Article - Marty Johnston - 2005
At the end of April
2005, just as Northern Ireland was reflecting on Victory
in Europe on the 60th anniversary of VE Day, US soldiers
of the allied forces were landing once again on these
In May 1942, the First Armored Division
of the US army arrived in County Down and made Castlewellan
Castle its headquarters, under the command of Major
General Orlando Ward. They had sailed from New York
on the Queen Mary on 10th May, and arrived in County
Down, via Greenock and Belfast, a short time later.
Over the weeks that followed their tanks,
jeeps and half-tracks were scattered all over County
Down as they
prepared for combat. They were also introducing the
people of Northern Ireland to chewing gum, American
coffee and Glenn Miller's Big Band sound.
|RSM Thompson at Ballykinlar Camp presents the
Old Ironsides with a painting of the Mourne Mountains,
which they guarded 63 years ago.
A small group of those soldiers made the
journey again in 2005, returning to County Down to
the places where they had been billeted 63 years before.
Places such as Downpatrick, Killyleagh, Castlewellan,
Newcastle, Kilkeel and Dundrum.. In addition, they were
welcomed at Belfast's City Hall and spent a day in
Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.
They were also invited
to spend a day at Ballykinlar Army Camp, another
postings. The photograph at the top of this page
shows four of them examining an old rusted tank-track
partly buried in long grass, which they suspected might
have been one they left behind all those years ago.
(right) you can see the RSM (WO1) Thompson (Royal
Irish) presenting the 'Old Ironsides' with a specially
|The 'Old Ironsides' on patrol once again,
seen here in a WWII Half-Track in Ballynahinch,
Co. Down during a special VE 60th celebration.
Their week of visits ended with a
spectacular VE celebration in Ballynahinch, where the
'Old Ironsides' once again had the chance to roar
the streets in WWII American military vehicles.
gathered at the rugby club to watch demonstrations
by parachute and motorcycle display teams. Many people
came out of the crowd just to shake hands with the
This was, as you'd expect, an emotional
visit for the veterans. Most of them hadn't been back
to Northern Ireland since they left in 1942 and memories
were exceptionally sharp. Every one of the visiting
GIs talked enthusiastically about the beauty of the
Northern Ireland countryside and the wonderful welcome
they'd had both in 1942 and now again in 2005. "Way
back then people were kinda curious about us guys
and I guess we were curious about them too."
Our online reporter Bob Crookes spent
the week with the veterans and recorded some truly
wonderful memories on tape. Click on any of the GI's
faces below to find out more and hear them talk about
time here in Northern Ireland in '42.
The 81st Reconaissance Battalion left
County Down in October 1942, arriving in Crewe on the
22nd. On 9 December, they set sail from Liverpool, on
the Empress of Canada, arriving in Oran, Algeria on
The Division played a major part in the
campaign in Tunisia, which resulted in the surrender
of the Germans and Italians on 9 May 1943. The Division
then joined the Italian campaign, the 81st landing in
Naples on the US Liberty on 24 October, and landing
on the Anzio beachhead on 28 January 1944.
A determined German offensive kept the
troops pinned down at Anzio, with the help of ‘Anzio
Annie’, a German railway gun, which pounded the
beachhead from inland. After the breakout and capture
of Rome on 4 June, and a brief rest, the Division headed
north. After wintering in the North Appenines, the
81st was involved in the final breakout into the Po
Valley, which resulted in the execution of Mussolini
on 28 April 1945 and the German surrender in Italy
on 8 May, almost exactly three years after the Division’s
arrival in County Down.
GI Brides leave Kilkeel in 1945
Buildings in N. Ireland
Americans in Caledon Co. Tyrone
more WWII stories here on YP&M
Old Ironsides homepage: http://www.1ad.army.mil
1st Armored Division "Old Ironsides": http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/1ad.htm
Charles Slayton - July '08
My father , Web Slayton, was in the 1st Armored Division
from August 1940 through the German surrender. He passed
away in 2006. He talked of being stationed in Ballykinlar
and then being involved in Operation Torch in North
If anyone remembers him or has pictures, please contact
Danny Adams - July '08
I'm the nephew of Sam Riley, who was in the 81st Recon
and served as the president of the 1st Armored Association
in the 1950's. If anyone knew him or has any stories
they could tell me, I'd be happy to hear them!
Dustin C. Day - July '08
Very Nice article,
Hello to anyone who reads this, I am the grandson of 2nd Lt. Clark Day of the 81st Rcn. I am very interested and looking for any info about the unit. Any info, stories or pictues anyone could give me would be very much appreciated. Anyone who can help or has inquiries please email me- dcday0 at aol dot com
Michael Popowski III - July '08
My name is Michael Popowski. My father, same name, was
XO of the 81st Rcn in North africa and CO in Italy and
at Anzio. Before that, he was at Ft Knox and in Northern
Ireland. Other than family, he had 3 loves in his life:
Norwich University, Northfield, VT, and the 81st Rcn.
