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Who was Edward Harold Monahan Jr.?

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Edward Harold Monahan Jr. was born Aug. 11, 1895 in Sioux City. He was baptized April 6, 1896 by Father Timothy H. Treacy, at St. Mary, Help of Christians Parish, predecessor to the Cathedral of the Epiphany, which was renamed when the Diocese of Sioux City was established in 1902.

Edward was the first-born son of the 13 children of Edward and Anna (Higney) Monahan. Edward Monahan grew up in Portage City, Wis., moving to Sioux City in 1885. Anna Higney grew up in Shullsberg, Wis., where she was educated by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, according to a 1956 Sioux City Journal article. Her family moved to Sioux City in 1894.

In that same article, Mrs. Monahan spoke of trials and joys in her life.

“Whenever I came up against something that seemed impossible, divine providence was also there,” she said. “Like when Edward’s body came home from France.”


Edward enlisted on April 7, 1917, a member of Company L, Second Regiment Iowa National Guard. He went overseas with the 168th infantry of the 42nd Rainbow Division. He was wounded when his leg was shattered by a hand grenade during a battle against the Germans in the Lorraine sector of France on March 20, 1918. The leg was later amputated.

At age 22, Monahan died March 31, 1918, from those injuries in a French field hospital called Baccarat.
Citations to recall the heroism of Private Monahan, the first Sioux Cityan to give his life in World War I, bear the signatures of the Commander in Chief of the American Expeditionary forces, John J. Pershing, President Woodrow Wilson and dignitaries of France.

Monahan was given the highest honor awarded by the French government, the Croix de Guerre with bronze palm added, to this “courageous and energetic soldier.”

On April 18, 1919, four months after the armistice was signed ending the fighting in World War I, nearly 1,000 people gathered at the Sioux City Auditorium to signify their desire to form a post of the American Legion, which had been born in France some months earlier.

The general custom of selecting the name for the post was the first person who gave his life on the battlefields of France; thus, the name of Edward H. Monahan Jr. was immortalized by his comrades.

Funeral Mass

Monahan’s funeral and burial in Calvary Cemetery were on June 12, 1921. The Sioux City Journal had four days worth of coverage on the funeral.

Monahan’s body lay in state the day before the funeral, guarded by men in uniform, before being escorted to the Cathedral of the Epiphany by several hundred American Legion members and a color guard.

The funeral procession trekked one mile from the family home to the church.

The regular 10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral was moved to its chapel to accommodate the crowd expected for the 11 a.m. funeral Mass.

The Sioux City Journal reported thousands sought entrance to the church, which at that time could accommodate 1,400 people; many were turned away.

Father Thomas J. McCarty, rector of Cathedral of the Epiphany, was the principal celebrant of the Mass.
Father Raphael Breheny, president of Trinity College, Sioux City, and Father Edward J. Smith, pastor of St. John Parish, Onawa, who was a former U.S. Army chaplain and later national chaplain of the American Legion, concelebrated.

‘No greater love’

Father McCarty delivered the sermon in which he cited the Scripture passage: “Greater love than this hath no man, that he give his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“I take the word ‘friend’ in its largest sense, brethren, family, home, country, humanity,” he said. “The man who gives his life for his country gives it in the highest sense for his friend.”

Father McCarty explained the church “abhors the thought of bloodshed,” but also acknowledges the right to defend one’s homeland.

“When the defense of a country’s right can be upheld in no other way, then the church blesses the defender, follows him with her ministrations in his dangers and pays her solemn homage to him in death,” he said.
Father McCarty closed with the same Scripture passage.

“Our country … is the great family; it is that bit of world to which God has attached our body and our soul. Do for your country what you would do for your father and mother,” he said. “This has Edward Monahan done. And ‘greater love than this hath no man.’”

From the church, many walked the three miles to Calvary Cemetery. The Journal reported two soldiers “succumbed to the heat.” Father Smith conducted the graveside services.

Bishop Edmond Heelan sent his regrets at not being able to attend the services, due to a previous appointment.

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