Natalie Moore, a member of President Barack Obama’s helicopter squadron, was in Derry at the weekend to visit the former base of the US Navy and Marine Corps during World War Two.
Captain Moore, of the US Marine Corps, visited the Beech Hill Country House Hotel where she was greeted by Ken Williams, retired US Navy Lieutenant Commander, and Patsy O’Kane, proprietor of the hotel.
Ken and Patsy are members of a local historical association which is opening a museum telling the story of the US Naval Operating Base and the US Marines who guarded it from 1942 until 1944.
Natalie Moore is currently serving as a pilot in the HMX-1 Presidential Helicopter Squadron based at Quantico, Virginia.
“Marine One” is the official call sign used when the US Commander in Chief is on board the presidential helicopter.
Natalie, who was on vacation in Ireland, said: “When I was planning my trip, I heard about how Derry had hosted the US Marines during WW2 and I knew that I had to visit.”
Ken Williams is a retired U.S. Naval officer living in Derry and is a keen supporter of the idea for a museum commemorating ‘Base One Europe’ - the United States naval base in the city.
Ken explained: “I had the good fortune to be stationed at the US Naval Communications Station at Clooney in Derry for two years in the early 1970s. The role the U.S. military played in Northern Ireland and, especially Derry during WWII, was a vital contribution to victory in Europe.
The establishment of a museum to preserve and commemorate this period in Derry’s history is long overdue.”
The ‘US Naval Base Londonderry’ was officially commissioned in February 1942 with sites across the city and its rural hinterland, including the grounds and fields around the Beech Hill.
Given the significance of the work being undertaken in the naval base, the First Provisional Marine Battalion was formed in the United States and the first contingent of Marines arrived in Derry on May 12, 1942 to guard the naval base.
Work is currently underway to create trails throughout the grounds of the Beech Hill where visitors will be able to see the imprint left by the camp.