by Pro Iunva
In this article we remember the death of the second member of the DF who died while on service with the UN, he was the first Senior Irish Officer in the service of the UN and was a pathfinder for the generations who followed.
Col Justin MacCarthy (46) was born in 1914 in Middlesex in the UK to Irish parents and he was educated at Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire. He joined the DF in 1932 as a Cadet with 6 Cadet Class and he was commissioned in 1934. He was an instructor in the Cdt Sch from 1935 to 1941. He commanded 22 Inf Bn from 1942 to 1947 and he spent the next two years as an instructor in the C & S Sch in the Mil Col. He completed the UK Staff Course at Camberly. From 1949 he was a staff officer in COS Br at AHQ and in 1958 he was OIC Plans and Ops Sec.
On 28 Jun 1958 he deployed on the DF’s first peace support mission to the UN Observation Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL), after five weeks he was promoted to the rank of Col and appointed as Deputy COS to Gen Odd Bull (Norway). When UNOGIL concluded in Dec 1958 he was transferred to the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) where he was appointed as Chairman of the Egypt Israel Mixed Armistice Commission in Gaza. When the UN Operation in the Congo (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo [ONUC]) was established in Jul 1960, he was appointed as DCOS and Chief Operations Officer ONUC. He was the first DF officer to hold senior appointments in three consecutive UN missions.
Col MacCarthy worked up to fifteen hours per day in the setting up of HQ ONUC. At around 2300 hours on 27 Oct he left to go to his accommodation at the Lovanium University, his car crashed and turned over, pinning him underneath. A Court of Inquiry concluded that Col MacCarthy died at around 2330 hours on 27 Oct 1960 and the most likely cause of the crash was that he had fallen asleep at the wheel and lost control of the car. He was the first DF officer fatality and to date, he is the most senior ranking DF casualty on overseas service.
On 31 Oct, a solemn requiem high mass was celebrated at the Church of St Marie in Leopoldville, the Force Commander, Maj Gen Carl Carlsson von Horn, Lt Col Mortimer Buckley, OC 32 Inf Bn, Lt Col Feardorcha Mac An Leagha, the Irish Liaison Officer at HQ ONUC and senior military and civilian staff from HQ ONUC attended the funeral. The 32 Inf Bn pipe band led the funeral procession to the railway station and from there it travelled by train to the Port of Matadi, it was escorted by Lt Col Feardorcha Mac An Leagha and Lt Patrick McNally on the journey by sea to Dublin. The journey involved stops at ports at Tenerife, Antwerp and Cork.
The coffin left Matadi on 7 Nov on the MV Charlesville and arrived at Antwerp on the night of 20/21 Nov. The coffin was placed in a mortuary chapel at the port and on 24 Nov it was placed on the SS City of Waterford, it arrived at Dublin Port on 30 Nov where it was received by Maj Gen Sean MacEoin COS, Col P J Hally AG, Col Sean Collins-Powell QMG and Col R J Callanan OC EComd. The cortege was escorted to St Bricins Military Hospital by a motorcycle escort of honour from 2 Mot Sqn.
Col MacCarty’s wife, Eileen and their eight year old son, Justin were living in Beirut at the time and they arrived in Dublin by air on 6 Dec. On 13 Dec, six weeks after his death, Col MacCarthy was taken to the Church of the Sacred Heart Arbour Hill. The Requiem Mass was celebrated at 1000 hours on 14 Nov, by the Acting HCF Fr Patrick Duffy assisted by Fr P J Boylan CF, Fr T J Fagan CF and Fr Phelim McCabe CF. He was buried at the Congo Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery beside his comrades who had been killed in the Niemba Ambush.
Attendance at the funeral included President Eamon de Valera, Taoiseach Seán Lemass, Minister for Defence Kevin Boland, members of government and the diplomatic corps, Maj Gen Sean MacEoin COS, Col PJ Hally AG, Col Sean Collins-Powell QMG, Col R Callanan OC E Comd, Col William Donagh OC CTC, Brig R N Thicknesse UK Defence Attache, Col O’Brien US Military Attache, Col Suileman Ibrahim Mahomed (Sudan), Maj Robert A Adebayo (Nigeria), Capt Hedlund Swedish Naval Attache in London, Personnel from 2 Bde lined the route, a contingent of more than one hundred veterans from 22 Inf Bn who served under Col MacCarthy during the Emergency marched in the funeral procession. The firing party at the graveside was from 2 Mot Sqn.
The chief mourners were his widow Eileen, their son Justin, his sister Mrs E. Burke and Maj Burke.
Col MacCarthy was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with Distinction.
The citation reads: “For distinguished service with the United Nations Force in the Republic of Congo, as Chief Operations Officer/Deputy Chief of Staff from August to October 1960, Colonel MacCarthy was instrumental in getting the first Amorphous Force Staff working and his boundless devotion to duty brought it through many a crisis. He gave of his utmost beyond the call of duty. The exhausting burden of his duties contributed to his untimely death.”
Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam uasal