A Pocket Guide – The 1942 US Army Booklet on Northern Ireland

This is the first in a series of articles compiling the US Army guide to Northern Ireland during World War Two.  Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the US agreed to take over the defence of the region to free up British troops to fight in North Africa and the Middle East.  It also gave the US the time to complete invaluable military training before entering the war in Europe.  This was the manual given to the first officers to arrive in Belfast on 23 January, 1942.

This guide was prepared by the Special Service Division, War and Navy Departments, Washington DC

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By Jack Hamilton, 7 Feb, 2012

There are Two Irelands

"John Dunlop, the printer of our Declaration of Independence, was born in that little town of Strabane"

YOU are going away from home on an important mission – to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground. For the time being you will be the guest of Northern Ireland. The purpose of this guide is to get you acquainted with the Irish, their country, and their ways.

You will start out with very good prospects. The Irish like Americans. Virtually every Irishman has friends or relatives in the United States; he is predisposed in your favour and anxious to hear what you have to say. This, however, puts you under a definite obligation: you will be expected to live up to the Irishman’s high opinion of Americans. That is a real responsibility.

The people of Northern Ireland are not only friends, but Allies. They are fighting by the side of England, the United States, the rest of the United Nations. Thousands of Irishmen are hefting steel in the hot spots of the war, doing their share and more. It is common decency to treat your friends well; it is military necessity to treat your allies well.

Every American thinks that he knows something about Ireland. But which Ireland? There are two Irelands. The shamrock, St. Patrick’s Day, the wearing of green – these belong to South Ireland, now called Eire (Air-a). Eire is neutral in the war. Northern Ireland treasures its governmental union with England above all things. These are historic reasons for these attitudes.

"An old-fashioned fireplace in a County Antrim farmhouse"

Ireland has sent many gifted and valuable citizens to the United States. Irishmen from North and South, Protestant and Catholic, began to emigrate to America in early colonial days. Nine generals in the American Revolution were of Irish birth. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Ireland and four were of Irish descent. Fourteen Presidents of the United States have carried the blood of Ireland in their veins.

There are so many of you soldiers who are of Irish descent. Some of you, Protestants or Catholics, may know at first hand or second hand about the religious and political differences between Northern and Southern Ireland. Perhaps they seem foolish to you. We Americans don’t worry about which side our grandfathers fought in the Civil War, because it doesn’t matter now. But these things still matter in Ireland and it is only sensible to be forewarned.

There are two excellent rules for conduct for the American abroad. They are good rules anywhere but they are particularly important in Ireland:

(1) Don’t argue religion
(2) Don’t argue politics

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