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John Francis O'Ryan
MG John F. O'Ryan.jpg
John F. O'Ryan as commander of the 27th Division in World War I
Born (1874-08-21)August 21, 1874
Manhattan, New York City, New York
Died January 29, 1961(1961-01-29) (aged 86)
South Salem, New York
Place of burial
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1898-1920
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held
  • New York National Guard
  • 27th Division
Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Other work
  • Member, New York State Transit Commission
  • Executive, Pan American Airways and Colonial Airlines
  • New York City Police Commissioner
  • New York State Civil Defense Director

John Francis O'Ryan (August 21, 1874 - January 29, 1961) was a Manhattan, New York City attorney, politician, government official and military officer. He served as commander of the 27th Division during World War I. He later served as a member of the New York State Transit Commission and as New York City Police Commissioner. During World War II he was New York State Civil Defense Director.

Early career

27th Infantry Division SSI
27th Infantry Division shoulder sleeve insignia. The stars depict the Orion constellation, a pun on O'Ryan's surname. The "O" on the outside edge stands for "O'Ryan," and the letters inside form the abbreviation "NYD" for "New York Division."

O'Ryan was born in New York City on August 21, 1874. He attended the public schools of New York City, City College of New York and the law program of New York University, and became an attorney in 1898. He enlisted in the New York National Guard while still a college student and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in 1900.

In 1912 O'Ryan was appointed Major General and commander of the New York National Guard. He graduated from the Army War College in 1914 and served in the 1916 Villa Expedition.

In 1914 O'Ryan received his law degree from New York University School of Law as a member of the class of 1896.

World War I

John F ORyan
O'Ryan during World War I

At the start of World War I the New York National Guard was organized as the 27th Division with O'Ryan as commander. The 27th saw action in Belgium and France, and O'Ryan, the Army's youngest division commander when he arrived in Europe, was the only National Guard general to remain in command throughout the war. After returning to the United States O'Ryan was a founder of the American Legion.

Post-World War I

From 1922 to 1926 he was a member of the New York State Transit Commission. In 1926 he became prominent in the development of commercial aviation as a partner in Pan American Airways, later becoming President of Colonial Airlines.

In 1933 O'Ryan led parades protesting the treatment of Jews in Germany and advocating for the U.S. government to intervene on their behalf.

In 1934 he was a Republican candidate for Mayor of New York, but withdrew in favor of Fiorello LaGuardia. When LaGuardia won, O'Ryan accepted appointment as his Police Commissioner. O'Ryan served for most of 1935 before resigning over disagreement with LaGuardia's non-intervention stance on labor-management disputes.

World War II

In 1940 O'Ryan led a study group in Japan and occupied China, with the knowledge of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The committee, which included economists Warren S. Hunsberger and Simon N. Whitney, were invited by the Japanese Economic Federation and the New York investment firm of Eastman Dillon and Company to research ways to improve trade relations between Japan and the U.S. so that Japan might become a U.S. ally. While in Japan, O'Ryan learned that the Japanese government planned to sign the Tripartite Pact with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. O'Ryan and his group submitted their report to the Japanese Economic Federation and returned home.

During the war he served as New York State's Civil Defense Director and was also an unofficial advisor to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. In 1945 he was elected National Commander of the Military Order of Foreign Wars and, on December 7, 1945, visited President Truman at the White House on to pay his respects.


O'Ryan's awards included the Distinguished Service Medal and the Victory Medal. He received the following foreign decorations: British Order of St. Michael and St. George (Knight Commander); British Royal Victorian Order (Commander); French Legion of Honor (Commander); French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Belgian Order of Leopold (Commander); Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm; and Italian Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.

In 1919 O'Ryan received an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) from New York University.

Death and burial

General O'Ryan died in South Salem, New York on January 29, 1961. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 2, Site E-17 LH.


In 1952 a New York National Guard training area in Wethersfield, New York was dedicated in his honor, Camp O'Ryan. It had been used as a training site beginning in 1949, and remained in use until 1974. It was returned to use in 1989, and was inactivated in 1994.

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