Brave Irish American Soldier Second Lieutenant Daniel Buckley
A survivor of the ill-fated Titanic, he volunteered for active service under the stars and stripes in the 69th Irish (Rainbow Division) on American entrance to the war.
He came to France with his regiment in October 1917, saw fighting in several battles,
had some miraculous escapes, the same Supernatural power which aided him in the Titanic still appearing to come to his assistance.
He was wounded, though not seriously, in April last, and fell, paying the supreme
penalty, fighting under the flag of his adopted country, just previous to the cessation of hostilities. He was a native of Kingwilliamstown, County Cork, where he was extremely popular previous to his departure for the States.
(The Cork Examiner, 15 January 1919)
Buckley had joined the US army in June 1917, reasoning that it was better to choose his unit rather than wait to be conscripted. He wrote home having left his job in a Manhattan hotel: ‘Well mother, I am after volunteering to go with the 69th regiment. The regiment is composed of all Irish fellows, about 2,000 strong … I hope you won’t be vexed, but proud that there is one of the family gone in at least to put some nails in the Kaiser’s coffin.’
He trained at Camp Mills in Long Island and arrived in France that fall with Company
K of the 165th US infantry. His early letters complained of overcharging by locals – ‘they think we must be all millionaires when we come from the US’ – while adding that he had little of his $15 a month pay left having contributed $6.70 to an insurance scheme. He also arranged for much of the pay to be channelled directly to his family.
He was soon in the trenches, and though censorship meant he could not describe
military activity, wrote glowing generalised accounts: ‘We had some great battles with the huns, but they run away when they see an American bayonet shining in the sunlight.’
Reality intruded, and he sustained some wounds which he passed off with brief
references. A letter written on captured German paper related the death of a friend, Jack Reardon. ‘He was a fine fellow and loved by all his pals as he was full of life. God have mercy on his soul. I hope he is better off, as this is a rough life over here. He was not killed instantly, but died in hospital. I have had some narrow escapes myself, but thanks to God I have been lucky so far …’
His last letter was written on 9 October 1918, six days before his death:
My dear mother,
I am writing you a few lines hoping you are well, also Nonie, Julian, Jack and Neal, also all in Kingwilliamstown.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago and did not get a chance since, as we are very busy
drawing the huns back on all fronts. I believe the war will soon be over, as the Germans are getting a great licking.
I received the medals you sent me, also the cigarettes, but only 15 packets were left. I
was glad to get them as I was at the front then. At present I am behind the lines a little way and the music of our big guns is ringing all around.
“The Irish Aboard the Titanic” by Senan Molony is available online.
* Originally published in 2012.