An American Hero Buried in Ireland

Private William Tally Mallon in France, a few days before his death. Photo courtesy of Plunkett Nugent.
Private William Tally Mallon in France, a few days before his death. Photo courtesy of Plunkett Nugent.

By Sheila Langan, Deputy Editor
August / September 2012

William Tally Mallon, an American soldier who fought and died in WWI, was laid to rest in a small cemetery in Galbally, Co. Tyrone in 1922. He was the only U.S. solder of The Great War to be buried in Ireland, which was at that time in the midst of its own Civil War. But by the early 2000s, no one could recall how or why he came to be buried there.

Plunkett Nugent, a local barrister with a keen interest in history, decided to find out. He began with only Mallon’s gravestone and bits and pieces of information from his own relatives and neighbors. After seven years of delving into archives and records on both sides of the Atlantic, and tracking down and interviewing Mallon’s relatives, Nugent reached an answer and uncovered a forgotten piece of history.

Mallon’s mother, Mary Ann McKane, immigrated to the U.S. from Clonavaddy, Co. Tyrone in 1868 and married William Mallon. They had one son, William Tally Mallon, who was born on April 15, 1899 in Germantown, PA.

In 1919, Mary Ann returned to Ireland alone. By this point, she had lost her husband, her two brothers (both of whom were priests), and William Tally, who was killed on July 29, 1918, at nineteen years of age, at the Battle of Ourcq near Seringes-et-Nesles, France, by the bullet of a German sniper.

He had been buried on French soil, but Mary Ann sent a letter to the Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, asking for William Tally’s remains. “He was my only child, and I would like to have him buried where I intend to be buried,” she wrote.

The U.S. government agreed to her request, and William Tally’s body was repatriated to Ireland, to be buried again on May 20, 1922.

On May 19, ninety years after his remains arrived in Ireland, the grave of Private 1st Class William Tally Mallon was rededicated in a ceremony that drew relatives from both the U.S. and Ireland.

This almost forgotten story will be published later this year, once Nugent has completed a book about Mallon’s life and his own effort to uncover it. Nugent has also received interest from some television and production companies. His incredible research and dedication were honored by the Commander of the Battalion of the New York 69th, who awarded him a medal of excellence.

“This project was about remembering a young soldier’s life, to retrieve history before it disappears forever by unravelling the stories that lay hidden in people’s memories and in archives in the U.S.,” Nugent told the Tyrone Times.

Next, Nugent will work on identifying and marking the graves of the close to ninety Irishmen who died in WWI fighting with the American Expeditionary Forces, and who were re-buried in Ireland in 1922.

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