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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 81–100 | Cite as

‘A hundred thousand welcomes’? Unionism, nationalism, partition and the arrival of American forces in Northern Ireland in January 1942

  • Simon ToppingEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article analyses the responses of unionists and nationalists to the arrival of American forces in Northern Ireland in January 1942, and how traditional narratives, particularly those dealing with links to the United States, were reordered in the light of this development. For unionists, it was an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to the war effort and reinforce a sense of Britishness, particularly after efforts in 1940 to end partition in return for Éire’s entry into the war. In addition, it offered the possibility to forge a bilateral relationship with the United States, by being a good ally and resurrecting links between Ulster and America. Nationalists saw the arrival as America legitimising partition and were outraged that Éire’s government was not consulted (despite having no jurisdiction). Ordinary Protestants and Catholics were much more phlegmatic about the political implications of the Americans’ arrival, and after the initial burst of publicity, subsequent deployments garnered much less publicity.

Keywords

Northern Ireland Second World War unionism nationalism de Valera United States partition 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Four American destroyers arrived without fanfare in Londonderry on 21 January 1942. T. Ryle Dwyer, Behind the Green Curtain: Ireland’s Phoney Neutrality during World War II (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2009), 200.Google Scholar
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  3. 2a.
    Norman Longmate, The GI’s: The Americans in Britain, 1942-1945 (London: Hutchinson, 1975), 1. Much has been written on Éire’s neutrality during the war and on the American presence in the UK, but Northern Ireland’s role is understated in the historiography. This has begun to change in recent years with the publication of work by Olleren-shaw, Wood and Woodward.Google Scholar
  4. 2b.
    Philip Ollerenshaw’s, Northern Ireland in the Second World War: Politics, Economic Mobilisation and Society, 1939-45 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013) is an excellent and welcome addition; however, it spends very little time looking at the American presence.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Ian S. Wood’s Britain, Ireland and the Second World War (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2010) concentrates on British-Irish-Northern Irish relations during the war, thus sidelining the role of the Americans, as does and Guy Woodward’s Culture, Northern Ireland, and the Second World War (OUP, 2015). Barton’s The Blitz: Belfast in the War Years is the best account of the period. Leanne McCormick and Francis M. Carroll have written good article-length studies of the Americans in Northern Ireland, while my previous work dealt with the transposition of American racism to the province.Google Scholar
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    Simon Topping, ‘“The Dusky Doughboys”: Interaction between African American Soldiers and the Population of Northern Ireland during the Second World War’, Journal of American Studies 47, Special Issue 04 (November 2013): 1131–54. Topping, ‘Laying down the law to the Irish and the Coons: Stormont’s response to American racial segregation during the Second World War’, Historical Research 86, no. 234 (November 2013): 741-59.Google Scholar
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© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PlymouthPlymouthUK

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