On 15th January 1942, the vessels of Convoy AT-10 departed from New York, U.S.A. The destination was Northern Ireland, not that the thousands of American troops and nurses knew that yet.
Both the United States Navy and the Royal Navy played a role in the convoy of troops. The U.S. Navy, in a confident manner, referred to the event as a “routine operation”. As well as thousands of infantry, artillery, and signals troops, there were some women on board, serving as nurses. Many of the women dressed in slacks for comfort and warmth on the cold Atlantic Crossing.
While the U.S. Navy referred to the crossing as routine, it was not without the threat posed by U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. All aboard remained alert, yet calm, as they went about their daily drills. Soldiers, nurses, and seamen were well disciplined and responded well to daily practises. Among them, the return to quarters or battle stations, or the taking of places next to lifeboats in the event of a call of “abandon ship”.
In warm, comfortable clothing and life-belts for protection from the harsh winds and sea spray, all aboard were ready for the next phase of the war. Among them were soldiers caught in the draft, volunteers, and some with long service history. Among the newer recruits, many had never been to sea before and seasickness was common on the crossing.
Troops boarded embarkation transports on a cold morning after an almost sleepless night. Many had come straight to the eastern seaboard of the United States from training camps across the country. Unloading from trains within sight of the piers, they soon made their way on board the vessels bound for Europe. There was a little joking, some music, and a handful of cheers as tugs led the transports towards the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
Those above decks soon caught sight of the vessels of the U.S. Navy that would escort them across the ocean. That view was a comfort to all on board. War Correspondent Rice Yahner referred to it as:
A reassuring display of sea power.
Rice Yahner, War Correspondent quoted in Belfast News-Letter on 27th January 1942
With an average age of 26 years old, the troops represented all walks of life. There were a few veterans of The Great War of 1914-1918 but most were under the age of 28 years old. Some Non-Commissioned Officers wore serving markings indicating service of 3, 6, or 9 years. In civilian life, they had been dance band leaders, electric welders, chauffeurs, waiters, chefs, clerks, butchers, farmers, truck drivers, and professional dancers.
All on board gelled well on the crossing. Although fun was had, there was a no-nonsense attitude about the job at hand. Among the American troops were people of many nationalities and backgrounds. Included in the ranks were Sioux, German, Polish, Russian, Irish, and Chinese.
One young American soldier of German descent spoke to a news reporter in Belfast. When asked how his family background affected his outlook on the war, he replied:
It makes no difference to me. I guess I’m a hundred percent American.
German-American Soldier, Belfast News-Letter on 27th January 1942
On 26th January 1942, elements of the United States Army began to arrive at Belfast Docks in Northern Ireland marking their entry into the war in Europe.
On 26th January 1942, Sir Archibald Sinclair gave a short address at the quayside in Belfast welcoming the first contingent of the American Expeditionary Force.
As the first contingent of the American Expeditionary Force arrived in Ulster, a host of dignitaries gave a warm welcome to Major-General Hartle and troops.
In January 1942, elements of the United States Army crossed the Atlantic Ocean arriving in Northern Ireland and beginning a "friendly invasion" of Ulster.
As the first elements of the U.S. Army arrived in cities, towns, and villages throughout Northern Ireland, locals remarked on their good looks and uniforms.
Before the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force in Ulster, soldiers of the British Army helped set up camps for their new Ally in the war in Europe.
Following the arrival of the first elements of the U.S. Army in Belfast in January 1942, Prime Minister Mr. John Miller Andrews issued an official welcome.