New York National Guard and Cardinal Dolan Commemorate Father Duffy in Times Square June 27

Media Advisory

Related Media

Father Duffy presides over a Doughboy funeral in France in 1918.

NEW YORK (06/26/2018) (readMedia)-- The New York National Guard and the Times Square Alliance will welcome the National Guard's most senior chaplain and Cardinal Timothy Dolan to a commemoration of the Army's most famous chaplain, and a New York City icon, Father Francis P. Duffy on Wednesday. June 27.

Duffy was chaplain to the famous 69th Infantry during World War I and was portrayed by actor Pat O'Brien in the 1940 movie "The Fighting 69th."

WHAT: Memorial wreath placement and commemoration of Father Francis P. Duffy at the Father Duffy statue at the northern end of Times Square.

WHO: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, National WWI Centennial Commissioner Libby O'Connell and National Guard Chief Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Kenneth Brandt

WHEN: Wednesday, June 27 at 10 am. The ceremony will last about 45 minutes

WHERE: Father Francis P. Duffy Square, Broadway & 46th Street at the northern end of Times Square

Media Opportunity: Interviews with speakers, chaplains, and National Guard Soldiers regarding the WWI service and legacy of Father Francis P. Duffy of the 69th Infantry. Also present for visuals will be WWI reenactors.


Father Francis P. Duffy

Father Duffy was briefly a military chaplain during the Spanish-American War when he served at a camp for returning veterans at Montauk Point, Long Island. He became chaplain of the New York National Guard's 69th Infantry Regiment in 1914 while serving as the pastor of Our Savior Parish in the Bronx.

The regiment had earned its fame as part of the Irish Brigade during the Civil War and was reportedly dubbed the "Fighting 69th" by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. An Irish-American folk song, "The Fighting 69th" commemorates the regiment's Civil War actions.

Duffy accompanied the unit to the Mexican border in 1916 when National Guard troops were mobilized to stop cross border raids by Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. When the 69th mobilized for World War I and became the 165th Infantry Regiment, he deployed with the unit and went to France as the regimental chaplain.

First Lt. George Benz, from Conshocken, Pennsylvania who served with Duffy in the French trenches with Company I, recalled seeing the priest hearing the confession of "a little Irish private [while] the moan of the shells whizzing through the air furnished the doleful [background] music. ... When men were facing and some meeting death every few minutes, you'd find Father Duffy. He was more than a father confessor to the men-he was their friend, their pal."

Benz would recall the regiments arrival in France for the New York World Magazine in May 1918 with his writing, "Four Months in France with the 165th Infantry."

Benz also recalled seeing him "bending over a man who was gassed and lay in the mud struggling for air, frothing at the mouth. As the priest's hands closed over the fingers of the dying soldier, into the eyes soon to be closed to all worldly strife came a look of peace, of that great faith that sends a man smiling before his Maker."

Fellow chaplain and New Yorker Percy Edrop, who served in the 27th Division as chaplain of the 53rd Pioneer Infantry, wrote of Duffy that "there was something in the manner of the man that bespoke his religious conviction. There was something in his frank smile and in his serenity that made one feel he would undergo any dangers, endure any hardships, give his life-if he could be of service."

He remembered Duffy's exploits in one 1918 battle: "Father Duffy spent the whole day on the battlefield. He bore men to shelter under a heavy machine gun fire. He cheered them by word and by example. He brought them comforts. He thrilled them by his disregard of danger."

Duffy distinguished himself by his courage under fire, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal, and for always being present for to talk to the men and provide religious services. For his service, Duffy received the Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre from French military leaders.

His Distinguished Service Medal awarded for actions in July 1918 cites that "Duffy devoted himself tirelessly and unceasingly to the care of the wounded and dying. Despite a constant and severe bombardment with shells and aerial bombs, he continued to circulate in and about two aid stations and the hospitals, creating an atmosphere of cheerfulness and confidence by his courageous and inspiring example."

He is the most highly decorated chaplain in Army history.

The commander of the 69th, Col. William "Wild Bill" Donovan, a Medal of Honor winner who went on to establish American spy operations in World War II, valued Duffy's advice and leadership.

When the war ended, Duffy returned to New York City where he remained in the National Guard and returned to his parish at the Holy Cross Church in Hell's Kitchen, in midtown Manhattan a block from Times Square.

When he died in 1932, the City of New York held a public funeral with an estimated 50,000 New Yorkers lining the funeral precession for the route from Holy Cross to St. Patrick's Cathedral and on to his burial at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.

The statue honoring him was erected in Times Square under the leadership of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1937.

Duffy Square

At the apex of the triangle defining the north end of Times Square, the massive statue of Father Francis Patrick Duffy (1871-1932) by Charles Keck (1875-1951) has stood sentinel since it was unveiled May 2, 1937, some five years after the passing of Duffy.

Duffy was a priest in the Times Square area as well as serving in the Army.

Born in Cobourg, Canada, Father Duffy moved to New York in 1893 to teach French at the College of St. Francis Xavier (now Xavier High School). He was later ordained as a priest, and in 1898, he accepted a teaching position at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, where he remained for the next 14 years.

Father Duffy's military service began in the Spanish-American War of 1898, serving as First Lieutenant and chaplain of the legendary Fighting 69th Infantry, serving in Europe during World War I as part of the famed Rainbow Division, and earning a number of medals. After the war ended Father Duffy returned to New York, and in 1920, he was appointed pastor of the Holy Cross Church, located at 237 West 42nd Street.

Father Duffy died on June 26, 1932 after serving the theater district community for over a decade. In 1940, veteran character actor Pat O'Brien portrayed Duffy in the Hollywood film based on his life, The Fighting 69th, which also starred James Cagney.

In Charles Keck's bronze effigy of the soldier-priest, he depicts a stoic Duffy, nearly eight feet tall, in military garb, helmet at his feet and bible in hand. The statue is set on a pedestal backed by a green granite Celtic cross, which is more than 17 feet tall.

Keck's sculptural maquette for the head of Duffy is in the collection of the New York City Art Commission, and is on display in City Hall. In 1997 the statue was conserved and repatined through a project funded by the Times Square Business Improvement District.

Times Square Alliance

The Times Square Alliance, founded in 1992, works to improve and promote Times Square - cultivating the creativity, energy and edge that have made the area an icon of entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.

In addition to providing core neighborhood services with its Public Safety Officers and Sanitation Associates, the Alliance promotes local businesses and co-coordinates numerous major events in Times Square, including the annual New Year's Eve and Solstice in Times Square celebrations.

The Alliance's district covers most of the territory from 40th Street to 53rd Street between 6th and 8th Avenues, as well as Restaurant Row (46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue).

The Alliance is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, accepts tax-deductible contributions, and is governed by a large, voluntary Board of Directors. Learn more at