The boxes remained stacked up and stored away for years. When Daniel Mulcair moved from one place to another, the boxes moved, too, staying taped shut just as they’d always been.
“My mother had been sending me boxes since 1983,” he explained. “Some boxes had something in them, some really didn’t have much of anything. I just started storing them.”
But nearly three years ago, he began going through them and found a treasure trove of history dating back to World War II.
“There are medals, uniforms, 8 millimeter movies. I have paraphernalia from France, Germany and every major battle in World War II,” he said.
There are medals, uniforms, 8 millimeter movies. I have paraphernalia from France, Germany and every major battle in World War II.
It all belonged to his father. PFC John F. Mulcair served with the 95th Squadron of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. Although records show he enlisted in the Army on April 7, 1943, this was part of the U.S. Army Air Force at the time. Those same records show he served in communications. Daniel Mulcair remembers his father being a radio operator.
In addition to its many operations during World War II, the four squadrons of the 440th played a critical role on D-Day, transporting paratroopers from the 101st Airborne from England and dropping them into Normandy, France. They would follow up the next day transporting much needed supplies to the troops on the ground.
Later in life, the senior Mulcair would share very little about what happened during the war with his family. So, when Daniel Mulcair began going through the boxes and taking time to look through the many black and white photos, he was surprised by some of what he discovered.
“This is in England,” he said, pointing to a series of photos in one of his father’s albums. “This is before D-Day. They’re all lined up on the airfield. Those were all the gliders that these planes were going to tow.”
His father also had a number of 8 millimeter movies, along with several projectors. Daniel Mulcair describes one of the films he watched showing actual D-Day footage shot from a plane.
“The drop on D-Day, coming across the English Channel with gliders behind, shot from the window,” he said.
After D-Day, his father’s squadron would be involved in other major operations throughout France, Italy, England and elsewhere. They dropped paratroopers and transported gasoline, food, ammunition and other supplies to the frontlines. They ran numerous resupply missions.
Daniel Mulcair says he can only remember one story his father shared about his time in Europe. And perhaps it indicates why he never wanted to say much more.
The only story I got out of him was they were pinned down outside of Bastogne. No food, no water, trench foot, and the Germans blowing off the trees and the splinters going through the GI’s and killing them. And when the sniper died, the sergeant handed my father the sniper rifle and said, ‘You’re a sniper.’ That’s it. That’s all he’d tell me.
“The only story I got out of him,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion, “was they were pinned down outside of Bastogne. No food, no water, trench foot, and the Germans blowing off the trees and the splinters going through the GI’s and killing them. And when the sniper died, the sergeant handed my father the sniper rifle and said, ‘You’re a sniper.’ That’s it. That’s all he’d tell me.”
Throughout his time in service, Mulcair continued to take photographs. Photo albums show aerial shots of the German landscape with one featuring a building marked with white letters that spell out P-O-W. Another photo shows V-E Day. There’s even a photo that shows Winston Churchill in England sporting a top hat and overcoat.
And beyond the large collection of photos, the boxes also included a number of things his father brought back from Europe.
“That’s a wall clock from D-Day from his squadron,” noted Daniel. “This is an English gas lantern for cooking, two canteens from World War II, French binoculars, and German artillery binoculars. Those are his bomber boots and these are the cameras that took those pictures you see here.”
He also has his father’s coveted Eisenhower jacket. The waist length wool jacket was developed for the troops in the later stages of the war.
For Daniel, going through the many personal items 30 years after his father’s death has been difficult, but revealing.
“It’s my father,” he said as he fought back tears. “I’m just honored to have them.”
The boxes tell so much about a part of his father’s life that neither he, nor his older brother, John Mulcair Jr, knew about, until now.
“He didn’t talk to me about it much,” John Jr. recalled. “I gathered little bits and pieces when I was at the VFW from time to time, but he was very close-mouthed about it. He saw a lot of things he didn’t want to see.”
He was proud to have served. Extremely proud to have served. Almost every Memorial Day he marched in the Memorial Day parade. I remember that.
John Mulcair Jr. on his father
Both brothers spent a lot of time with their father at the VFW while growing up in Westbrook, Conn. They understood family commitment to military service runs deep. Their grandfather fought in World War I, and both of them would later join the Air Force. John Mulcair Jr. said that while his father might not have said much, they always knew he was honored to have served his country.
“He was proud to have served. Extremely proud to have served. Almost every Memorial Day he marched in the Memorial Day parade. I remember that,” he said.
Daniel Mulcair says reflecting on his father’s service in World War II is a reminder of the many who sacrificed so much for the freedom we have today. While his father returned home, so many others, including many in the photos his father took on D-Day and elsewhere never made it back.
And to them we owe an everlasting debt of gratitude.
“It’s about pride, honor, and sacrifice. A war is a hell of a thing. They’re all heroes.”