This Week in the History of the Irish: January 6 - January 12

LUAIN -- On Jan. 7, 1945 Major Thomas McGuire Jr., the second highest scoring US ace of WWII, and Medal of Honor recipient, crashed his plane and was killed over the Pacific. McGuire was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey on August 1, 1920. He spent most of his childhood in Florida, where he and his mother moved after his parents were divorced.

(Left: Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. (right) with Richard I. Bong.)

McGuire enlisted in the army as a aviation cadet in July 1941 and earned his pilots wings in February 1942. Sent to Alaska, McGuire bristled at the lack of combat and agitated for transfer to a combat squadron. In December he was sent to California to learn to fly the twin-engine P-38 fighter in which he would earn his fame. In March 1943 he shipped out to the Pacific, joining the 49th Fighter Group. One of the veteran combat pilots in the 49th was Richard Bong, who would be the highest scoring ace of WWII.

In just his second mission, on August 18, McGuire was credited with shooting down three Japanese planes. On his next mission, on the 21st, he shot down two more, making him an ace after just three missions. In October he was shot down but managed to bail out over the ocean and was rescued by a PT boat.

When he took off from his base in the Philippines on Christmas day 1944, he had thirty-one kills. In the next two day he shot down seven enemy planes to bring his total to thirty-eight. He was now only two behind Bong, who had been sent home for a fund raising tour. McGuire was anxious to pass him

On an early morning of January 7th McGuire led a flight of four P-38s over Japanese airbases on Negros Island. While pulling a sharp left turn toward a Japanese fighter his plane stalled and he crashed. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his seven kills in two days in December. McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey is named after him.

To learn more about this WWII hero, read: The Last Great Ace : The Life of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr.

MÁIRT -- On January 8, 1871, James Craig (right), Viscount Craigavon, Unionist politician, was born in Belfast. Craig was the son of a wealthy distiller. He was educated at private schools. After school he became a stockbroker in Belfast. He served in the Royal Irish Rifles during the Boer War and rose to the rank of captain. He went into politics after the war and was elected MP from East County Down. Craig rose within the ranks of Unionist politicians and was soon second only to Sir Edward Carson. Carson was a strong orator and carried the message of the Unionist in public, while Craig organized the armed Ulster Volunteers in preparation for a possible armed insurrection against implementation of Home Rule. Craig entered the British Army again during World War I as quartermaster-general of the 36th (Ulster) Division and served in France. He was knighted in 1918. Craig succeeded Carson as leader of the Unionists in June 1921 and was the 1st Prime Minister of the six counties following partition. In 1929 he abolished the proportional representation voting system in favor of the straight vote system in order to maintain Unionist control of local governments, even in areas where Nationalists were a clear majority. Craig remained PM of the six-county state until his sudden death at Glencarrig, County Down, on November 24, 1940. During his entire time as PM his policies could be best summed up by his statement in 1934: "We are a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state."

Courtesy of
Flag of Berwick's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France, two battalions of which fought with O'Mahony at Alcoy. Get a t-shirt displaying this flag and others HERE.

CÉADAOIN -- On January 9, 1708, elements of the Irish Brigade of France under Daniel O'Mahony helped capture the town of Alcoy in Spain during the War of Spanish Succession. O'Mahony came from a distinguished Munster family. One brother, Dermod, had been a colonel and another, Daniel, a captain in the Irish army that left Limerick for the continent in 1691. Daniel was also a brother-in-law of another famous officer of the Irish Brigade of France, the Marshal Duke of Berwick. Holding the rank of major, O'Mahony had achieved great fame for his part in the famous defense of Cremona, where the Irish Brigade foiled Prince Eugene's surprise attack on the city in 1702, and he had steadily risen through the ranks. During the War of Spanish Succession, many officers and units of the Irish Brigade served in Spain fighting the Allies' attempt to place Archduke Charles, son of Hapsburg (Austrian) Emperor Leopold I, on the Spanish throne. In the early part of 1707, O'Mahony commanded an unsuccessful attempt to capture the town of Alcoy with a force of about 1,800 men. On January 2, 1708, he arrived at the gates of the city again, but this time he commanded a force of over 6,000, including the Irish battalions of Dillon, Berwick and Bourke. By the 4th, O'Mahony's six guns had breached the walls of Alcoy, but the Allied garrison fought well and repulsed attempts to take it on the 5th and 7th with much loss of life on the Franco-Spanish side. But with no relief in sight the garrison's situation was hopeless; O'Mahony accepted the garrison's surrender on the 9th. Daniel O'Mahony was one of the finest commanders of all The Wild Geese. After Alcoy he served in Sicily and then back in Spain again. He was created a Count of Castile and promoted to lieutenant general. One of the Count's sons, James, would also reach the rank of lieutenant general in the Spanish army and the other, Dermod, would be Spain's ambassador to Austria.

