Major General John Francis O’Ryan

Published on May 27, 2010, 11:46 pm
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A major new exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany on the NY National Guard (release attached) that includes a section on Major General John O’Ryan, who lived in Morisania, Bronx.

Major General John Francis O’Ryan, Bust

As Memorial Day approaches, an exhibition opens at the New York State Museum May 28 recounting the history of the New York National Guard and those who carried out its mission through wars and battles, natural disasters and national emergencies.

“Citizen Soldier: New York’s National Guard in the American Century” chronicles a history that is based on a tradition dating back to colonial times in a state that has always been guided by the principle that its defense lies in the hands of its citizenry. Citizen soldiers are everyday people who put their lives on hold to defend, aid and protect their communities and their country. From militiamen defending their homes on the colonial frontier, to individuals serving in conflicts around the globe, New Yorkers continue this legacy of service to the present day.

Open in Exhibition Hall through March, 2011, the exhibition features personal stories of soldiers from across New York State as well as mementos, uniforms, and artillery pieces from the State Museum, New York State Military Museum, members of New York’s National Guard, and local collectors. Additional support was received from Waste Management.

The exhibition focuses on the 20th century, which witnessed the transformation of the United States from an isolationist nation into a dominant power with the ability to shape world events. It was dubbed the American Century in 1941 by Time Magazine Publisher Henry Luce. During that time the National Guard evolved from an ill-equipped and poorly trained militia into a modern-day force capable of protecting American interests around the world. The 16,000 men and women who serve in the New York Army National Guard today fulfill a variety of critical missions both at home and abroad.

There are many personal stories of courage and heroism throughout the exhibition. One of those is that of Major General John Francis O’Ryan, whose bronze bust and other related items are exhibited. He grew up in Morrisania, Westchester County and became the commander of the New York
National Guard in 1912. He led the 27th Division (18,000 National Guardsmen) on the Mexican border and to victory in World War I.

Major General John Francis O’Ryan, (August 21, 1874–January 29, 1961)

Son of an Irish immigrant, John Francis O’Ryan grew up in Westchester County. While in college, O’Ryan enlisted as a private in the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard.

He was named commander of the New York National Guard in 1912. He led his division along the Mexican border in 1916 and throughout the war.

Following World War I, O’Ryan returned to civilian life as an attorney and held a variety of civilian and government positions. In World War II, O’Ryan again returned to the service of his state, serving as director of civil defense.

On March 25, 1919, the 27th “Empire” Division, Major General John F. O’Ryan at its head, marched along a five-mile route in New York City thronged with cheering crowds.

In May of the previous year, the division had marched the same route on its way to Europe. These brave New Yorkers had left 1,800 of their comrades on the battlefields of France and Belgium.

After the parade, the 27th Division returned to Camp Upton on Long Island, where it was mustered out of federal service in April 1919.


The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling 518-474-5877 or visiting here.




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