|Source:||A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland [.mobi (Kindle), .epub (iPad, etc.)]|
|Author:||War and Navy Departments, Washington, D.C.|
On 7 December, 1941, ‘a date which will live in infamy’ according to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor without warning or a prior declaration of war. With Germany and Italy’s declaration of war on America on 11 December, the United States quickly found itself at war on two fronts—in Europe and the Pacific. At the Arcadia Conference, held in Washington between 22 December, 1941 and 14 January, 1942, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt reaffirmed their commitment to give the defeat of Germany priority over that of Japan.
Less than fortnight later, on 26 January, 1942, the first American troops started to arrive in Northern Ireland. The first man officially ashore was Private First Class Milburn H. Henke of Company B, 133rd Infantry. Henke, as his name suggests, was an American of German heritage, from Hutchinson, Minnesota. He was welcomed by the Duke of Abercorn (the Governor of Northern Ireland), John M. Andrews (the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland) and Sir Archibald Sinclair (the Secretary of State for Air). The GIs came ashore at Dufferin Dock in Belfast to the strains of ‘The Stars and Stripes’, played by the band of the Royal Ulster Rifles. The event was faithfully recorded for posterity by William Conor in his role as an official war artist.
Northern Ireland was to act as the bridgehead and springboard for the great Allied assault on occupied Europe on D-Day, 6 June, 1944, and here American troops trained, paraded and relaxed as they prepared for the liberation of the continent. By the end of 1943 there were in excess of 100,000 US troops in Ulster.
As the United States edged closer to war there had been an unofficial American presence in Northern Ireland for almost a year. Preparations were well under way for the establishment of a US naval base at Londonderry, which was already playing a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic, so, when the troops started arriving officially in early 1942, Ulster was ready to receive them.
As early as June 1941 work started on American bases, with 362 American technicians arriving in Londonderry. By October, that number had risen to nearly 1,000. The headquarters there was Talbot House and, in addition to the harbour installations, there were camps at Holcomb, Lisahally, Beech Hill, Springtown, Clooney Park and Rossdowney. There was also a hospital at Creevagh and a magazine at Fincairn Glen.
American bases became dotted all over the country. With 120,000 GIs to service, almost every Ulster town had its quota of billeted American forces. This figure represented approximately 10% of the total population of Northern Ireland. In Fermanagh, where the 8th Infantry were stationed, US service personnel comprised almost 20% of the sparsely populated county. All branches of the American services were represented—the Air Force at Greencastle and Langford Lodge, the Navy in Londonderry and Belfast, and the Army’s presence was ubiquitous.
A wide variety of properties were requisitioned for American headquarters. These ranged from castles to terraced houses and included: Knock-na-moe Castle, Omagh (34th DIV HQ); Wilmount House, Dunmurry (NI Base Service HQ); Nos. 18–20 Mount Charles, Belfast (US Army Transportation Corp HQ); Brownlow House, Lurgan (V Army Corp); Bright Cottage, Portstewart (168th Anti-Tank Co HQ); and White Hall Chambers, Coleraine (168th Infantry HQ). Empty hotels and guest houses provided excellent quarters for the large number of troops requiring accommodation. K Company of the 168th Infantry, for example, took over Coolsyth House, Portrush. Other camps included: V Army Corps in Brownlow House, Lurgan; HQ 2nd Infantry Division in Armagh; 2nd Infantry Division in Narrow Water Castle, Armagh and Newry; 5th Infantry Division in Newcastle; Airborne Troops in Castledawson and Cookstown; 8th Infantry Division and HQ in Omagh; and 121st Division in Fintona.
The presence of the US forces attracted a number of significant visitors to Ulster. The Supreme Allied Commander and future President of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower, inspected troops in a number of places in the run up to D-Day. He was joined by a number of his senior subordinates, such as Omar Bradley and George Patton, who were both to play a crucial role in the liberation of Europe. Both Patton and Bradley visited US troops training in the Mournes. Patton also inspected the US 2nd Division in front of the County Museum on the Mall, Armagh. Chief of Staff General George C Marshall, the highest-ranking US Army officer of all, visited Ulster during the war too, as did Averall Harriman and Harry Hopkins, two of President Roosevelt’s closest advisors.
In November, 1942, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President, paid a visit to the US forces stationed in Londonderry. The First Lady, along with the mother of General Bernard Montgomery, attended the Civic Armistice Service in the city on 11 November.
Various American stars came to Northern Ireland to entertain the troops. Bob Hope and Glenn Miller both played at Langford Lodge in County Antrim; Irving Berlin arrived with his all-soldier musical, ‘This Is the Army’, on 11 January, 1944, for a ten-day run at the Grand Opera House in Belfast; Al Jolson and Merle Oberon performed in Londonderry and James Cagney appeared at the Hippodrome in Belfast in the spring of 1944.
The GIs introduced various novelties to Ulster, including bubble gum, candy, baseball and swing music. Baseball was played in Windsor Park football ground in aid of the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association, although the sport proved much less popular with the locals than swing music.
Although American servicemen in Northern Ireland were greatly discouraged from contracting wartime marriages, some did wed local girls (who became known as ‘GI brides’), despite no marriage allowance being payable below the ranks of Staff, Technical or Master Sergeants, and wives not being permitted to accompany husbands returning to America on troop transports. Wives would also have to secure entry to the US and reside there for three years before being allowed to become US citizens. Furthermore, in the event of a soldier’s death or disablement, his wife would not be entitled to any pension or gratuity. In face of all these disincentives, there were nonetheless some 1,800 such marriages.
This publication is a reproduction of the 1943 edition of a booklet issued by the US Army and Navy departments to give guidance to American military personnel stationed in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. It provides background history to the country, its manners and customs, and advice on how United States servicemen should conduct themselves among the local population. From a historical perspective, it is a quaint and nostalgic little period piece evocative of the time.
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This book comprises a selection of articles from the (British) Army Bureau of Current Affairs' WAR and CURRENT AFFAIRS pamphlets, all relating to America and, more particularly, to the relationship between the British and Americans during the Second World War.
"Our enemies are trying to make trouble between the British and the Americans during the war; they are certain to try it after they have been defeated, in the hope of escaping once more from the consequences of their crimes against humanity. It is our business to understand and work with the United States now and in peace-time; that means for us all at least to like and understand the Americans we meet."