| 14.4°C Dublin

Irish World War II heroes to be honoured 75 years on from end of war

Close

D-Day mission: Dublin-born Pearse ‘Ed’ Ryan served with an elite US army unit after his family moved to the US when he was just six months old

D-Day mission: Dublin-born Pearse ‘Ed’ Ryan served with an elite US army unit after his family moved to the US when he was just six months old

D-Day mission: Dublin-born Pearse ‘Ed’ Ryan served with an elite US army unit after his family moved to the US when he was just six months old

Europe will mark VE Day with a special tribute to the Irish soldiers who fought in the US, Canadian, Australian and British forces.

World leaders will today mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe - although the war raged on in the Far East for another three months.

It is estimated that more than 130,000 Irish soldiers, sailors and air men fought in World War II from 1939-1945 despite Ireland's status as a neutral nation.

Dublin-born Pearse 'Ed' Ryan served with an elite US army unit after his family had moved Stateside when he was just six months old.

Sgt Ryan was part of a US Rangers team assigned to eliminate German cliff-top guns at Pointe du Hoc during the D-Day landings in June 1944.

His mother's family were Bentons, and other relatives hailed from the Cork Street area of Dublin city, though Sgt Ryan had emigrated to the US with his parents shortly after he was born in 1924.

Located between the Utah and Omaha landing zones, the German cliff-top guns had to be eliminated to avoid carnage on the crowded invasion beaches below.

In 'Bloody Victory - the Irish at War's End', military historian Dan Harvey revealed Sgt Ryan and his comrades scaled the cliffs using 100-foot ladders borrowed from London Fire Brigade - and achieved their mission despite suffering 50pc casualty rates from ferocious German fire.

Just three weeks later, Sgt Ryan and his unit were fighting their way inland through the infamous 'Bocage' countryside of ditches and sunken roads against stiff German resistance when he was badly wounded.

Sgt Ryan had to be evacuated back to the UK for medical treatment but recovered and rejoined his unit for frontline service.

After VE Day, he returned to the US to eventually become a senior vice-president of ABC television in New York and one of the most respected executives within the US media.

He died in 2006, aged 82.

There were plenty of other stories of Irish heroism and tragedy too.

The first RAF bomber pilot shot down and killed in 1939 over Germany was William Murphy (23) from Mitchelstown in Cork.

Cork-born Dr Aidan MacCarthy joined the RAF and not only survived Dunkirk and twice having ships he was sailing on torpedoed but, after being transferred to the Far East and captured by the Japanese in 1942, he managed to survive the atomic bombing of Nagasaki where he was being held as a prisoner of war.

Irish Independent