Irish US army dead honoured at Knocknagoshel ceremony


MORE THAN 100 people gathered at the hilltop village of Knocknagoshel on the Kerry-Limerick border at the weekend, to honour 10 of its citizens who served as US soldiers in wars spanning the first World War to Vietnam and who are buried in the small village cemetery.

The ceremony, which included a Mass followed by trooping of the colours at the tiny graveyard at Knockane, was attended by the US defence attache to Ireland, Lieut Col Shawn Purvis, the American Legion veterans’ organisation, as well the Irish Organisation Of National Ex-Servicemen/women.

This was the first such commemorative occasion in Ireland, and with the flying of American and Irish flags, Knocknagoshel had “taken its place among the nations of the earth”, said Liam Lynch, local man and veteran of the Irish army.

Mr Lynch was referring to the famous banner produced at Knocknagoshel in support of Charles Stewart Parnell and freedom of speech in the 1890s that read, “Arise Knocknagoshel and take your place among the nations of the earth.” The slogan became widely known.

Mr Lynch said the village ( population 700) had strong links with the US and there was much coming and going between the two countries. The men who served had returned home in many cases to marry and settle down.

However, it was still extraordinary that the tiny graveyard should hold so many men who had fought in US wars, including the two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.

Four Irish volunteers shot during the War of Independence here were also buried in the cemetery.

Relatives of the deceased who turned out in numbers were called upon to lay US flags on the gravestones. The last post was sounded and an Irish lament played.

Fr Eoin Mangan, parish priest of Knocknagoshel, told a crowded St Mary’s church the men being honoured had served with great pride and honour. Retired major in the US army Rico Stein said it was important to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the people of Knocknagoshel.

“It’s like a mini-Arlington cemetery here. The people buried here have never really been recognised,” Maj Stein said.

Some 400 people were treated to a meal after the ceremony in the village hall by the Knocknagoshel ladies’ committee. The 10 people honoured on Saturday were: Denis Browne, US army, Korea, died 1980; Michael Browne, US army, Korea, died 1978; John Moynihan, US army, second World War, died 1993; Thomas Murphy, died 1967; Jeremiah T O’Connor, US army, died 1969; Jack (John) O’Connor, US navy, died 1978; Michael D O’Connor, US army, first World War, died 1979; Philip P O’Connor, US army, first World War, died 1979; Tim (Thady) John O’Connor, US army, first World War, died 1976; and Thomas J. O’Rourke, US airforce, Vietnam, died 1985.