I went over to Manhattan the other day to check out a couple of World War One monuments and do a little this and that. One is the monument to Fr. Duffy, who was the chaplain of the New York 69th Infantry, “The Fighting 69th”. The 69th was a regiment made up almost exclusively of first and second generation immigrants, mostly Irish Catholics from the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The monument to Fr. Duffy may be the most accidentally photographed World War One monument in the United States, because it stands smack in the center of Duffy Square. Where the heck is Duffy Square you ask? It’s the actual official name of the north end of Times Square. This means, that amid the tens of thousands of photos taken daily in Times Square there is an often overlooked statue of a Catholic Priest, and veteran of two wars, dressed for life in the trenches of France.
Then I walked up through Central Park to 65th Street to see the monument to the 107th (US) Infantry, also known as the 7th New York National Guard Regiment. This unit was officially known as a National Guard unit decades before the term came to be used as it is today. This monument doesn’t memorialize any specific individuals, it’s intended to remember all the members of unit who died in France.
No one who was in Times Square took any interest in the Fr. Duffy Monument while I was there. But As I set up with the tripod to photograph the 107th Monument people who seemed like they were going to pass by stopped to look at the monument, and to photograph it with their phones. Like most of the monuments in the park it is a very impressive piece, and has always been intended to be. Yet one has to wonder, would they have stopped to look at the monument if someone with professional photography gear wasn’t standing there? World War One is nearly a century ago, and few remember its exact causes, or even remember that even though there are Germans involved there are no Nazis. Sometime I’d love to have the time to observe people at a monument like this, and their reactions with and without a photographer present.