GARDEN CITY --
There are very few veterans and heroes still roaming this earth from the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. Though this battle was surely the defining moment in many of these young Marines’ lives, all of their stories are layered with hardship, valor, violence and even love. This is the story of Major Robert H. Haggerty, a husband, father, Marine, veteran of Guadalcanal, and Silver Star recipient.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Haggerty’s journey in the Marine Corps began as he went through the Marine Corps Officer Training Program in 1940. By 1941 he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. World War II was well underway and it was a trying time to join the armed forces. Later that year the Japanese launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States in to the war. Being amphibious in nature, the Marines took responsibility for taking control of Japanese islands in an effort commonly known as the Island Hopping Campaigns.
This campaign sought to target key islands in the Pacific cutting off supply chains, capturing airfields and bringing B-29 bombers within range of the Japanese mainland. The then Captain Haggerty was the commander of Company B, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, 1st Marine Division, serving under the famed Lewis “Chesty” Puller, the Corps’s most decorated Marine, and in the same Battalion as John Basilone, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient. As commander of company B Haggerty’s leadership was paramount to taking Guadalcanal.
His heroic actions in repelling the all-out Japanese offensive to recapture Henderson Field on October 24 and 25, 1942 earned him a Silver Star. His citation reads that “In the grim darkness of the rain-soaked jungle he and his heroic men battled fiercely against the hordes of Japanese and their strategically hidden weapons, finally defeating and virtually annihilating an enemy regiment.”
"He always downplayed his heroism and didn't speak much about it,” said Robert Haggerty Jr, Haggerty’s son. “He simply lamented the loss go so many good men and good friends.”
Despite the intense fighting and gory scenes he experienced in the South Pacific, Haggerty managed to find a diamond in the rough. He met his future wife, Navy Lieutenant Mary O Neill, while she was serving as a U.S. Navy Nurse.
Haggerty Jr. said it was a classic World War II love story and that his father would not marry his mother until he returned from the invasion of Japan. The Japanese surrendered before the invasion took place and Haggerty and O Neill were married on the island of Guam less than two weeks later.
In 1946 Haggerty was discharged from the Marine Corps as a Major. He would go on to be prominent New York attorney, graduating from Harvard Law School. He also served as a village justice and the Mayor of the Village of Plandome Manor. Maj. Robert Haggerty served his country honorably and continued to contribute to his communities after his time in the Corps.
Maj. Haggerty reported to his new post on Heaven’s scenes October 12th, 2019 at the age of 100. His time on Earth is marked with selflessness, sacrifice, love and triumph. He truly embodies the principles of honor, courage and commitment. Semper Fidelis!