President Obama's pilot touches down in Derry
Published 15/05/2012 | 00:00
President Obama’s only female helicopter pilot, a captain in the US Marine Corps, has touched down in Londonderry on the 70th anniversary of the Marines arriving in Northern Ireland during World War II.
Marine One pilot Natalie Moore had been holidaying in Ireland and decided to visit Derry’s new Base One Europe museum over the weekend.
The Belfast Telegraph gave extensive coverage to the first anniversary celebrations of the arrival of the Marines in its publication on May 12, 1943.
And 69 years later, on Saturday, Ms Moore arrived at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel, where large numbers of US Marines had been based.
Ms Moore is the only woman in the Obama administration’s 70-strong HMX-1 Presidential Helicopter Squadron and has personally flown him during her three years in the post.
Marine One is the call sign used when the President is on board.
Ms Moore said: “When I was planning my trip I heard about how Derry had hosted the US Marines during WWII and I knew that I had to visit, especially on such a significant anniversary.”
The Virginia-based pilot was greeted by retired US Navy Lieutenant Commander Ken Williams and hotel proprietor Patsy O’Kane.
Mr Williams and Ms O’Kane are both members of a local historical association which is opening the new museum that tells the story of Derry’s US naval operating base and the US Marines who guarded it from 1942 until 1944.
Mr Williams now lives in Derry and is a keen supporter of the Base One Europe Museum idea.
He said: “I had the good fortune to be stationed at the US Naval communications station at Clooney in Derry for two years in the early 1970s. The role the US military played in Northern Ireland, and especially Derry during WWII, was a vital contribution to victory in Europe.
“The establishment of a museum to preserve and commemorate this period in Derry's history is long overdue.”
The US Naval Base in Derry, initially designated Base One Europe, was officially commissioned in February 1942, with sites across and around the city.