EVENTS were held in Co. Antrim and beyond last weekend to celebrate the establishment of the 1st Battalion US Rangers, an elite fighting force that was raised in Carrickfergus in 1942.
The American commando-style force was set up during World War Two and remains the only US military unit to be formed on foreign soil.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council organised the events, which welcomed more than 30 visitors from across the USA and from Normandy in France.
They included families of the original WWII Rangers, who joined the new 1st Battalion US Rangers in 1942, plus 10 serving Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment in Georgia, USA.
"I am delighted to welcome these wonderful visitors to our Borough on the 81st anniversary of establishment of the 1st Battalion US Rangers," said Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna.
"The representatives of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the families of those WWII Rangers and those who keep their memory alive in France and beyond, we very much appreciate you taking the time to be with us this weekend to reflect, to remember and to celebrate the dedication of those original Ranger Battalions."
'Special place in our hearts'
Events began with a seminar in Carrickfergus Town Hall on Friday, June 16, where speakers discussed the experiences of the first US troops to arrive in Northern Ireland and the formation of the new battalion.
Over the weekend, guests visited the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum in Belfast and Brownlow House in Lurgan, which was used as a base for US troops during WWII.
There was also a visit to the Lisnabreeny Memorial in Castlereagh, the site of a former US military cemetery temporarily used for US servicemen who died while in Northern Ireland during WWII.
On Sunday, a guided walking tour of Carrickfergus concluded at the US Rangers Museum, where singer Kelly Smiley performed songs popular in the wartime era.
— Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (@mea_bc) June 23, 2023
On Monday, June 19 — the 81st anniversary of the activation of the 1st Battalion US Rangers — a civic commemoration was held at the US Rangers Memorial Stone at Sunnylands, Carickfergus.
Alderman Mulvenna laid a wreath at the site of the battalion's formation and spoke of the special relationship between the town and the US Rangers.
"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is proud to continue the Ranger legacy and its connection to Carrickfergus," she said.
"Over 30 years ago now, returning veterans were encouraged to donate their memorabilia and tell their personal stories on a promise that the council would care for them and keep the memory of their contributions alive.
"On behalf of council I am delighted that we are able to continue to honour our commitment to the US Rangers.
"They will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of all the residents of Carrickfergus."
The 1st Ranger Battalion was created and led by Belfast-based Major William O. Darby, with Company A constituted on May 27, 1942 before being officially activated on June 19.
Members from the unit were the first American soldiers to see combat in the European theatre during WWII, taking part in the August 1942 raid on Dieppe in northern France.
Three of the 50 Rangers who took part lost their lives, becoming the first Americans to die in the war.
The unit was later deployed to Africa and Italy during the conflict and was involved in the Korean and Vietnam Wars before being consolidated into the 75th Ranger Regiment.