Celebrated local WWI soldier focus of Old Fort Niagara lecture

Published: 21 March 2024

By Rob Creenan
via the Niagara Gazette newspaper (NY) website

He Charged Alone cover framed

Niagara County’s own Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Frank Gaffney was the topic of a free Zoom lecture hosted by Old Fort Niagara.

The talk features author John Strasburg, who recently published a book entitled “He Charged Alone,” a chronicle of Gaffney’s life.

Gaffney was a 33-year-old papermaker from Lockport when America entered World War I in 1917. While his age exempted him from serving in the military, Gaffney was able to join the U.S. Army anyway. He fought on Belgian and French battlefields with the 27th Division’s 108th Infantry Regiment. On Sept. 29, 1918, Gaffney singlehandedly breached a section of Germany’s Hindenburg Line, coming away with 80 prisoners.

Six grateful nations recognized his bravery, including his own. In June 1919, the United States awarded him the Medal of Honor. Years later, the 27th Division’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. John F. O’Ryan wrote of Gaffney, “…no one man had performed more daring exploits and had exercised a bigger influence upon those about him by the gallantry of his conduct.”

In “He Charged Alone,” Strasburg chronicles the life of a World War I American soldier whose bravery was once compared to that of the legendary Sgt. Alvin York. To tell the story, the author weaves together Gaffney’s personal correspondence with military/government records, newspaper accounts and published unit histories.

Much of the talk focuses on Gaffney’s military service, heroism on the battlefield, and subsequent rehabilitation from a combat injury he received in the war’s closing days, but not overlooked are Gaffney’s upbringing and how he managed the burden that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient. At its core, this talk memorializes a true American hero from New York State who in life was admired by people across the country but in death has been nearly forgotten. In He Charged Alone, Frank Gaffney’s legacy returns to the fore, where it belongs.

Read the entire article on the Niagara Gazette website.
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