A MUSSELBURGH man has the autograph of the famous American general who oversaw the D-Day landings during the Second World War.

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, Adrian McDowell, who lives on Promenade, was inspired to to publicly share, through the Musselburgh Courier, the story of a programme signed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

In 1945, General Eisenhower, who went on to become US President, was made a Freeman of the City of Belfast and Mr McDowell’s late uncle John, then Assistant Town Clerk of the city, was present at the ceremony.

Mr McDowell, acting president of Musselburgh Horticultural Society, said: “My late uncle John, who retired as Assistant Town Clerk but who was then a young man, asked the general to autograph his copy of the programme and I have it proudly framed.”

In a twist of fate, Mr McDowell also met American navy top brass when he was Town Clerk in Bangor in 1997.

The honourable John H Dalton, US Secretary of the Navy, visited the town in Northern Ireland to see the pier Eisenhower left to go out into Belfast Lough and board the battleship USS Texas – part of the Western Bombardment Fleet getting ready to depart for the D Day Normandy landings. Mr Dalton was shown a commemorative plaque by Mr McDowell.

Mr McDowell also played host to the late Admiral William J Crowe, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bill Clinton, when he was US Ambassador to Great Britain.

Mr McDowell said: “The 75th anniversary of VE Day reminded me of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to Bangor in May 1944, many years before I was to become Chief Executive and Town Clerk of the Borough.”

He explained: “Bangor Bay had a strategic role in the Normandy Landings – Operation Overlord. Many warships lay at anchor under the command of US Rear Admiral Morton L. Deyo.

These included the 30,000-ton battleship Texas together with the US warships Arkansas, Baldwin and Nevada, which had been badly damaged at Pearl Harbor. Royal Navy ships included Bellona, Black Prince, Enterprise and Erebus. French ships included the cruiser Montcalm and the George Leygues.

“Altogether, around 30,000 men were aboard the ships. They were all part of the Armada under Rear Admiral Kirk, Commander of the Western Naval Task Force which would carry out major bombardment of German Forces overlooking the Normandy beaches.

“Ballyholme Beach, situated close to Bangor, was used by landing craft preparing for the landings at Omaha and Utah beaches. Across Belfast Lough and nearly opposite Bangor is the town of Carrickfergus, where the US Rangers were based at Sunnylands Camp to receive intensive commando training, as their task was to scale the Pointe du Hoc – the height of a 10-storey building – under intense fire.”

“So, as the ships were making ready to sail for D-Day on June 6, General Eisenhower, or ‘Ike,’ as he was affectionately known, visited Bangor in May to go on board a number of ships to wish those sailing Godspeed.

“When the war was over, he was invited to Belfast to be made a Burgess of the City in recognition of his brilliant leadership as Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.”