Watch: Cobh commemorates centenary of American Naval forces arrival during WWI

Daniel Dwyer, chief of staff of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, speaks at a ceremony. Pic: John Allen

Some descendants of those who served with the US Navy based in Cork during the First World War gathered in Cobh yesterday, along with a number of American military personnel, to commemorate the centenary of their arrival there on May 4, 1917.

They unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion at the former Admiralty House, which is now a Benedictine priory. The nuns, who are in an enclosed order, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the spectacle of a military remembrance, which included flagbearers, a lone piper, and bugler.

The plaque was unveiled by Elizabeth Helmer, great granddaughter of Commander Joseph Taussig, who led the first six US destroyers into the port.


Gallery and video by Larry Cummins (@larrycpix)

Tim Forsyth, US deputy chief of mission at the American embassy, said that by the end of the war, 92 of his country’s navy ships had served out of Cork.

For the chief of staff of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, Captain David Dwyer, the event brought back his Irish roots. He said he was very honoured to attend as his great, great, great grandfather emigrated to the US from Cork in 1847.

Elizabeth Helmer, great grand-daughter of Cmdr Joseph Taussig of the US naval forces in 1917, with some of the passport photographs of Cork women in The Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh. Pic: John Allen

“I believe I’m the first of his descendants to come back to Ireland,” said Capt Dwyer, adding that Cobh was “very popular” among US navy crews for R&R breaks.

Among the gathering was David Maddox, whose great grandfather, John McCluskey, served on several US warships based in what was then known as Queenstown.

He explained that his forebear married Mary Ellen Watkins from Cloyne, Co Cork, in 1918.

The wheel has come full circle for David, as he and wife Elizabeth have retired to Castlemartyr in East Cork after spending their lives in Florida.

“It’s a real honour for me to be here and to honour those who served,” he said.

Many Irish women ended up marrying American sailors and going to live with them across the Atlantic.

Historian Damien Shiels has complied pen pictures of 100 of them, which are being exhibited at the town’s Sirius Arts Centre.

Bugler Ronald Howko from the American Legion play ‘Taps’ at a ceremony to mark the arrival of American Naval forces in Cobh in 1917. Pic: John Allen

Meanwhile, a photographic exhibition curated by Cobh Tourism records the US presence at the time, and will remain open throughout the month at Cobh Railway Station.


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