Duffy, Francis Patrick, LTC

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
Last MOS Group
Chaplain (Officer)
Primary Unit
1918-1919, American Expeditionary Force
Service Years
1898 - 1919


Lieutenant Colonel

Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home Country
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Duffy, Francis Patrick (Father Duffy), LTC.
Contact Info
Home Town
Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
Last Address
Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

Date of Passing
Jun 26, 1932
Location of Interment
Old Saint Raymond's Cemetery - Bronx, New York
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

French Fourragere World War I Victory Button 42nd Infantry Division

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

The most celebrated U.S. Army chaplain in the Great War, Father Francis Patrick Duffy, a Roman Catholic priest, was born in Cobourg, Canada, and was ordained in 1896.  He attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and then was appointed  professor of psychology and ethics at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York.  Father Duffy's career as an Army chaplain began with a brief tour of duty during the Spanish-American War when he was stationed at Montauk Point, Long Island.  In 1912 he became pastor of Our Savior parish in the Bronx, and in 1914 he was appointed chaplain of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard.

The "Fighting Sixty-Ninth," a basically Irish regiment, although containing members of other ethnic groups, had served with distinction during the Civil War.  It was called up briefly during the Spanish-American War, and also in 1916, when it served on the Mexican border during General Pershing's Punitive expedition.  When the United States entered World War I, the regiment was renumbered the 165th Infantry and assembled at Camp Mills, New York.  Assigned to be part of the new Rainbow (42nd) Division, its members continued to refer to the regiment by its traditional sobriquet.

Chaplain Duffy, by now a major and the senior chaplain of the 42nd Division, became an inspirational focus for the division and later for the A.E.F.  The poet Joyce Kilmer writing about the voyage of the division across the Atlantic, observed that every day there could be seen a line of soldiers, "as long as the mess-line," waiting their turn to have Duffy hear their confessions.  Every morning, Kilmer noted, a large crowd of soldiers would gather amidships on the transport where Chaplain Duffy would say Mass at an altar made from a long board resting on two nail kegs.  Arriving in France in November 1917,  the division spent the winter training and in late February 1918, took over front-line trenches from French forces at Luneville in the Lorraine sector.  At dawn on March 20, Duffy and the men of the 42nd received their first serious baptism of fire when a barrage of mustard gas shells burst among them.  The bombardment lasted two days and there were over 400 casualties, the majority of them blinded.

For Chaplain Duffy, the next few months were to be filled with such scenes.  He was most often found along the front lines hearing confessions and saying Mass, as well as visiting and counseling the soldiers.  It was by his "ministry of presence" that he had his greatest influence and became an almost a legendary figure.  Once the fighting began, he often traveled with a unit first-aid station, providing physical and spiritual care to the wounded and the dying.  His presence on the battlefield was inspirational.  Duffy was always near the heaviest fighting, exposing himself to constant danger as he moved from unit to unit.  His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

After the war, Duffy returned to a new parish in New York City.  As pastor of the Holy Cross Church on 42nd Street, just off Broadway, the "actor's Church, Father Duffy added to his already great popularity.  In 1919, he published a best selling book, Father Duffy's Story, chronicling his experience in the Great War.  He died on 26 June 1932.

This is to Certify that
The President of the United States of America
Takes Pride in Presenting


First Lieutenant (Chaplain), U.S. Army
165th Infantry Regiment, 42d Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: July 28 - 31, 1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Francis P. Duffy, First Lieutenant (Chaplain), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the village of Villers-sur-Fere, France, July 28 to 31, 1918. Chaplain 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.

General Orders No. 99, W.D., 1918
Home Town: New York, NY

Francis Patrick Duffy (1871 - 1932) was a Roman Catholic priest.



Francis Duffy was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada and immigrated to New York City, where he taught for a time at the College of St. Francis Xavier and where he was awarded a Master's degree (the school survives as Xavier High School). He became a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, being ordained in 1896. He attended The Catholic University of America where he earned a doctorate.

After ordination, Duffy served on the faculty of St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, which trains priests for the Archdiocese of New York. He was professor of Philosophical Psychology (a course more related to the Philosophy of the Human Person, than to Clinical Psychology, in today's terms), functioned as a mentor to numerous students, and was editor of the New York Review -- at the time, this publication was the most scholarly and progressive Catholic theological publication in America. Extremely popular with students, Duffy was part of a group of members of the Dunwoodie faculty that attempted to introduce ground-breaking innovations in seminary curriculum, putting the institution in the forefront of clerical education.

