Title: Navy Gunners Mate, Spanish American War Medal of Honor; ordinance man
Birthdate: January 21, 1879
Death Date: September 8, 1946
Plot Location: Naval 4, Row 3, Grave 23, Yeadon, PA. GPS: 39.93691* N, 075.24134* W

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This service member began his military life as an Army private, but eight days after his honorable discharge, he thought he’d try the Navy and see the world. Joseph was born January 21, 1879 in County Cork, Ireland and arrived in New York in May, 1897. His Army stint began in August, 1898 but the Spanish American War ended that same month, so after he was discharged in January, 1899, he joined the Navy where he would eventually rise to the rank of Gunner’s Mate and see the other side of the world.

Later that year violence erupted in Northern China when a movement grew to expel foreigners and foreign influence from China. An “Eight Nation Alliance” was formed and 20,000 troops converged to eventually put down the “Boxer Rebellion,” which they did by the end of 1901. 

At the dawn of the new century, Joseph was aboard the USS Newark, pictured here, the Navy’s first modern cruiser. He was a landsman, a rank given to new recruits with little or no experience at sea. Landsmen performed menial, unskilled jobs aboard ship, but it was his work while off the ship that earned him the Medal of Honor. He was cited for “extraordinary heroism in action while serving with the detachment from the U.S.S. Newark, fighting with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China, 13, 20, 21 and 22 June 1900. During this period and in the presence of the enemy, Landsman Killackey distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.” (War department General Order 55, July 19, 1901)

Joseph became a naturalized citizen in 1902 and reenlisted the following year. By the time his last tour was finished, probably in 1907, he had served on six different vessels. He settled in New York City, married Charlotte in 1911, and had three children before the decade was out.

He began drawing a pension and had a government job as well. On his 1918 draft registration card he listed his occupation as an ordinance man at the Naval Ammunition Depot. This was at Iona Island in the Hudson River north of the city. Sometime in the 1920s his wife died and by the late 1930s Joseph became a resident at the Naval Home in Philadelphia. He lived long enough to see one of his sons serve in the Army during World War II and return home safely. He died at age 67 on September 8, 1946.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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