June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, meant ‘the beginning of the end’ of the Second World War and it was the biggest seaborne invasion in history. On February 8, General Patton addressed his troops at Enniskillen, as the Four-Star Commander of the Third United States Army, followed by Five-star Supreme Commander General Dwight D Eisenhower, who was to become the 34th President of the United States of America on May 18.
It is hard to imagine how everything was planned, since most of their manoeuvres remained top secret, but it seems that some war-history fans from all across the world have researched documents, reports and several records and were also able to contact some of the very few veterans who are still alive today. A quarter of Fermanagh’s population was formed by Yankee servicemen, with up to 120,000 across Northern Ireland and about 300,000 who passed through Ulster during the Second World War. A large number of servicemen from the 28th Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division were from Fermanagh. After searching through Lord Belmore’s archives, it was revealed that they all returned to Castle Coole on December 24 1943, marking one of the most historical Christmas Eve ever.
Brian Nethercott, who was only a schoolboy living in Enniskillen at the time, recalls the moment he saw them arriving at Camp Breandrum. He said it was only 7.30 in the morning and he was still sleeping, when he heard the “big trucks with stars on them”, so he got out of bed and started shouting around the house that the circus had come to town, The Impartial Reporter reports.
All the American servicemen were scattered across the 17 areas in Fermanagh and some in Tyrone as well, including: Castle Coole, Enniskillen Castle, Ely Lodge, Drumcose Estate, Belle Isle, Lisgoole Abbey, Florence Court, Derrygonnelly, Necarne, Belleek, Celtic Park, Breandrum, Colebrooke, Ashbrooke, Crom Castle, Bellevue and Killadeas.
The Impartial Reporter described General Eisenhower’s visit at Enniskillen, reading that the General inspected several American units and that nobody was allowed to assist the proceedings. “I met his car on the Tempo Road. It was guarded as if the General were Royalty,” recalled the journalist.
To mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and General Eisenhower’s visit, many events and ceremonies are being set up in Fermanagh. Readers who think they can help by contributing with memories, pictures or any stories and family recollections, should write to 86A Glenville Park, Whiteabbey, Newtownabbey BT37 0TF or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.