Aloysius Paul McGonigal

Army of the United States
08 November 1921 - 17 February 1968
Washington, District of Columbia
Panel 39E Line 075

United States Army MACV ADVISORS

Silver Star

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Aloysius P. McGonigal

The database page for Aloysius Paul McGonigal

24 May 2002

Father (Major) McGonigal was an Army chaplain serving with US Marines during the TET offensive in February, 1968. Though told that he was to remain in the rear, he knew his place was with those in harm's way. He entered the city when no one else seemed to be able to get across the Perfume River.

He was an extraordinary man, who achieved a Masters degree in Physics although he had been told it was beyond his capabilities. He was working toward a Doctorate degree at the time of his death. He was dedicated to "his troops" and regularly ended his letters home with the simple request: "Pray for the troops".

Even thirty four years later, he is sorely missed.

From his nephew,
Joseph Barry

25 Mar 2003

The following article is taken from The Philadelphia Daily News, special supplement entitled 'SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY,' October 26, 1987. The special supplement was issued in conjunction with the dedication of the Philadelphia Viet Nam Memorial.

The 46-year-old Roman Catholic priest, the sixth of 12 children, grew up in Tacony and was one of seven men from the neighborhood to die in Viet Nam. Six of the seven, including McGonigal, attended St. Leo's Elementary School at Keystone and Unruh streets. McGonigal enjoyed studying foreign languages and loved music and sports, especially tennis, baseball and basketball. He graduated from Northeast Catholic High School and received degrees from Woodstock (MD) College and Fordham University in New York City. He was attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC, when he was called into the Army Chaplain Corps. The major was assigned to units in Korea in 1962-63, and shipped out to Viet Nam in December 1966 where he was first assigned to the 1st Infantry Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division, and later to Headquarters, U.S. Army Viet Nam.

He had a comfortable desk job at the USARV compound in Saigon, but seldom was there because of his devotion to the men in the field. McGonigal was killed on February 17, 1968, during the Battle of Hue in Thua Thien Province. He administered the last rites to dying soldiers and comforted the wounded through three days of intense fighting near Hue Citadel before being fatally wounded. McGonigal was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Survivors included several brothers and sisters.

Even though he is listed from Washington D.C., Father McGonigal is claimed as one of the fallen sons of Philadelphia, and his name appears on 'the wall' of the Philadelphia Viet Nam Memorial.

From a native Philadelphian and Marine,
Jim McIlhenney

08 May 2003

As I have heard from my aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents, he was a very good person and he gave up his life to God. He helped sick and dying soldiers who were on the battlefield. A lot of people appreciated him very much. I wish he could have lived long enough so I could have met him.

From a niece.
E-mail address is not available.

26 Jul 2004

Fr. McGonigal was for six months or so in 1963 my roommate in the BOQ of C Company, First Cavalry Division, on the Imjin River in Korea.

I've just finished writing a 100-page introduction to a new edition of "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ", a book by Clemens Brentano based on the 19th-century visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a German Catholic nun (Augustinian order) likely to be beatified at any time. Most of Mel Gibson's recent movie, The Passion of the Christ, is based on this book. I'm including Fr. McGonigal among those to whom I am dedicating the new edition.

From a friend,
Noel L. Griese

4 Dec 2004

Father McGonigal, to me he was Uncle Al. It is hard to put into words what this man meant to me. His concern for his dead brother's family was evident in his every word and action. I remember his visit to Tennessee before he went to Vietnam. From playing football in the backyard, still wearing his collar, to when I served mass for the first time with him. They say that he was only 5'6", to me he was a giant then and will always be one. I try to explain him to my children, I am not sure if I am doing him justice. His passing left a hole in his family that is as wide today as when he died and will never to filled. I love you, Uncle Al.

From his nephew,
Francis J. McGonigal, Jr
208 Tulip Tree Trail, Estill Springs, Tn 37330

07 May 2005

He Wouldn't Stay Behind
George McArthur, Hue, Vietnam (AP)

    The slight priest with owlish eyeglasses really had no business being there.
    But the infantrymen he loved were being killed before the battlements of Hue's Imperial Citadel, and the Rev. Aloysius P. McGonigal, 46, wanted to go.
    The chaplain died, a bullet wound in his forehead, with a unit that was not his own in a battle he could have missed. He virtually had fought his way to the battlefield.
    Most Soldiers Die almost anonymously, known only to their close comrades, to the sergeants and to the company officers. Father McGonigal was known all over the I Corps area and elsewhere in South Vietnam. He roamed with a fierce devotion to "the men in the field."
    His 5-feet-6 almost disappeared inside a flak jacket.
    An Army major, his last assignment was to the United States Advisory Compound in Hue. He traveled all over the northern provinces and had extended his year-long tour in Vietnam.
    He took his extension leave in his ancestral homeland of Ireland, which was virtually written on his smiling face.
    They were expecting him to leave his post at Hue and take a desk job in Da Nang. His replacement actually was on the way up the day Father McGonigal headed for the north side of the Perfume River, where the battle for the Citadel was raging.
    "There Was No Catholic priest with the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marines, which was assaulting the walls and the father wanted to go," said Dr. Stephen Bernie, an Army doctor from Dayton OH who had traveled frequently with the priest.
    Father McGonigal angrily had been walking the advisory compound for three days before he joined the battle, ordered by the compound commander to stay put.
    The priest finally wangled his way to join a unit with which he never before had served.
    "He wanted to be in the field; that was all he wanted," said a sergeant who knew him well. "Saying Mass at headquarters wasn't his idea of his job."

Seattle Times, Seattle WA, Tuesday, 20 Feb 1968

Courtesy of
Darilee Bednar

Faces from the Wall

02 Apr 2007

I met Father McGonigle when I was a Freshman at Georgetown (Class of 1964). I was doing very badly in Freshman math (required course - I was an English Major) and Fr. McGonigle was kind enough to tutor me in preparation for the final. I survived with a "C" - for me equivalent to an A+ - and was able to continue and complete my four years at GU. The next time I ran into Fr. McGonigle was in III Corps just prior to Tet in 1968. (I was then attached to MACV, rank of 1st Lt.) The occasion was a field Mass at which he officiated and conducted a General Confession as part of the service. We spoke over coffee afterward and it was very reassuring to me to know he was there. It was to be my last contact with him as Tet broke out a few days thereafter and we went our separate ways. When I heard of his death I was profoundly saddened and I remember him each year on the anniversary of that campaign - and thank him for enabling me to get over the Freshman math hurdle without which help I'd still be trying to pass that course!

From a student and friend,
Michael P. Shea

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 24 May 2002
Last updated 08/10/2009