AOINE -- On January 11, 1775, Louis De Lacy (right), soldier in the armies of Spain and France, was born in St. Roque, Spain, near Gibraltar, of Irish parents. Louis' father, Patrick, was an officer in the Irish Ultonia regiment of the Spanish army. Louis entered his father's regiment at the age of only 14. While stationed on the Canary Islands, he fought a duel with the governor of the island, severely wounding him. De Lacy was court-martialed and removed from the army. He then traveled to France and was able to gain a commission when French Minister of War Henry Clarke (also of Irish ancestry) introduced De Lacy to Napoleon. Made a captain in the Irish Legion, Louis accompanied the French army of Murat in its invasion of Spain in 1807. Once in Spain, however, De Lacy found his feeling for the land where he was born too strong to allow him to fight against it. Disguising himself in women's clothing, he made his way through the lines and turned himself into the Spanish commander. Surprisingly, he was welcomed warmly and immediately given a Spanish commission as colonel and put in command of the Burgos regiment. De Lacy fought well in numerous battles against the French throughout the rest of the Napoleonic wars. When the exiled monarch Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne, de Lacy became one of the leaders of an anti-royalist conspiracy. The plot was discovered and Louis was arrested. De Lacy was condemned to death and was shot in July 1816. By 1820, changing political tides in Spain empowered those whom had conspired against Ferdinand, and Louis de Lacy's body was exhumed and taken to Barcelona and reburied with military honors. The king himself accompanied the funeral procession as Louis was laid to rest near his uncle, Count Francis de Lacy. The king also honored Louis by conferring on him the posthumous title of Duke of Ultonia (Ulster).

Edmund Burke c. 1767/69, by Joshua Reynolds

SATHAIRN -- On January 12, 1729, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest political writers and orators in history, was born in Arran Quay, Dublin. Burke was the son of a mixed marriage -- his mother was Catholic and his father Protestant. Burke himself would later marry an Irish Catholic woman. Perhaps it was these two factors which led him to advocate a lenient policy toward Ireland for most of his life. Burke graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1748 and studied law at Middle Temple in London; however, he failed to secure a call to the bar and instead began a literary career. He wrote several books and was editor of the Annual Register before entering politics. In 1765, Earl Verney brought him into the House of Commons as a member for Wendover and within a short time his great speaking ability had transformed him into one of Parliament's most influential members. Burke was one of the leading advocates of compromise with the American colonies. His advice was not followed then, but after the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown, he was one of the members who helped convince George III to end the conflict. Burke's view of the revolution in France was a much different story. He published Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790, attacking the revolution's motives and principles. Many writers opposed his views, the most famous being Thomas Paine in his Rights of Man. Burke was a consistent advocate of Catholic emancipation, which politically damaged him, but he was never an advocate of self-rule for the Irish. Edmund Burke died in London on July 9, 1797. Many quotes from his writings and orations have come down through the years; perhaps one is most applicable to the situation in Ireland today: "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."

Read more about Edmund Burke HERE.


"With gallant initiative, deep and unselfish concern for the safety of others, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy at all costs, Major McGuire set an inspiring example in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."
        -- From the Medal of Honor citation for Major Thomas McGuire

'He has always been not only brave, but indefatigable, and very pains-taking (sic); his life is, as it were, a continued chain of dangerous combats, of bold attacks, of honourable retreats. If he has mounted himself to the first dignities of the army, he has raised himself to them by degrees; he has passed through all the military grades so as to make himself a master of the respective duties.'
        -- Count Daniel O'Mahony as characterized by his friend the Chevalier de Bellerive.

'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' 
        -- Edmund Burke

January - Eanáir


6, 1794 - Frances Ball (Mother Mary Teresa - Founder of the Sisters of Loretto - Dublin)
6, 1898 - Colonel James Fitzmaurice (Aviator - Dublin)
7, 1861 - Louise Guiney (Poet, literary historian - Roxbury, MA.)
8, 1736 - Arturo (Arthur) O'Neill (Colonel in the Spanish Army – Dublin)
8, 1871 - James Craig, Viscount Craigavon (Politician - Belfast)
11, 1775 - Louis De Lacy (Soldier - St. Roque, Spain, of Irish parents)
12, 1729 - Edmund Burke (Political writer and orator - Arran Quay, Dublin)
12, 1792 - Robert Patterson (Union General - Co. Tyrone)
12, 1885 - Thomas Ashe, (Revolutionary - Lispole, Co. Kerry.)


6, 1562 - Shane O'Neill submits to Queen Elizabeth, but rebels again within months.
6, 1946 - Nazi broadcaster William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) is executed by England.
6, 1968 – Patrick Henry Brady (Medal of Honor) rescues 51 soldiers under heavy enemy fire near Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam.
7, 1922 - Anglo-Irish treaty approved by Dail Eireann.
7, 1945 - Major Thomas McGuire, the second highest scoring US ace of WWII, and winner of the Medal of Honor, is shot down and killed over the Pacific.
8, 1873 - Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain founded.
9, 1708 - The Irish Brigade of France under Count O'Mahony helps capture the town of Alcoy in Spain.
9, 1783 - David Griffith, a Dublin native and general in the army of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, dies in Piacenza, Italy.
10, 1922 - Arthur Griffith elected President of Irish Free State.
11, 1970 - IRA splits into Officials and Provisionals (Provos).

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Tags: Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day, United States


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