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Investigation 1
Northern Ireland in the Blitz

Investigation 2
Derry's role in the battle of the Atlantic

Investigation 3
What impact did the war have on women in Northern Ireland?

Investigation 4
Irish neutrality in WW2

Investigation 5
The Holocaust and Northern Ireland

Investigation 6
American forces in Northern Ireland

US troops having a quick lunch
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US agreed to take over the defence of Northern Ireland, thus freeing British Troops to engage in campaigns in the Middle and Far East and allowing American troops time to complete military training in preparation for war.

The first officers arrived in Belfast on 23 January, 1942, followed by 3,900 troops on 26 January. By May of that year 37,000 American servicemen were billeted here. US airmen were stationed across the province – at Eglinton, Maydown and Mullachmore, County Londonderry, Toome and Maghaberry, County Antrim, Cluntoe, County Tyrone and Greencastle, County Down. Eventually there were 120,000 USA service men in Northern Ireland.

In this investigation, your task is to determine to what extent did the propaganda image of the experience of American troops match the reality on the ground in towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland. Compare the evidence of the visual sources with the written sources, including the letters and diaries of American servicemen.

Assignment1 The American Contribution
One of the major implications of war in Northern Ireland was the influx of allied military personnel who entered in increasing numbers from mid 1940 onwards. Over 100,000 British troops had gathered by April 1940, followed by two waves of American Forces between 1942-44. In Londonderry, the number of military personnel rose from 1,000 in 1939 to 40,000 in 1943 and at one point, it was calculated that up to one quarter of Fermanagh’s population was made up of servicemen.

In this assignment, your task is to build up a picture of the positive benefits of the American presence in Northern Ireland. Your sources include photographs, video interviews with local people, a letter from an American serviceman and newsreels downloadable from the Pathe archive.

Your investigation should consider the following questions.

  • What benefits are highlighted in these visual and written sources?
  • What was the impact of the American presence on daily life in towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland?
  • What social and cultural changes did the American forces bring about?
  • What problems did the Americans face on arrival in Northern Ireland?
  • Was there a culture clash?

This assignment can be presented in the form of an essay, a classroom discussion, a powerpoint presentation or film documentary.

Below is a list of newsreels available from the Pathe archive with Learning NI. Simply type in the title of each newsreel to the search engine and follow the instructions for downloading.

1. American troops in Northern Ireland 
     Pathe Clip 1316.09
2. Settling In - American troops in Northern Ireland 
     Pathe Clip 1318.03
3. US Chief of Staff reviews American troops in Northern Ireland 
     Pathe Clip 1324.24
4. Letters from Home 
     Pathe Clip 1324.05
5. Doughboys are tough boys 
     Pathe Clip 1073.20

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 Trouble on the Home Front
The presence of thousands of American servicemen in Northern Ireland had a profound effect on wartime society and life in general. On one hand, it created employment, as these troops needed to be fed, accommodated and entertained. The latter increased demand for cafes, public houses and cinemas and also greatly influenced the social culture of their hosts. On the other hand, the sheer numbers stretched already limited resources to bursting point. Observers noted that on Sundays, hundreds of men in uniform could be seen wandering the streets of Belfast with ‘nothing do and nowhere to go’. Some people became increasingly of the opinion that these troops could surely be better employed somewhere at the Front.

A certain amount of racial tension occurred with the arrival of African-American troops. Most of this was generated between black and white soldiers within the US force itself, but there were a number of incidents involving the civilian population.

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 Love in a Cold Climate
During the summer and autumn of 1943, units of the US Army Corps arrived in such vast numbers to prepare for the D-Day Landing that they had to be dispersed throughout Northern Ireland, for example in Newry and Newcastle, County Down, Armagh and Lurgan, County Armagh, Cookstown and Omagh, County Tyrone and in County Fermanagh as well. 

Wherever they went they were a novelty. Local children were treated to sweets, chewing gum and free trips to the cinema. Adults got cigarettes, nylon stockings and cosmetics. A certain amount of jealousy on the part of local men was only to be expected as these glamorous foreigners were sometimes regarded as rivals.

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