Irish Veterans is the first Medal of Honor Exhibition outside the United States. The Medal of Honor is the highest military honour the United States can bestow, and many of the awards are made posthumously. The Irish have been among the most notable of recipients since the Medal’s inception in the 1860s – many to Irish who had left Ireland post-Famine to make better lives in America.
- Only 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since 1863
- Over 2,100 of these Medals were received by men of Irish heritage
- At least 258 Medals went to Irish-born servicemen (we have no idea of the actual number, as many Irish-born immigrants gave their home of record as their first address in the US)
- There is little knowledge of these men or their stories in the Irish consciousness
Irish Veterans is a strictly non-political and non-denominational charity in Ireland, focusing on the history of Irish military service worldwide, the reasons surrounding such service and, for this exhibition, the deep and long-standing connection of the Irish to the US military – connections that are still evident in the highest reaches of that country. In earlier times, from George Washington’s army onwards, the military was one of the few ways the Irish could make some sort of living for themselves and their families in their new land.
This display will be centred around the Medal of Honor received by Michael Gibbons, born and raised in Co Mayo. He emigrated, joined the US Navy and was decorated for heroism under fire off the coast of Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Amazingly, a fellow Mayo-man, a US Marine named Philip Gaughan, was in the same small boat during the action, and he also received the Medal of Honor.
It is unprecedented that a genuine Medal will be displayed outside the US, and it is highly appropriate that this will be in Ireland. Internationally-renowned historian and author Damian Shiels will be the Museum Manager/Curator.