US Navy veterans back in Derry for reunion

May 1943... American destroyers tied up at the US Navy yard at Fort George.
May 1943... American destroyers tied up at the US Navy yard at Fort George.

US Navy veterans who were stationed in Derry after World War II are to return to the city later this month.

The Navy Alumni Association will be back in Derry for the fifth time in 16 years when it holds its “Gala Reunion” between July 29 to August 3.

The group was founded in 2000 for the purpose of reuniting US Navy sailors and Derry civilians who worked at the base in Derry’s Waterside between 1943 and 1977.

Previous alumni reunions were held in the city in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015.

The association has selected the City Hotel as its reunion headquarters and all three reunion events will be held at the hotel.

Among the reunion events scheduled are a July 29 Opening Night Reception, a July 31 Grand Gala Reception, and a Dinner Dance on August 2.

The reunion week in Derry will also include a special ceremony being held at Foyle College, Limavady Road, the site of their former U.S. Navy Base.

The ceremony, scheduled for midday on Tuesday, July 30, will see the unveiling of a monument commemorating the former U.S. Navy Base and the service of the many sailors who proudly served there.

The history of the US Naval Communication Station in Derry dates back to February 3, 1942, when a radio station was established in conjunction with the US Naval Operating Base in the city - the very first naval base in the World War II European Theatre of Operations.

Construction commenced in June 1941 and, with the entry of the United States into WWII just months later, Derry became essential to the US Navy in support of escorting convoys to Britain and Murmansk in Russia. In 1943, in anticipation of the Normandy landings, the Derry base was expanded by US Naval Construction Battalion Personnel (Seabees) to provide for additional fuel storage and outfitting of landing ships.

As of May 1944, there were more than 5,700 US Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to Derry’s Naval Operating Base.

In June 1944, with the invasion of Europe underway, and the reduced requirements for support of convoy escort ships in the North Atlantic, steps were taken to disestablish the base. On August 15, 1944, the US Naval Operating Base in Derry was decommissioned and, on September 3, the facilities were turned over to the Royal Navy, leaving the radio station as the only remaining US Navy activity in Derry.

A few years earlier, the US Navy had acquired use of land at which the Clooney and Rossdowney sites were situated and US Navy Seabees began construction of buildings and erection of antennae.

Expansion of station facilities continued over the years in conjunction with increased operational commitments until, on July 10, 1961, the station once again was established as a separate activity and designated as the ‘US Naval Communication Station, Londonderry’.

The US Naval Communication Station in Derry was disestablished on September 30, 1977, ending a 35 years history with the city.

Derry civilian members of the Alumni Association who wish to attend the reunion should review the reunion registration information available on the association web site at www.navcommsta-londonderry.freeservers.com