Richard William O’Neill MOH

b. 28/08/1898 New York. d. 09/04/1982 Hawthorne, New York.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 30/07/1918 on the Ourcg River, France.

Richard W O’Neill MOH

O’Neill was born in New York City on August 28, 1897, the son of John O’Neill, an Irish immigrant from Liverpool, England, and Ella O’Neill. He was educated in New York City, and began to box professionally; he won 12 fights during his brief career. At age 18 he joined the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment. He served in Texas during the Pancho Villa Expedition, and shortly after returning home, the regiment was mobilized for World War I and re-designated as the 165th Infantry Regiment.

By now a sergeant, O’Neill served with his regiment in France. During a combat action along the Ourcq River on July 30, 1918, O’Neill led a detachment of soldiers in a reconnaissance to determine the location of German artillery positions. O’Neill was wounded repeatedly, and the other soldiers of his detachment were killed, but O’Neill succeeded in returning to friendly lines and providing details on the location of the German artillery. As a result, U.S. troops were able to destroy the positions and successfully press the attack. O’Neill was hospitalized, but later violated doctor’s orders and returned to his unit, serving until he was wounded again. At the end of the war in November 1918, O’Neill was still hospitalized in the United States.

Following the end of the war, O’Neill continued to convalesce. Doctors recommended amputation of his legs, which O’Neill refused, and he was eventually able to walk unaided. According to family members, for the rest of his life O’Neill would occasionally remove from his legs pieces of shrapnel that worked their way to the surface of his skin. 

In 1921, O’Neill was awarded the Medal of Honor to recognize his heroism in the Ourcq River action. Because he was still recuperating at Fordham Hospital, the Army permitted Ferdinand Foch to make the presentation in a ceremony at Fordham University. In addition to the Medal of Honor, O’Neill later received medals from several foreign countries in recognition of his heroic actions. Also in 1921, O’Neill was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the New York National Guard; he held this rank until resigning from the military in 1923.

After his recovery, O’Neill attended extension courses in construction at the City College of New York, and worked as a concrete pourer during the construction of the George Washington Bridge. He later worked in sales, and then purchased a liquor store near the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, which he operated until retiring in the early 1960s. O’Neill also became active in New York’s Republican Party, including speeches on behalf of candidates, and speeches at fundraising dinners and other events. 

During World War II, O’Neill was employed by the Office of Strategic Services. The head of the OSS, William J. Donovan, had been O’Neill’s World War I commander, and he hired O’Neill as part of an initiative to investigate potential German collaborators in New England and New York. 



In advance of an assaulting line, he attacked a detachment of about 25 of the enemy. In the ensuing hand-to-hand encounter he sustained pistol wounds, but heroically continued in the advance, during which he received additional wounds; but, with great physical effort, he remained in active command of his detachment. Being again wounded, he was forced by weakness and loss of blood to be evacuated, but insisted upon being taken first to the battalion commander in order to transmit to him valuable information relative to enemy positions and the disposition of our men.



SECTION 22, LOT 488, GRAVE 19.