The address from Sir Archibald Sinclair (Secretary of State for Air)

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.

On 26th January 1942, the first elements of the United States Army arrived in Northern Ireland. At Belfast Docks, a welcome party of dignitaries and military officers awaited. Among them was Sir Archibald Sinclair (Secretary of State for Air) who gave the following speech.

It is my privilege, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to bid you welcome to Britain. From the prairies and teeming cities of the North West you have come many thousands of miles across land and sea to these islands – not to sojourn among strangers but to find yourselves among friends, who are grateful for your presence, and comrades in the British fighting services who know the mettle of the American soldiers, and will be proud to share with you a place f honour in the battle.

Here, perhaps, you will join with us in withstanding the assaults of our common enemy on this island fortress. From here, assuredly, you will sally forth with us to carry the war into his territory and to free the oppressed peoples of Europe.

Your safe arrival here marks a new stage in the World War. It is not an isolated manoeuvre of war, but part of the general disposition of our resources which is being made under the supreme responsibility of your President and our Prime Minister. It is a gloomy portent for Mr. Hitler, nor will its significance be lost on General Tojo.

The Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and the British territories in the Far East are being ravished, Australia, whose people have given so much, and whose soldiers, sailors, and airmen have fought so bravely, stands in peril. All this is in the minds of the responsible leaders who are planning our joint strategy, and your welcome arrival here today reveals a part of one great plan to smash the Dictator Powers, wherever they may be found.

Many of you come from great cities endowed with all the material things of a robust civilisation to experience the rigours of camp life. You may find that your new life is unwontedly hard, with fewer compensations than you have been used to, but you will remember that you are now in a combat zone. We will strive to repay you by the warmth of our welcome, but your chief reward will be the knowledge that you are doing your duty in the latest phase – let us strive to make it the final phase – of that struggle which Burke described as the eternal conflict between law and arbitrary power.

It needs no more than a single glance to confirm me in my belief in the martial quality of American troops. In physique, in smartness, and in turnout, and in excellence of equipment you are an impressive example of the American military might. Such are the men who, under the heroic leadership of General MacArthur in the Philippines are punishing an enemy greatly more numerous than themselves.

Fighting shoulder to shoulder with the British Army and with the other valiant armies of the United Nations, you will assuredly destroy the vile tyranny of the Axis Powers and vindicate the common cause of Justice and Freedom.

Welcome, and good luck to you.

Sir Archibald Sinclair (Secretary of State for Air), Belfast Docks on 26th January 1942

Home Away From Home by Mary Pat Kelly

Mary Pat Kelly is an Irish-American writer and filmmaker. In the 1990s, she researched the American Military's time in Northern Ireland for her book and accompanying documentary 'Home Away From Home: The Yanks In Ireland'.

Northern Ireland, the United States, and the Second World War

Dr. Simon Topping is a lecturer at the University of Plymouth. He has undertaken extensive research into the social, and political impact of the time spent in Ulster by GIs for his latest book 'Northern Ireland, the United States, and the Second World War'.

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