Joyce Kilmer and the Fighting 69th

Monday, May 26, AD 2014

I THINK that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

That poem written by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, better known as Joyce Kilmer, in 1914 is, unfortunately, all most Americans remember today about Kilmer which is regrettable, because he was a devout Catholic and an American patriot and he deserves better than relative historical oblivion.

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15 Responses to Joyce Kilmer and the Fighting 69th

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  • I cannot thank you enough for this about Joyce Kilmer, Donald McClarey. All i ever knew was TREES and that Kilmer died in WWI.
    Joyce Kilmer realized that God loved him and his family more than he, as a man, could know to love. Kilmer trusted God.

  • I wish here to make a comment, but will wait and see if I be accepted

  • ok I guess this went thru. fr. duffy was my mother’s pastor in NYC and her brother james was very close to him. fr. duffy gave him his gold watch so he could enter the seminary. fr. duffy and my mom’s dad both died in 1932 then james entered the army and died on the leopoldville ship, Christmas even 1944. this ship with the loss of 800 was kept a secret for near fifty years. the men were from every state in America with the exception of two states, but the biggest figure came from NYC

  • Pat, which parish in Manhattan?

  • The link at the end describes what I think that this poet universally expressed for many souls.

    “The Robe of Christ”

    At the foot of the Cross on Calvary Three soldiers sat and diced, And one of them was the Devil And he won the Robe of Christ.
    When the Devil comes in his proper form To the chamber where I dwell, I know him and make the Sign of the Cross Which drives him back to Hell.
    And when he comes like a friendly man And puts his hand in mine, The fervour in his voice is not From love or joy or wine.

  • Pat: “The link at the end describes what I think that this poet universally expressed for many souls.
    “The Robe of Christ”
    At the foot of the Cross on Calvary Three soldiers sat and diced, And one of them was the Devil And he won the Robe of Christ.
    When the Devil comes in his proper form To the chamber where I dwell, I know him and make the Sign of the Cross Which drives him back to Hell.
    And when he comes like a friendly man And puts his hand in mine, The fervour in his voice is not From love or joy or wine.”
    Joyce Kilmer taught us how to exorcise the devil.

  • Don:
    Beautiful and timely remembrance of Kilmer who may be best known for “Trees” and for his name being appended to a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop near where he lived. He deserves to be known for much more. Thanks for this. I am trying to pass it on to many more viewers.

  • Thank you Pete! I first became aware of his war record watching as a kid reruns on TV of the 1940 Pat O’Brien-James Cagney classic The Fighting 69th:

  • Thank you, Donald. Being a bit long in tooth, I know of Joyce Kilmer but now more, including, “I may not lift a hand to clear My eyes of salty drops that sear. (Then shall my fickle soul forget Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?), the part somehow missed when memorizing the rest of “Prayer of a Soldier in France”. The bride of my youth and Mr. Kilmer share a first name, providing a joyful reminder of this saintly soldier.

  • Every time I hear or read Trees by Joyce Kilmer I think: Oh, oh, mixed metaphors. A tree cannot have a mouth, hair, and bosom and at the same time “leafy” arms. But I am being picayune…and I am glad the poem has survived this shortcoming.

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  • Kmbold: “Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.”

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  • I reckon so.

Veteran’s Day: Why We Remember

Sunday, November 11, AD 2012

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

World War I was a ghastly conflict with tens of millions of men slaughtered in all the horrors that war in the industrial age was capable of mustering.  After the War which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Veterans Day was set aside on November 11 to honor those men who had fought with courage for their country.  In our country Veteran’s Day eventually came to honor all those who had served in the military.  As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “It is all together fitting and proper that we do this.”  Why it is important that we do that I will leave to Father Francis P. Duffy who served as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th in France in World War I.  You may read prior posts about him here and here.  Father Duffy was a man of faith and courage, so much courage that it was proposed that he be nominated for the Medal of Honor until he laughed at the idea.  His leadership skills were so valued that General Douglas MacArthur even briefly considered placing him, a chaplain, in command of the 69th, which would have been a first in American military history.  When the 69th got back to New York after the War Father Duffy wrote about its reception and why it was important to honor the men who had served, and, especially, the silent victors who remained in graves in France:

It was a deserved tribute to a body of citizen soldiers who had played such a manful part in battle for the service of the Republic. The appreciation that the country pays its war heroes is for the best interest of the State. I am not a militarist, nor keen for military glory. But as long as liberties must be defended, and oppression or aggression put down, there must always be honor paid to that spirit in men which makes them willing to die for a righteous cause. Next after reason and justice, it is the highest quality in citizens of a state.

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13 Responses to Veteran’s Day: Why We Remember

  • Your account of how General MacArthur wished to give Fr Duffy command of the 69th reminds me of another remarkable Allied chaplain.

