Thursday, November 5, 2015

Our Doughboy

Fr. Lowell Sun
In honor of Veterans' Day guest blogger Rosemary K Nunnally writes this very moving piece about a personal connection  to this week's holiday. 

An old, faded, undated newspaper clipping of a soldier in his World War I uniform – we called him “our doughboy”.  My father knew the doughboy was his mother’s cousin but not a first cousin.  We knew his name was Michael Connolly; he came from Inisheer, Aran Islands, County Galway and he had lived in Lowell.  My father said the family story was that he died after the Armistice ending the Great War.

My father hoped I could discover who Michael Connolly was and what had happened to him.  In the days before I had a computer, this search involved writing letters, visiting libraries and scrolling through microfilm.

Michael Connolly (Conneely in Ireland) came to Ellis Island on May 3, 1913. He initially went to his brother Patrick in Woburn, MA and then to his cousin Coleman Connolly at 40 Agawam St. in Lowell. Michael worked at the US Cartridge Company in South Lowell.  He filled out his Draft Registration card in June of 1917. Being single and age 28, he was soon drafted.  By October, Michael was at Camp Devens where he was naturalized on June 25, 1918.

The following month, July of 1918, Michael went overseas with the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion, 1st Infantry Division.   Michael was killed in action October 9, 1918 near Sommerance, France. He died in the last offensive at the end of WWI in the Meuse-Argonne forest.  Michael had
stepped on a land mine. He was initially buried on the battlefield. He was later buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France. He is buried in Plot C, Row 17, Grave 35. At this cemetery, covering 130 acres, rest the largest number of our military dead in Europe, a total of 14,426 men. Most of these soldiers gave their lives during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  They were reinterred here from battlefield graves.

News of Michael’s death was printed in the Lowell Sun on November 14, 1918.  On November 20, his cousin Coleman Connolly received a letter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts expressing sympathy that “Private Michael Conneely had been killed in action with the American Expeditionary Forces”.  These dates followed the ceasefire that ended the war on November 11 and may have caused the later confusion that Michael had died when the war was over.

Michael Connolly was my great grandfather’s second cousin.  We remember this Irishman on Veterans Day for his service to the United States.

Text Box: I had flowers put on Michael’s grave on November 11, 2001.

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