"Many more Irish-born
were killed serving theAmerican militarythan previously thought. The true
figure may be 900 or 1,000, but it's likely somewhere in this
neighborhood," Smolenyak said.
Previously experts have
turned to America's army registration data to investigate the losses. However,
the bulk of US military personnel records from 1912 to 1960 were destroyed by a
fire in 1973.
After Smolenyak came
across a New Jersey database focused on WWI soldiers, she discovered that 69
Irish-born individuals from New Jersey had died during the conflict. As 3,427
from NJ had died altogether, Smolenyak used basic arithmetic to conclude that
about two percent were Irish nationals. She then applied a similar method toNew Yorkfocusing on births, deaths and
enlistment records, using census records, military abstracts and ancestry
websites. She eventually estimated that 976 Irish nationals died fighting for
"In spite of these measurement complications, I believe that 976 is a fair
reckoning for men of Irish birth who gave their lives in service to the USA in
the World War," she wrote inIrish America Magazine.
She says the biggest
difference between the new numbers and older estimates is that she had the
benefit of "hard casualty data.”
"These figures are
more reflective and I've shared these figures and my thought process with the
idea of provoking conversation," she recently told the Irish Independent
"I found 69
Irish-born men in the New Jersey database, but when I searched the Irish
National War Memorial Roll of Honour, I could only find one of them included,
so adding the other 68 would be an easy starting point – and that's just one
single American state," she said.
"I'd love to see more
local efforts like Longford at War to profile individual soldiers. Of all those
I researched, this was the only website that acknowledged soldiers by his home
Smolenyak, whoseIrish Americangrandfather served during the war,
said she has always been "unnaturally obsessed" with the historical
links between Ireland and the United States.