    In 1939, Père Louis de la Trinité was Prior Provincial of the Paris Province of the Discalced Carmelites. He had served with distinction as a naval lieutenant during WWI and, as a member of the Reserve, he was recalled to the navy; members of religious congregations were not exempt from military service. After the Fall of France, he escaped to England and volunteered as a chaplain in the Free French Navy on 30 June 1940.

    Alas, such was the shortage of experienced officers that De Gaulle successfully applied to his superiors for him to take up the appointment of Chief of Staff of the Free French Naval Forces. He commanded the naval forces at the landings in Gabon and the combined operations at Dakar. Having undertaking several naval commands and diplomatic missions during the war, after the Liberation, he was sent to Indo-China as High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief.

    In 1947, Admiral Georges Thierry d’Argenlieu, Inspector-General of Maritime Forces, retired and finally returned to his convent at Avon-Fontainebleau.

    On a personal note, in 1955 he clothed me with the scapular of the Third Order of Mount Carmel.

  • I think it is more than fitting that the Gospel reading for the Mass today is from 12:38-44 about the poor widow who gave everything she had and that today is also Veteran’s Day. A fitting coincidence.

  • As I was holding my squirming 11 month old son, it was hard to concentrate on the Gospel. I took my family (despite my wife’s reluctance) to the Pittsburgh TLM this morning. I am tired of wishy washy Masses. I do not want to hear a Marty Haugen hymn ever again.

    One other significant thing to note – today, November 11, is Independence Day in Poland. As World War I concluded with the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary, independence was reestablished in Poland after 123 years. Poland fought several battles against Germany to reclaim the portion of Poland that Germany continued to occupy (Greater Poland) after WWI until about March 1919.

  • I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    I read (I guess it’s true) there is no living WWI veteran: faded away.

  • “I read (I guess it’s true) there is no living WWI veteran: faded away.”

    Sadly correct. The last Doughboy, Frank Woodruff Buckles died last year at 110:

  • Another Catholic fact about 11 November. It seems it’s Martinmas, the Feast of St. Martin, which is commemorated by traditions in various European countries.

    Famously, St. Martin, as a Roman soldier, cut his soldier’s cloak in two to save a beggar from freezing. Again, appropriate to the “Widow’s Mite.”

    The WWI Armistice echoed Eurpoean Martinmas traditions.

    From Wikipedia (for what that’s worth): “In many countries, including Germany, Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month. Bonfires are built, and children carry lanterns in the streets after dark, singing songs for which they are rewarded with candy.”

  • “I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it. After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans. Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954.

  • “Sadly correct. The last Doughboy, Frank Woodruff Buckles died last year at 110:”

    He will be voting next year in several blue states.

  • I believe 11 November is also Gen. Patton’s birthday.

  • “He will be voting next year in several blue states.”

    Here in Blue Illinois where the graveyards always vote Democrat, I imagine he is already registered to vote in ten Chicago precincts! 🙂

  • “I believe 11 November is also Gen. Patton’s birthday.”

  • Well, well, well. a Thomas C. Joyce from Buffalo, who I assume is the Thomas C. Joyce who teaches English Lit at Canisius, the Jesuit college located there, dropped by to unleash what I assume he thought was a clever stink bomb:

    “It is good to remember that war is good. There are many many wars in the Old Testament. When Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek, he meant as an individual in limited circumstances.

    God favored many wars up until the Gospels, and Revelation is the most honored book of all and it foretells furious war.

    We need namby pamby tree huggers to stop giving sermons and get back to the kind of slap in the face esthetics that General Patton preached.

    The left favors peace as part of their misunderstanding of Jesus Ministry. Jesus came to sow dissension, not to create a generation of sissies.

    Thanks for the old fashioned salute to War! Whether these are the “End Times” or not, a war on those who defile the Temple would be a very good fight to start.”

    Ah professor, I truly hope that you are not brain dead enough to be unable to distinguish celebrating war from honoring those men who risked their lives in service of our country. I know that you are an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. How do you balance your Peace Now! sentiments with his foreign policy? Do feel free to drop by whenever you are not too busy with your teaching duties and spreading the True Faith of liberalism among your hapless charges.

Father Francis P. Duffy: War and Humor

Wednesday, October 19, AD 2011

“If you want an example of how you ought to worship God, go over to the 69th.  You’ll see hundreds of sturdy men kneeling on the ground hearing mass.”

