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EISENHOWER IN ULSTER

General Dwight D Eisenhower, who directed the D-Day landings, visited Belfast in the summer

General Dwight D Eisenhower, who directed the D-Day landings, visited Belfast in the summerof 1945, and again in the summer of 1962.

Eight years after his first visit the man revered as a war hero swept into the White House for thefirst of two terms as president (1953-61).

Today's occupant of the Oval Office will be hoping for a welcome similar to that which greetedEisenhower in 1945.

The general, known popularly as Ike, visited Belfast on August 24 that year to be granted thefreedom of the city and conferred with an honorary degree by Queen's University.

Thousands of cheering admirers lined the route as his calvacade made its way from Whiteabbey,where he spent the night, to Queen's for his first engagement of the day.

A large crowd and a military guard of honour greeted him at the university.

Inside the Great Hall, an audience of specially invited guests, including Northern Ireland PrimeMinister Sir Basil Brooke, gave the general a rousing standing ovation when he was conferredwith an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

The Belfast Telegraph reported: "The great audience rose to its feet and cheered for aconsiderable time.

A broad smile spread over the general's face as he quite obviously was impressed by the warmthof his welcome."

Thousands more greeted Eisenhower at the City Hall, with hundreds of American flags beingwaved and confetti and ticker-tape thrown from windows as his calvacade travelled alongDonegall Square.

A military band played The Star Spangled Banner as he entered the building, where cheeringmembers of Belfast Corporation formed a reception party.

The council chamber and public galleries were packed as the Lord Mayor, Sir CrawfordMcCullagh, led the procession in honour of the general's key role in the defeat of Hitler.

Town clerk John Dunlop then read the council's resolution admitting Eisenhower as the 45thHonorary Burgess of the City.

The resolution stated that the honour was being conferred "in recognition of his brilliantleadership as Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe."

Sir Crawford then told the general: "We are honoured that your name has been added to the Rollof Freemen, there to remain for all time with the names of other illustrious men and women.

"Few Ulstermen, and no-one from another land, have established a stronger hold upon theadmiration of the people of Northern Ireland than you, and the victories achieved by the Alliedarmies in Europe are in themselves eloquent testimony of your gifts as a great commander.

"No general ever shouldered a greater responsibility, but due to the range and vision of yourplans, and their brilliant execution, victory in Europe was secured much sooner than the mostoptimistic could have expected.

"Under your leadership the greatest alliance of fighting forces in history was built up, and thiscomradeship in arms could not have been achieved without your great personality."

General Eisenhower replied: "By inviting me to return here to become an Honorary Burgess youhave given one further proof of the ties of affection which bind the American Army to the peopleof Northern Ireland.

"I trust that you look upon it, as I do, as a token of our common purpose to work together fora better world."

He added: "The sojourn of our forces in Northern Ireland will remain a cherished memory in thehearts of many Americans.

"You received us into your community and into your homes with a generosity which was evidentand sincere. You put us at our ease. You gave us your friendship. For all this we are deeplyappreciative.

"This global war has taken the American Army to many foreign fields, but it was here in NorthernIreland that we first began to concentrate for our share in the attack upon the citadel ofcontinental Europe.

"From here we started the long, hard march to Allied victory which led our forces to NorthAfrica, Sicily, the Italian mainland, Normandy, and finally the dash across Germany ."

Afterwards Eisenhower had lunch at the City Hall before attending a garden party at Stormont,and being welcomed as guest of honour at the Grand Opera House.

He came back to the province for a four- hour visit in August 1962, shortly after leaving theWhite House, and showed his wife, Mamie, where he signed the a book at the City Hall on theday he was granted the freedom of the city.

Belfast will be hoping for a similar return visit from his successor.

General Eisenhower, born in 1890, died in 1969.




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