When authors in the New York Review fell under suspicion of the heresy of Modernism, the archbishop of New York, Michael Augustine Corrigan, broke up the faculty and reassigned them to other work. The New York Review itself never published an article that was suspect, but it did print papers by leading Catholic Biblical experts who were part of the newly-emerging schools of Biblical criticism, and several of these authors' other works (which would be uncontroversial today) raised eyebrows in Rome. Duffy himself wrote few signed items in the journal (though he did author parts of it), but was responsible as editor for the whole publication.

Duffy's new assignment was creating the parish of Our Saviour in the Bronx, New York. There, he organized the parish and built a physical structure that combined parish school and church, one of several innovations he introduced.

Throughout this period, Duffy was active in both the Catholic Summer School, a sort of adult summer camp and continuing education system that foreshadowed the explosion in Catholic higher education for the laity today, and in the military—he was regimental chaplain to the 69th New York National Guard Regiment which was federalized for a time during the Spanish-American War.

Already famous in theological circles, Duffy gained wider fame for his involvement as a military chaplain during World War I when the 69th New York ("The Fighting 69th") {Coat of arms at right} was federalized again and redesignated the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment. When the unit moved up to the front in France, Duffy accompanied the litter bearers in recovering the wounded and was always seen in the thick of battle. Recognized by the regimental commander, Lt. Col. William "Wild Bill" Donovan (who would go on to found the OSS in World War II), as a key element in the unit's morale, Duffy's role in the unit went beyond that of a normal cleric: the regiment was composed primarily of New York Irish immigrants and the sons of Irish immigrants, and many wrote later of Duffy's leadership, with even then-Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur admitting later that Duffy was very briefly considered for the post of regimental commander. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State), the Légion d'honneur (France), and the Croix de guerre. Father Duffy is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army.

Following the war he wrote of his exploits in "Father Duffy's Story" (George H. Doran Company, New York 1919), a book that grew out of a manuscript originally started by Joyce Kilmer, the poet and convert to Catholicism who had joined the regiment and had become a close friend to Duffy—when Kilmer was killed in France, he was working on a history of the regiment's involvement in the war, which Duffy intended to continue, but Duffy was prevailed upon to include his own reminiscences of the war.

He then served as a pastor of Holy Cross Church in Hell's Kitchen, a block from Times Square, until his death. While there he had one last opportunity to make a contribution to Catholic thought: in 1927, during Al Smith's campaign for president, the Atlantic Monthly published a letter by Charles Marshall, a Protestant lawyer, which questioned whether a Catholic could serve as a loyal president who would put the nation and the Constitution before his allegiance to the Pope (a common thread in American anti-Catholicism). Smith was given a chance to reply: his article, a classic statement of the intellectual ideas behind American Catholic patriotism, hinted at notions of religious freedom and freedom of conscience which would not be spelled out by the Church itself until the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom in the 1960s—Smith had gone to Duffy and asked him to ghostwrite the piece.



Father Duffy is commemorated by Duffy Square, which is located in the northern triangle of Times Square between 45th and 47th Streets in New York City. His statue in front of a Celtic cross stands near 47th Street.

In the fictional 1940s movie The Fighting 69th, Father Duffy is portrayed by Pat O'Brien.

Other Comments:

Image of monument to Francis P. Duffy, located in a small wedge of park at Times Square, New York City, where theatergoers gather to purchase discount theater tickets.

Text on the obverse of this monument:

MAY 2 1871 - JUNE 26 1932






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 Unit Assignments
1st Battalion, 69th Infantry RegimentARNG, New York42nd Infantry DivisionU.S. Army
  1898-1914, 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment
  1914-1917, ARNG, New York
  1918-1919, 42nd Infantry Division
  1918-1919, American Expeditionary Force
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1898-1898 Spanish-American War
  1914-1917 Mexican Service Campaign (1911-1919)
  1918-1918 World War I
 Colleges Attended 
Catholic University of America
  1892-1896, Catholic University of America
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