Fallen U.S. servicemen commemorated
Published 14/09/2013 | 14:06
A special monument has been unveiled commemorating US servicemen buried in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.
One hundred and forty eight American air force, army and navy members were interred near Belfast before their bodies were repatriated or transferred to the permanent war cemetery in Cambridge at the end of the conflict.
A Mourne granite obelisk was dedicated today containing the names and ranks of the dead in a restored cemetery on a quiet hillside overlooking the city.
The American Military Vehicle Club's provided machines prompting memories from the 1940s while members of the Royal British Legion and an army pipes and drums unit joined a solemn parade and ceremony.
Acting American consul general Gabrielle Moseley said: "The recent restoration of the cemetery underpins our shared history and special ties of kinship."
The ten and a half acre site was used as a burial ground between 1943 and 1948. From 1942 there were seldom less than 120,000 US servicemen in Northern Ireland at any one time. The first to die were three members of the navy following an accident at the American naval base in Londonderry.
The first burial took place in the separate City Cemetery in March 1942. The plot reached capacity and the site at Castlereagh opened.
At the time a white gravel driveway lined with cherry trees led to a flagstaff where the stars and stripes was hoisted daily. The graves were laid in rows of 25 and each had a simple white marker, either a cross or Star of David. With peace the Castlereagh cemetery was deactivated, leaving only a red brick gateway.
Air Vice-Marshal David Niven laid a wreath on behalf of the three British services at the site of the former Lisnabreeny American military cemetery in Castlereagh.
"They came from the United States to fight alongside us, in our hour of need, when the rest of Europe had been over-run by the Nazi war machine," he said.
"The sacrifice of our American allies, commemorated in granite and standing proud in the rolling Castlereagh hills, shall never be forgotten."
The Legion participated in the weath laying ceremony and a male voice choir performed a special US military medley.