Press Release

In Honor Of Brooklyn Native’s World War Ii Service, Gillibrand Secures Posthumous Medals For His Family

Aug 11, 2010

Brooklyn, NY – After a Brooklyn veteran’s family discovered toward the end of the soldier’s life that he was owed war medals for his service during World War II sixty four years ago, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) honored the family’s request to secure the medals in his memory. William Danner McGuinness, who was raised in Brooklyn, passed away in December of 2009. Gillibrand presented five medals to the McGuinness family, including his children and grandchildren, at the American Veterans Memorial Pier in Brooklyn.  

The family received the following medals in honor of their late father, William McGuinness:

  • WWII Victory Medal
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars
  • Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp
  • American Campaign Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal

Senator Gillibrand said, “Today, we honor William Danner McGuiness, a devout veteran, father, mentor and innovator. These medals pay tribute to his courageous service to our country and his commitment to the family that carries on his distinguished legacy.”

Mr. McGuinness’ son Kenneth said, “My father did not talk about his service until the near end of his life, so these medals are now incredibly valuable to our family and will be passed on for generations to come. Even after all the history I had read about WWII, his sharing of his efforts somehow resonated with all of the family in a more profound way.”

Near the end of William McGuinness’ life last year while he was recovering from major surgery, he finally shared details of WWII service with his eldest son, Kenneth, who learned for the first time that his father served in the 280th Engineers Combat Battalion and was part of the reconnaissance team in pivotal battles, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Rhineland, where he helped free 25,000 captives at Essen Slave Labor Camp. After piecing together information his father shared, Kenneth discovered that his father was eligible for service medals and reached out to Senator Gillibrand for help in obtaining them.

Original documents needed to prove the veteran’s service from 1943-1946  were destroyed in a decades-old fire. Senator Gillibrand’s office worked with the National Personnel Records Center to obtain duplicate copies of these documents and recently secured the veteran’s honors.

Raised in Brooklyn, William McGuinness had strong ties to the borough, attending Grover Cleveland High School and Brooklyn College. His father worked as a chef at a Brooklyn restaurant called Maury’s. After his WWII service, Mr. McGuinness returned to Brooklyn to finish his bachelor’s degree and married his soon-to-be wife Catherine F. Murphy, also a Brooklyn native.

Mr. McGuinness later completed his MBA at New York University.  As an insurance manager and safety engineer, he worked at the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey and helped to design a safety and insurance program used in building the third tube of the Lincoln Tunnel, which resulted for the first time in no loss of life. He went on to become the Risk Manager at Exxon and Gulf Oil and retired as the Treasurer of Gulf Oil Corp in 1985.

Predeceased by his wife Catherine, Mr. McGuinness is survived by his four children and eleven grandchildren.