The Fighting 69th, one of the original Irish “gangs of New York” will be leading the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade down New York’s Fifth Avenue.
“The Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment was first stood up in 1849 as an all Irish-American militia in the Lower east Side of New York City. Since 1851, the Fighting 69th and its veterans have led the parade without exception. That tradition will continue this year in spite of the Regiment having 1,000 of its Soldiers currently deployed to the Horn of Africa.
In the inaugural year that the parade was lead by the Fighting 69th, tensions were high in the city and violence against immigrants was common. The St. Patrick’s Day parade being a predominantly Irish-Catholic event, there were concerns about American-born New Yorkers attacking the parade. The Irish-American 69th Infantry regiment was asked to lead the parade to deter and fight off attackers that year and for over 170 years, have not let go of that responsibility.
— Official 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry (@fighting_69th) March 15, 2023
This year, 150 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry Regiment as well as veterans from the Battalion will lead the parade.
Lt. Col. Shawn Tabankin, commander of the Fighting 69th said that this parade hold a high level of significance for his Soldiers after spending the past half a year providing security across the Horn of Africa for US facilities. He said:
“I believe it’s even more important to adhere to our traditions and lineage while deployed than when we’re back stateside. It keeps us rooted to our legacy, sends a message about overcoming adversity by accomplishing something that others might think couldn’t or shouldn’t be accomplished and, quite simply, it’s good for the morale and esprit de corps of our deployed Soldiers in arduous conditions.”
This year, rather than wear their dress uniform in the parade, troops will wear their camo uniforms out of respect for their battle buddies still deployed to Africa.
Tabankin said, “We’ve worked hard this year to accomplish our mission and take care of our Soldiers. The 69th is as ready and lethal of an infantry battalion as it’s ever been.”
The 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry Regiment earned the “Fighting 69th” nickname from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee who was said to have referred to “that fighting 69th regiment” to describe 1-69 after the 1863 Battle of Fredericksburg.
The Fighting 69th have served with honor and distinction in the Civil War, The Great War, the Second World War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Global War on terror.