The veterans in our family tree

World War II

One of the things I wish I had talked with Dad about more was his military service. I knew that he had served in North Africa, and then Italy and France, but that’s about it. Aside from a few random recollections, like seeing the Sistine Chapel, or swimming in the Mediterranean, I don’t really know any details of his service. As far as I know, he was the only member of his immediate family to serve in the military- his brothers were all more than a decade older. Dad enlisted on February 20, 1941. Here are the details of his enlistment record:

Name: Edmund F Sheehan
Birth Year: 1918
Enlistment Date: 20 Feb 1941
Enlistment State: Massachusetts
Enlistment City: Worcester
Branch: Branch Immaterial – Warrant Officers, USA
Branch Code: Branch Immaterial – Warrant Officers, USA
Grade: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the Panama Canal Department
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 4 years of high school
Civil Occupation: Attendants, filling stations and parking lots
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Height: 73
Weight: 197

I have no idea why the term is listed as “Enlistment for the Panama Canal Department”. At the time of Dad’s enlistment, draftees were required to serve one year. That was extended to two years in August 1941. After war was declared in December 1941, the term was extended to the length of the war plus six months. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dad was discharged from the Army on August 13, 1945, one week after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Uncle Bud served in the Pacific, in the Navy. His name appears on the final roster of the USS Mountrail, an attack transport that was put into service in early 1945. The ship took part in the invasion of Okinawa, and later transported troops to the Philippines, and, after the Japanese surrender, to Japan and China.

We also have a father and son pair who served in the war. Timothy Hally was a second cousin who enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941. He was the grandson of Grandfather Nicholas Sheehan’s sister Bridget. Timothy’s father, Timothy Hally Sr., a Worcester police officer, joined the Army in 1942.

World War I

Mom’s favorite uncle was James Farrar, who was known by his middle name, Everett. We always knew him as “Uncle Happy”. Like his sister, Nana Dunn, Everett was born in East Providence. He was just nine years old when, in 1902, his father passed away. He lost his mother three years later, and both he and Nana moved in with their older brother Daniel’s family in Providence. In 1916 Nana married Grandfather Dunn, and at about the same time Everett moved, along with Daniel and his family, to Richmond Virginia. In 1917 Everett was drafted into the 318th Infantry Division, made up almost entirely of Virginians, and shipped off to Europe. The 318th took part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the last major Allied drive in the war, and one of the bloodiest. In the space of six weeks, over 26,000 Americans were killed, and many more injured. According to Uncle Bud, Everett was “badly wounded and gassed” in the battle, but survived to return to Richmond, where he lived the rest of his life. He died in 1972.

Grandfather Sheehan’s sister Bridget (Sheehan) Green had a son, Harold, who also served in World War I. Before going to Europe, Harold saw action on the Mexican border as part of the force that sought to capture Pancho Villa. I haven’t been able to track down any other details of Harold’s military career. He died in 1930 at the Rutland Heights Veterans Hospital, so it’s possible his death was related to injuries he nay have suffered in the war.

Grandfather Sheehan had several siblings who remained in Ireland. One of them was named Patrick, born in about 1890. Patrick shows up in the 1901 Ireland Census living with his parents in Ballyscanlan, County Waterford. In 1911 he’s living nearby, working for a local family. That’s about all I know about Patrick, except for this photograph, taken earlier this year by my Irish cousin Leon Sheehan, in the graveyard at Fenor. The stone reads “88773 Private P. Sheehan Machine Gun Corps (INF.), 17th November 1919 Age 24”. While the photo isn’t conclusive evidence that the grave is that of my grand uncle, there are two additional pieces of information- the first is the location of the grave- it’s right next to the plot occupied by Patrick and Nicholas’s sister, Ellen. And, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission listing, P. Sheehan was “Son of Mrs. Bridget Sheehan, of Ballyscanlon, Fenor”. The age given on the tombstone doesn’t match up exactly- it says P. Sheehan was 24 at the time of his death, whereas the census data says he would have been 29. It would seem to me though, that the location, and the CWGC reference to his mother’s name make it almost certain that this is our Patrick Sheehan.

In the next entry I’ll tell the stories of the Revolutionary and Civil War veterans in our family tree.

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  • Michael Browne

    Fascinated to come across your website and to see the work you have done on the family history. Ellen Sheehan was the mother of Kevin (“Edmond”) and also of Bridget who married in Belfast Northern Ireland, and was my mother. Michael