Throughout 2017 the Northern Ireland War Memorial (NIWM) is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.
On 26th January 1942, as part of Operation MAGNET, tenders from the convoy transports Strathaird and Chateau Thierry arrived in Pollock Dock and Dufferin Dock. American troops disembarked and were welcomed ashore to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner played by the band of the Royal Ulster Rifles.
Official greetings were made to Major General R P Hartle, acting Commander of the US Army NI Force. At Dufferin Dock Private Milburn Henke was the first to depart onto the dock, an event immortalised in the drawing by William Conor and photographed by the Belfast Telegraph. Henke became a household name and later donated items from his time here to the NIWM collection. The museum continues to be in contact with the Henke family in Minnesota.
In all, 300,000 US troops passed through Northern Ireland between 1942 and 1944 ahead of campaigns in North Africa and Europe. As a result of their presence in Northern Ireland, over 1,800 local women became GI brides.
1. Thursday 26th January 2017
When: 10.00 am – 11.00 am
Where: Belfast Harbour Office, Corporation Square, Belfast, BT1 3AL
- A private reception for a small gathering of invited guests.
- A programme of speakers which will reflect on the significance of the arrival of US forces in Northern Ireland in 1942.
- Dr Susan Kelly, who has been engaged by the NIWM to record local memories of the GI’s in Ulster 1942-44, will launch her oral history project.
- The Ulster Orchestra Brass Quintet, Ulster Brass, will entertain guests and recreate the music that played 75 years ago as the troops disembarked at Dufferin Dock.
- Refreshments will be served.
- The event should last approximately one hour, finishing at 11.00 am. Ulster Brass will perform on the front steps of the Harbour Office as guests depart (weather permitting).
- Belfast Lord Mayor, Brian Kingston.
- Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE
- Acting US Consul General, Bernadette Roberts.
- The Chairman of the Northern Ireland War Memorial, Mr Ian Wilson.
- Trustees of the Northern Ireland War Memorial.
2. Saturday 28th January 2017 Family Event
When: 10.30 am – 4.00 pm
Where: Northern Ireland War Memorial, 21 Talbot Street, Belfast, BT1 2LD
- American themed family day at the Museum
- Speak to living history specialists who will be dressed in US uniforms
- Sample American candy and Coca Cola
- View photographs and displays relating to the American presence
- Listen to 1940s music and try craft activities for all ages
- Booking is not required for this event and admission is free
Where: Belfast Harbour Office. Corporation Square, Belfast, BT1 3AL
3. U.S. 75 Oral History Project 2017
When: Ongoing throughout 2017
What: The NIWM is expanding its oral history collection. We use extracts from our oral history collection in publications, exhibitions, radio and television programmes and for our education programme. If you or someone you know would be happy to share their story with a history researcher and have it recorded for the museum’s collection please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you remember their arrival?
Did you live near a base or attend a dance at one of their clubs?
Did you know someone who became a GI bride?
4. Museum Exhibition 2017
When: Ongoing throughout 2017
What: NIWM will continue to remember the arrival of the American Troops and the lasting friendships that they made while here with temporary displays in the museum gallery.
Visitors to the museum will be able to view:
- The GI Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland
- American military insignia and uniform
- Everyday kit used by the troops while stationed in NI