Father Francis P. Duffy in a letter to Cardinal Farley

A recent National Guard video on Father Francis P. Duffy.  I have written about Father Duffy here.  His courage as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th made him a legend in his own time.  However, courage was only one of his virtues.  Just as appreciated by the young soldiers he helped shepherd through the hell of trench warfare in World War I France was his sense of humor.  Here are a few samples:

Amongst the sturdiest and brightest of our recruits were two young men who had recently been Jesuit Novices. I amused one Jesuit friend and, I am afraid, shocked another by saying that they were exercising a traditional religious privilege of seeking a higher state of perfection by quitting the Jesuits and joining the 69th.

The newcomers are not yet accustomed to the special church regulations relieving soldiers of the obligation of Friday abstinence. Last Friday the men came back from a hard morning’s drill to find on the table a generous meal of ham and cabbage. The old-timers from the Border pitched into this, to the scandal of many of the newer men who refused to eat it, thus leaving all the more for the graceless veterans. After dinner a number of them came to me to ask if it were true that it was all right. I said it was, because there was a dispensation for soldiers. “Dispensation,” said a Jewish boy, “what good is a dispensation for Friday to me. I can’t eat ham any day of the week. Say, Father, that waiter guy, with one turn of his wrist, bust two religions.”

I asked one of the men how he liked the idea of going to confession to a priest who cannot speak English. “Fine, Father,” he said with a grin,  “All he could do was give me a penance, but you’d have given me hell.”

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6 Responses to Father Francis P. Duffy: War and Humor

The Fighting 69th

Saturday, March 12, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.  The Fighting 69th sung by the WolfTones.

Formed in 1851, the regiment served during the Civil War as part of the Irish Brigade.  The 69th earned its “fighting” sobriquet, according to legend, when General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, told that the 69th had made a gallant assault against the Confederate lines, and recalling the regiment from the Seven Days battles, stated “Ah yes.  That fighting 69th.”  Made up mostly of Irishmen during the Civil War,  the regimental battle cry was Faugh an Beallach,  Clear the Way.    The regimental motto was the traditional, and accurate, observation about the Irish:  “Gentle when stroked;  fierce when provoked”.

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17 Responses to The Fighting 69th

  • Since a child, I have owned a book about Father Duffy, by Jim Bishop.

    It’s now (since WWI) the 165th NY/NG part of the 42nd (Rainbow) Div.

    In WWI, they covered themselves again with glory, were commanded by “Wild Bill” Donovan, and General Douglas MacArthur was the 42nd Div. (Rainbow) commanding general.

    They’ve been deployed to Iraq several times and saw action with (sadly) quite a number of KIA’s. There are NY/NG troops patrolling Penn Sta., etc. even today, in body armor and armed, while the rest of us (sheep) toddle through on our way to make a living. Not enough Americans have an appreciation of the costs of this war.

    Point of information: The 69th NYS Militia existed in NYC long before the CW. In fact, they once “came out” to protect St. Patrick’s Cathedral from No-Nothing arsonists.

    My ancestor, from Ireland after the Famine, was KIA with the 69th at First Bull Run. The Irish Brigade was formed shortly after that.

    Glory O, Glory O to the Brave Fenian Men!

    See the clip of the song in Rio Grande. John Ford slipped that one into a cavalry movie . . .

    I will be on the wrong coast the Patty’s Day [sigh]. Good for my liver. Still, me and Jameson will have an abbreviated, bitter/sweet “talk.”

  • This is the Irish Guards on St. Patrick’s Day.

    I stopped hating Brits on September 12, 2001.

  • The 69th Infantry Regiment was first organized in 1849 from new and existing units, some of which go back to the Revolution.

    In 1963 the 165th Infantry was redesignated the 69th Infantry in the Army numbering system. One of the very few National Guard units that have kept their state number in the Army’s sequence.

  • Thank you Hank. I have amended my post to reflect 1851 as the date of the formation of the regiment when it entered service in the New York State Militia as the 69th regiment.

  • The clip ends with FTPSNI.
    I can only think that this refers to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If it does, you should reconsider using the clip.

  • I didn’t know the Irish brigade was apart of the Rainbow Division in the Great War. My great-grandfather was in the Rainbow Division during the war; don’t know what specific regiment, though. He was from Ireland and then lived in the Bronx when he got to the states, so perhaps he was in the Irish Brigade.

  • The 69th was part of the Rainbow Division Francis in World War I, but not the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade was a Civil War formation that the 69th was part of during the Civil War only.

  • Ah, got it. Thanks for clearing that up. Perhaps he was in the 69th is what I meant, then.

  • Rather than me continuing to complain about the sentiment “F*** The Police Service of Northern Ireland”, may I commend this item which shows the Irish Guards leaving for Iraq?

    The earlier clip was from the Queen’s birthday parade, rather than the St Patricks parade, by the way.

    Oh….and more amusingly, in the British Army the old 69th Regiment was called The Ups and Downers

  • For some reason Jim the abbreviation is missing from the video when I run it. Alas, quite a bit of Irish related videos on youtube make reference in some manner to “The Troubles” whether the video has anything to do with that conflict or not.

