Duffy's War


Duffy's War

Fr. Francis Duffy, Wild Bill Donovan, and the Irish Fighting 69th in World War I

Stephen L. Harris

462 pages


December 2007


$26.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2011


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About the Book

The legendary “Fighting 69th” took part in five major engagements during World War I. It served in the front lines for almost 170 days, suffering hundreds killed and thousands wounded. This highly decorated unit was inspired by its chaplain, the famous Father Francis Duffy (whose statue stands in Times Square), and commanded by the future leader of the OSS (predecessor of the CIA), “Wild Bill” Donovan. One of its casualties was the poet Joyce Kilmer. Due in large part to the classic 1940 movie The Fighting 69th, starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien (as Duffy), the unit still has strong name recognition. But until now, no one has recounted in detail the full story of this famous Irish outfit in World War I. The exciting Duffy’s War brings to life the men’s blue-collar neighborhoods—Irish mostly and Italian and overwhelmingly Catholic. These boys came from the East Side, the West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, the Gashouse, and Five Points; from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island City, and Staten Island; and from Father Duffy’s own parish in the Bronx. They streamed out of the tenements and apartment houses, enlisting en masse. Brothers joined up, oftentimes three and four from one family. Published during a resurgent interest in the doughboy experience of World War I, Duffy’s War also tells the fascinating history of New York City and the Irish experience in America. With this book, Stephen L. Harris completes his outstanding trilogy on New York National Guard regiments in World War I.

Author Bio

Stephen L. Harris is the author of Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York’s Silk Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line (Brassey’s, Inc., 2001), Harlem’s Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I (Brassey’s, Inc., 2003), and Duffy's War: Fr. Francis Duffy, Wild Bill Donovan, and the Irish Fighting 69th in World War I (Potomac Books, 2006). He lives in Weybridge, Vermont.


"The ‘Fighting 69th’ New York National Guard--known in the U.S. Army as the 165th Infantry--was the most famed regiment in the AEF. In this very readable book, Stephen Harris captures the spirit as well as the achievements of this legendary unit and its indomitable officers and men."—Edward M. Coffman, author of The War To End all Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I

"In Duffy's War, Stephen L. Harris has crafted a keenly researched and thoroughly engrossing history of the 'Fighting 69th.' Harris renders vivid portraits of Father Francis Duffy, 'Wild Bill' Donovan, and the other New York Irish who plunged into the horror of World War I's Western Front. This is an important book for any reader with an interest in well-written Irish-American, as well as American, history."—Peter F. Stevens, author of The Rogue's March: John Riley and the St. Patrick's Battalion, 1846-48

“The detailed accounting reflects the value of the personal accounts that Harris has so well examined and integrated into a stimulating and coherent narrative. . . . how urgently you read this book depends on who you are, but no matter what the answer to that question may be, it will be worth your time”—Parameters

"Duffy’s War, the third and final volume in Stephen L. Harris’ trilogy on New York National Guard regiments in WWI, is a richly detailed and well-told narrative and one of the best books on that war in recent memory."—militarytrader.com

"It is an outstanding book in which Stephen Harris sings, in a distinctive voice, of arms and the man. . . . The research in the entire book is impressive. . . . The social and personal information, intertwined with the meticulous accounting of trench warfare, surprisingly compliment each other. Together, they emphasize what it feels like to risk death twenty-four hours a day."—ossreborn.com

“His in-depth research of people, places and events and easy-read approach can make anyone a New York Guard expert in short order.”—National Guard

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