WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES NOVEMBER 7, 2019 31
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
Woodhaven priest helped comfort
dying soldiers during World War II
PRESENTED BY THE WOODHAVEN CULTURAL AND
He was a tough Irish kid from Elderts Lane — one
of 12 children born to a tough New York City fi reman
and his wife who emigrated from County
Cavan in Ireland.
He was an altar boy at the Catholic Church of Saint
Sylvester in Brooklyn, around the corner from his
house. His name was Father Lawrence Edward Lynch
and he was a hero.
And on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, American Legion
Post 118 (89-02 91st St.) will honor this hero with a plaque
highlighting his life and service. Residents are encourage
to arrive around 10:30 a.m. and the ceremony will
begin around 11.
When he was assigned to the 69th Infantry Regiment,
he stepped into some mighty big shoes worn by the
famous Father Duff y, who was immortalized on fi lm
by Pat O’Brien in “The Fighting 69th” starring James
According to those who knew him well and had the
chance to work alongside him, he fi lled those shoes
Brigadier General Julius Klein was his commanding
offi cer in the Pacifi c during World War II and recalled
Father Lynch’s zest for justice when he stormed into his
offi ce fi ghting for a Jewish soldier who he felt had been
unfairly passed over for promotion.
“It never mattered to him whether a soul was white or
black, Jew or Christian, or unbeliever,” General Klein
said of his friend. “To him, each human being was
simply a child of God.”
They were at each other’s side on a rescue ship when
rushing to the SS Elihu Thompson, a Liberty ship that
had struck a mine on Sept. 25, 1944. Eleven young men
were killed and 22 were missing. They were never
found. While Klein was directing the rescue, Father
Lynch tended to the mortally wounded, off ering comfort
and holding their hands so the young men did not
have to die alone.
“Ego te absolve,” the “absolution of sin,” he whispered
quietly in the ears of young men who would never see
their friends or families again.
One of the young dying sailors was Jewish and asked
for a rabbi. None were available, so Father Lynch held
his hand and whispered “Sh’mai, Israel, Adonai, Eloheno
Adonai echad.” The young soldier died just as
Father Lynch fi nished the prayer. Klein was overcome
with emotion and never forgot the incident, oft en referring
to the priest as his favorite Irish rabbi.
Regardless of who you were or what you believed, Father
Lynch would be at your side when you needed him
most. He was a priest fi rst but a soldier second, and like
so many young men of that era he was unafraid of the
hazards of war, receiving fi ve citations for bravery.
And it was this bravery that led father Lynch and so
many other young soldiers to the island of Okinawa,
a strategic piece in the impending land invasion of
The battle on Okinawa raged for weeks, and Father
Lynch repeatedly sought out the battalions and regiments
that were expected to see the heaviest action. It
was grueling and dangerous, but Father Lynch kept
pace with the action, comforting the wounded and giving
last rites to hundreds and hundreds of the 20,000
American soldiers that would eventually lose their lives
in that battle by the time it ended.
On April 25, 1945, the Japanese were shelling the
battalion that Father Lynch was traveling with and a
soldier nearby screamed as he was hit. The tough Irish
priest from Elderts Lane ran to the young soldier’s side
and began off ering the last rites when a second shell
struck, killing both of them instantly.
Father Lawrence Edward Lynch was 38 years old.
At the end of June, aft er victory had been secured,
over 4,000 servicemen attended a mass at his graveside
in Okinawa. Back home, a steady stream of servicemen
visited his parents to pay their respects long aft er the
war had ended.
A local youth football league was started and named
in his honor, taking part of his name along with honoring
the other veterans of war: Lynvets.
And a piece of land near the border of Woodhaven,
Ozone Park and Brooklyn was set aside as a memorial.
A triangle at Atlantic Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard
was dedicated in his honor following a large parade on
Oct. 8, 1949.
But over time, the sign disappeared and people forgot
about Father Lawrence Edward Lynch. On March 9 of
2019, the triangle was rededicated in his name. And on
this Veterans Day, American Legion Post 118 will unveil
a plaque, giving this local hero the recognition he truly
* * *
If you have any remembrances or old photographs of
“Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like
to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer,
c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361,
or send an email to email@example.com.
Any print photographs mailed to us will be carefully
returned to you upon request.
Father Lawrence Edward Lynch