In May 2008, I toured the beachhead and followed the
path of the 81st from Campoleone to Rome. I visited
sites where my dad fought, and I was privy to a monograpgh
of Jewett Dix covering the 81st at Anzio. I read my
dad's article in the 1945 Cavalry Journal entitled,
"The 81st Rcn Squadron Fights its Way to Rome."
I was given Gen Harmon's operations map, showing the
81st way out in front of the 1st Armored on the drive
to Rome. It's clear that the 81st Rcn was first into
Rome in the early hours of 6/4/44, Cpt Roy Manley commanding.
The trip changed my life. My dad's been dead since 1969.
He's buried at Arlington Cemetary. His dear Comrad in
Arms, Jewett Dix, was at the funeral. His friend C!
harlie Hoy, who commanded the Battalion in N Africa
was already dead by then I believe. As a former 1st
Infantry Division officer who served in Vietnam, my
hats off to the guys from the 81st Rcn! What valor!
What guts! What humility too.
John R. Rusnak - June '08
My father,John Rusnak was in the military police with
the 1st Arm'd Div. 75th Hq., 34th Hq.&47Hq. in
Ft. Knox, N. Africa, Italy,& Baltimore,Md..I have
a picture of his unit stationed in Ireland and the
names & pictures of some of his comrades. Anyone
interested in these men may contact me.
Emily Loheide - Apr '07
For those who are interested in obtaining information
about loved ones who served, might I reccommend contacting
your local Veteran's Affairs office, or military base
personnel office. Both should either be able to help
you directly, or give you the names/numbers of offices
Carl Guy - Apr '07
My father , Leslie Louis Guy Sr. From Greensburg,
Louisiana,was in the !st. Armored From Ireland to France
but I lost all of his medals, pictures and records along
with my house with Hurrican Katrina. If anyone knows
how I might get any information such as what Compny
he was in or any thing else Please contact me
Robert Dornan - Nov '06
I would very much like to hear about American Servicemen
stationed in Comber Co. Down during the 2nd world war
My family moved into the nissan huts vacated by these
servicemen when I was about 4 years old I guess about
1944/1945 They were eventually taken over by the local
council for families and we lived there for about 5
years Not much room for a family of 6 but I have no
bad memories of that time No doubt much more crowded
for the service.
Jack Nilsen - July '06
Reading these accounts has been fascinating to me since
my Uncle served in the 1st armored division. Unfortunately
he passed away a number of years ago. I recall him talking
briefly about Italy and Anzio, specifically. As a young
boy I hung on his every word but sadly they were few.
I was wondering if someone would have any information
about him. His name was Rudolph Hansen, was a tank commander,
And the last picture I've seen he wore master sargent
stripes. If anyone has any knowledge of him please email
me at email@example.com.
Robert Stacy Justice - June '06
I am trying to find out if my grandfather, Ernest Paul
Williams was in your unit. I know he drove a half track
for a while and definitely served in the North Africa
theater. He was in Anzio, and Sicily. Any help would
be greatly appreciated.
Mike Saylor - June '06
I'm not sure if anyone will see this page again but
my grandfather, James Berlin Sumner, was a member of
the 81st Recon battalion and I would love to hear if
anyone might remember him.
Wilfred Cromie - May '06
We would like to here more stories like this one, about
us troops in Northern Ireland. Keep them coming, Wilf.
Madeline Fusco - October '05
I am trying to trace a Kathleen and Lily Fox or any
of their relatives of Grosvenor Road Belfast who knew
my mother Rachael (Ruby) Gray who was friendly with
an american GI name of Bob Briggs, he was in the military
police I believe although not sure. If there is anyone
else who knew my mother I should be grateful if they
could contact me, she originally lived in Athol Street
just of the Grosvenor Road in Belfast.
Mari Nicholson - August '05
Many US soldiers were also posted in Newry, although
it's not mentioned above. I was about 10 at the time,
and I can remember the excitement of seeing these very
tall, handsome, well-dressed young men walking about
town. Offering sweets and gum they always attracted
a huge crowd. I remember one whose southern accent entranced
me. I think it was this that made me a Tennessee Williams
fan when I grew up, and even today I can hear the voice
of my friend Bobbie Jo when I read Streetcar Named Desire.
My first visit to the USA was not to Florida or New
York, but to New Orleans and Savannah - his Deep South.
They brought glamour and excitement and opened a window
to a new world and a new future.