Michael Corcoran enlisted in Company I of the 69th Regiment New York State Militia and rose through the ranks to become Colonel of the Regiment. In October 1860, Edward, Prince of Wales made a state visit to the United States. Militia units in New York were ordered to honor the Prince of Whales by passing their regiments in review. Colonel Corcoran refused to order the 69th to participate in this effort. Corcoran was charged with disobeying orders. A Courts Marshall was to be convened but the charges were dropped when the Civil War broke out in 1861. President Lincoln asked the States to provide militia units for a three-month service to put down the rebellion. Corcoran and the 69th volunteered. On July 21st, 1861, he led the 69th New York State Militia on the battlefield at Manassas, Virginia (the first major battle of the Civil War). Corcoran was wounded and captured. Upon his release in 1862, he began recruiting a second Irish Brigade known as Corcoran's Legion. He commanded Corcoran's Legion (which like the Irish Brigade also had a 69th Regiment as part it) until December 1863. He died after a fall from his horse while traveling back to camp after having had dinner with General Meagher in Fairfax, Virginia. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Thomas Francis Meagher was an Irish revolutionary who was exiled from Ireland to Tasmania. He escaped and came to New York where he became a lawyer and made a famous effort in the United States Court, in the case of Fabens and other Nicaragua "filibusters." He conceived the idea of an expedition to Central America (taken with Don Ramon Paez, son of President Paez of Venezuela) and made a report on the feasibility of a canal through the isthmus by way of Nicaragua. Meagher fought at the first battle of Bull Run (Manassas) as a captain of the Zouave Company in the 69th New York Militia. When he returned to New York he received permission to organize an Irish Brigade. The 69th New York Militia served as the nucleus for the Brigade and its 1st Regiment, the 69th New York Infantry Regiment. Meagher was appointed Brigadier General and led the Irish Brigade during: the Peninsular Campaign, Mechanicsville, Fair Oaks, the Peach Orchard, Malvern Hill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. After the Civil War he became the acting Governor of Montana.
William Donovan was a Buffalo New York native who had earned his law degree at Columbia. He joined the 165th Infantry Regiment (also called the Fighting 69th from its Civil War days) and earned a Medal of Honor as a battalion commander charging German lines in World War I. "Wild Bill" Donovan commanded the 1st Battalion, 165th Infantry and later was appointed to command the 165th Regiment. After the war he visited Europe, Siberia, and Japan, served as assistant attorney general in the Coolidge administration (briefly supervising a young J. Edgar Hoover and his new Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]), practiced antitrust law in New York City, and lost the 1932 election as the Republican candidate for Governor of New York. His interest in world affairs never diminished. Nor did his zest for being where the action was; he even toured the Italian battle lines in Ethiopia in 1935. Donovan also made wide contacts in government and among public-spirited financial and legal figures in New York City: men like Frank Knox, David Bruce, and the Dulles brothers, Allen and John Foster. When Frank Knox became FDR's new Secretary of the Navy in 1940, he brought William Donovan to Roosevelt's attention (FDR and Donovan had been classmates - although not companionsat Columbia Law School). That summer, Roosevelt confidentially asked Donovan to visit Britain and report on London's resolve and its staying power against Hitler. Donovan's British hosts understood his mission. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, hoping to win American support for Britain's desperate war effort, ensured that Donovan saw everything he wanted, granting him extraordinary access to defense and intelligence secrets. Donovan also toured the Balkans and British outposts in the Mediterranean in early 1941. Roosevelt was impressed with Donovan's reports and with his ideas on intelligence and its place in modern war. When the President decided to force the military and civilian services to cooperate on intelligence matters in the summer of 1941, Donovan was the man he tapped to perform this mission.
William J. Donovan happily accepted the challenge and set to work with typical charisma and zeal. When the war came to America at Pearl Harbor, however, Donovan wanted to command troops on the battlefield again and hoped to gain a commission in the US Army. His hopes were soon dashed. An automobile accident in the spring of 1942 aggravated an old war wound, and Donovan realized that he would never again hold a field command. Nevertheless, he eventually wore a general's stars. As the Director of OSS and a representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Donovan commanded thousands of service personnel, and it was deemed helpful to recommission him for the duration of the war. He was placed on active duty and promoted to Brigadier General in March 1943 and won promotion to Major General in November 1944.
Alfred Joyce Kilmer is remembered today for the poem "Trees" published in 1914. Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1886. He was educated at Columbia University and worked for the "The New York Times." He joined the 165th Infantry, (Fighting 69th) and in quickly attained the rank of Sergeant attached to the newly organized Regimental Intelligence Staff. He was encouraged to go to Officer Candidate School and accept a commission but he said he would rather be a Sergeant in the 69th than an officer in any other unit in the Army. On July 30th 1918, while gathering intelligence for the Regiment during the battle of the Ourcq he was shot in the head. He was 31 years old. Camp Kilmer in New Jersey was named after him. There are many schools and forested areas throughout the country named after him also. At the New Brunswick (Exit 9 Northbound) on the New Jersey Turnpike, there is a rest stop named after him. He wrote many poems and essays during his career as a poet, many about the 69th including "Memorial Day," "Rouge Bouquet" and "When the Sixty-Ninth Comes Back". "When the Sixty-Ninth Comes Back" was set to music by Victor Herbert, (writer of "Babes in Toyland") and was played by the Regimental Band during the 165th's triumphal march up 5th Ave after World War I. Joyce Kilmer is buried in Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.
Alejandro R. Renteria Ruiz,
Private First Class
Army, 165th Infantry, 27th Infantry Division. Place and date: Okinawa,
, 28 April 1945. Entered service at:
, N. Mex. Birth: Loving, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 60, 26 June 1946. Citation: When his unit was stopped by a skillfully camouflaged enemy pillbox, he displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. His squad, suddenly brought under a hail of machinegun fire and a vicious grenade attack, was pinned down. Jumping to his feet, Pfc. Ruiz seized an automatic rifle and lunged through the flying grenades and rifle and automatic fire for the top of the emplacement. When an enemy soldier charged him, his rifle jammed. Undaunted, Pfc. Ruiz whirled on his assailant and clubbed him down. Then he ran back through bullets and grenades, seized more ammunition and another automatic rifle, and again made for the pillbox. Enemy fire now was concentrated on him, but he charged on, miraculously reaching the position, and in plain view he climbed to the top. Leaping from 1 opening to another, he sent burst after burst into the pillbox, killing 12 of the enemy and completely destroying the position. Pfc. Ruiz's heroic conduct, in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of many comrades and eliminated an obstacle that long would have checked his unit's advance.