From Con McGrath’s Role of the Irish in WWII Series


In the months after Victory-in-Europe Day, an Irish-American soldier made his way to Co. Waterford, the land of his ancestors. Fortunately he was interviewed by a journalist of the ‘The Munster Express’ and relayed to the correspondent, identified only as “P.J.B.” – numerous stories about his recent experiences in the war.
These memories of the Normandy Invasion, and subsequent battles, including the Battle of the Bulge, and the taking of the Ludendorff Bridge, appeared in print, on August 17, 1945; part of the newspaper’s “After the War was Over” series.

Recollections of “D” Day.
An American Soldier’s Story.
Loves Ireland, and played
Golf in Waterford.
Young and vigorous, spruce and alert, full of life and energy, and looking upcommonly smart in his well-tailored American dress uniform of excellent material and pleasing colour, were the impressions I received of Private James Barry, of the American Army, when I Interviewed him on Saturday last. Cheery in disposition, buoyant and brimming over, with joie de vivre, Private Barry appeared to me to be typical of that gallant host of America’s sons (and daughters, too) who crossed the Atlantic to help Britain in her hour of need.
When I first met him, I greeted him in the regulation Yankee phraseology: “Howdy”. He replied in kind. We were at once on an easy footing, and he proved a delightful raconteur.

As I was talking to Pte. Barry, the words of Judy Canova’s song kept repeating themselves in my mind: “This aint no hay, It’s the U.S.A.”
Pte. Barry was born at Springfield, Massachusetts, 22 years ago. His first experience of military life was with the 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, U.S.A. He was trained at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and came overseas with his draft in January, 1944 landing on English soil at Liverpool on February 1 of that year. He was constantly engaged in anti-aircraft practice until a few days before D-Day.

“We hit France about June 4,” said Mr. Barry, “and on the 6th we got going.”
“There was a great armada there.” I remarked, “before you landed.”
“You’re telling me,” said Pte. Barry. “Everywhere you looked there were ships. You could not count them.”
Proceeding, Pte. Barry said: “We landed at Omaha beach about 10 a.m. on June 6. The infantry had already gone ahead to neutralise two or three enemy gun-posts which were worrying us. They made short work of these. Some other gunposts farther inland were also demolished quickly. These latter included the famous German 88 m.m gun, which rained shells on us for a day and a half and wiped out many of our boys. It was one of our 37 m.m. guns that put finis to the eighty-eighter,” said Pte. Barry with visible pride. “It reminded me,” he went on, “of the story of David and Goliath.”

After this preliminary account, Pte. Barry said the Americans got going in real earnest. His anti-aircraft batteries set up positions round a temporary airfield. The Germans had begun to retreat, and kept on going. The American infantry were soon in the outskirts of St. Lo. Then the great sweep through Northern France began, led by the Second American Armoured Division, known as the famous “hell on wheels” division. Thence onward through Belgium and Holland, until the formidable Siegfried Line was reached. This great obstacle was, in turn, conquered, and so on to Aix-La-Chapelle (Aachen) and Luxembourg City, where anti-aircraft positions were set up, and the division “rested for two months, until December, 1944.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own