NIWM Copper Frieze – Section E
Section E of the McKendry frieze focuses on the departure of US forces from Northern Ireland. Three GIs can be seen descending towards the shore. McKendry states ‘that’s the headland, they’re going down into Port Moon to get on those ships to go off to war’. Again, James has used the landscape of Co. Antrim as inspiration for the frieze, as the GIs are descending towards the crescent shaped bay of Port Moon. When interviewed, McKendry recalled a large GI camp and runways on the Causeway Headlands.
The area was a hive of activity during the Second World War as American Paratroopers of the US 82nd Airborne’s 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment were stationed in Portrush and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Portstewart. In total, the 82nd Airborne had approximately 15,000 men billeted in Cookstown, Aghadowey, Portglenone, Ballymena, Garvagh, Rasharkin, Kilrea, Bellaghy, Ballyscullion, Castledawson, Portrush and Portstewart. In February and March 1944, they departed with little warning.
Two soldiers can be seen in the foreground of the frieze. McKendry states ‘They’re watching it all going on, they’re thinking how lucky am I that I’m not going down onto that ship’. Such sentiments would have undoubtedly gone through these soldiers’ minds, for they did not know what trials would await them on the continent and whether they would return at all. Over 400,000 American military personnel lost their life in the Second World War, many of whom passed through Northern Ireland.