    Your clip is a fine one. You might find this story amusing. After the Boer War Winston Churchill went on a speaking tour of the US. He was giving a speech and was being vociferously heckled by a group of Irish-Americans. Their boos changed to cheers when he related how the day was saved at an engagement he participated in by a furious charge of the Dublin Irish Fusiliers!

  • Yes. HRHQEII’s birthday. The tune is “The St. Patrick’s Day March.”

    The regiment parades on St. Patrick’s Day. And, a member of the royal family (presumably one that isn’t falling down drunk or too rank of a moron) presents the regiment with a basket of shamrocks.

    And, if it weren’t for those Irishmen, and millions (my father and uncles at the latter one) Yanks in 1918 and 1942, the queen would be speaking German.

  • LOL. The first tune In the saxon clip is “Whiskey in the Jar.” Great armada: the band, two companies and no weapons.

    I’m working on locating a liquor store near the hotel. Hotel Bar prices will bankrupt a man with a thirst.

    Not looking forward to flying all day to get at a drink.

  • TS
    Every man in the Irish Regiments of the British Army receive a shamrock on St Patrick’s day. Did you know that the first celebration parades in America were organised by the British Army?

    Nowadays there are only two Irish Regiments, the Irish Guards and the RIR

    You may remember their colonel in Iraq….

    We go to liberate, not to conquer.
    We will not fly our flags in their country
    We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
    Show respect for them.

    There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
    Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
    As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
    Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
    But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

    Iraq is steeped in history.
    It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham.
    Tread lightly there.

    You will see things that no man could pay to see
    — and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
    You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
    Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
    Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
    If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.
    Allow them dignity in death.
    Bury them properly and mark their graves.

    It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive.
    But there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign.
    We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back.
    There will be no time for sorrow.
    The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction.
    There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam.
    He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done.
    As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
    It is a big step to take another human life.
    It is not to be done lightly.
    I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts.
    I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

    If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.
    The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
    If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer.
    You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest — for your deeds will follow you down through history.

    We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
    It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
    We know he has already devolved the decision to lower commanders, and that means he has already taken the decision himself.
    If we survive the first strike we will survive the attack.

    As for ourselves, let’s bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there.

    Our business now is north.

  • TS
    I think you’ll find that WWI started in 1914 and WWII in 1939, rather than 1918 and 1942. And that Irishmen were fighting from the start of both wars, rather than arriving later with your relatives.

    As for “the band, two companies and no weapons”. You may note four infantry companies in the batallion. And by convention in Britain, our soldiers do not carry weapons when marching through towns lest they begin a military coup.
    We have certain occasions when a regiment may march with weapons, as in here

    The A&SH has the freedom of the city so may march with bayonets fixed. Officers and NCOs march without weapons.
    The bagpipes count as weapons of war, following an odd ancient law. The Pipes and Drums are viewed as infantry and form the Heavy Weapons Company in these units, unlike bandsmen.

    Do American musicians fight as infanteers?
    Or is it all shiny shoes and turning up a few years late……

  • I don’t need to be schooled by a saxon.

  • T.Shaw and Jim, I do not think this combox is going to be able to resolve the English-Irish conflict that goes back to Strongbow. This post was meant to celebrate the Fighting 69th and we are going far afield here. Let’s stay on topic.

  • The 1940 movie is “Catholic.” We see Pvt. Plunkett eventually, through (Father Duffy’s) prayer and grace, attain redemption through contrition, repentence of his “weakness”, penance, amendment of life, and good works.

    I have a book, A Doughboy in the Fighting 69th (sic). The author an Irishman named Eichinger (mother’s Irish) tells the story of the (he called him “eight-ball”) Cagney character. The man, an Irishman transferred from a MA NG unit, was on guard duty outside a French Church. It being winter, the French priest gave him a sip of “whatever juice.” The man had a terrible thirst and forced more, and got drunk. When the priest tried to stop him the soldier fired at him. Luckily, he missed (even more luck: the man didn’t hit him. He was a Boston club fighter). A court-matrial sentenced him to death for drunk on guard and firing his weapon at a civilian. Father Duffy and the French priest begged mercy and the sentence was commuted to constant duty in the lines. The man and his partner were wounded on the first day of the big 1918 offensive and both refused evacuation for two or three days into the attack. Both died of gangrene.

    A man like Plunkett would have been off the line way before the movie depiction. Probably shot (then not now), either by firing squad or by an officer or NCO for refusing orders in combat. Only Hollywood would come up with . . .

    lol. TCM is airing Joan of Arc, 1948, Ingrid Bergman. The English are about to have her burned at the stake.