubborn. You are banking very heavily that God has a sense of humor. And last but not least… Being Irish means…your attention span is so short that—oh, forget it! Slainte, May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty, Your friend and brother Marine, Irish (name)