US Marine Base - Camp Lejeune
Much of the IRAs arsenal originated from the USA, Irish American benefactors financed arms procurement missions.
Much of the arms which finally reached the IRA originated in North Carolina at a US Marine base Camp Lejeune. Police tracing weapons seized in Ireland were able to trace the serial numbers on the weapons to the base. An arms network centred on the base during the 1970s where between 1973 and 1977 about 10 million rounds of ammunition went missing. This was in addition to hundreds of weapons. FBI believe that one million rounds went to IRA arms smuggling networks for use on the streets of Northern Ireland. Of the hundreds of weapons which were supplied form this US army base to the IRA the total included M60s, M16s and a assortment of other weapons.
Security at the base was terrible a fact proven by a local TV station news crew who were able to enter the base undetected. However this base was and is one the biggest the US government has. The base is home to an active duty, dependent, retiree and civilian employee population of nearly 150,000 people. The base generates $2 billion in commerce each year, coming from payrolls and contracts let to support the structure required to train and the units based there.
Aerial View of the central facilities and parade grounds of Camp Lejeune
In the US Army guide the camp is described as a “superior military base.” Indeed Camp Lejeune is a three-time recipient of the Commander-in-Chief's Award for Installation Excellence. This award recognizes the base on a Department of Defence-level for effectively managing assets and developing quality programs to accomplish the mission of providing expeditionary forces in readiness. At present the military are proud to support Camp Lejeune's claim to being the "Home of Marine Expeditionary Forces in Readiness," providing for the training of Marine Air/Ground Task Forces defending the United States. They are now in the forefront of the International war against terror.
The base is the size of a large town and boasts the most up to date training facilities used to prepare the United States premier front line forces. Such a pedigree makes the events of the 1970s all the more incredulous, and indeed serious. The central fact is that US government weapons and ammunition were supplied from one of the top US Marine bases in America to one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organisations. The lives that were taken, the widows and orphans that were created by these US supplied guns can never be fully appreciated.
The M60 machine gun the stock general purpose machine gun of the US Army was used to deadly effect in Northern Ireland and claimed the lives of at least 8 soldiers. The M16s dubbed by the terrorists as ‘widow makers’ claimed hundreds. These lives can be laid directly at the door of the US administration.
In the first instance we believe that US servicemen were involved in the theft of weapons and that they stole to order for groups like the IRA. While it is not clear whether they were motivated by Republican Sympathies or by personal greed, the fact remains that they conspired to supply terrorists with weapons. The fact that soldiers were allowed to act in such a manner without discipline reflects poorly on their officers. Just how far the Arms smuggling plot stretched up the hierarchy is a question that needs urgent investigation. The responsibility and blame rests ultimately Major General Herman Poggemeyer, who commanded Camp Lejeune from 18 July 1975 to 30 June 1977, and with the officer who preceded him in this post.
A full public inquiry conducted by international investigators must be conducted into the Camp Lejeune supply network. Who was involved and how could the misappropriation of US weaponry be carried on for so long and on such a scale? In the end it was down to a police investigation in Ireland which traced the illegal arms supply to the camp. Had a consignment of weapons not been found in Dublin in October 1979 and had some of these not had their serial numbers intact would the role of the US military ever come to light. It is now time for the United States government to launch an investigation into this matter and to provide answers to these and other questions.
It is beholden on the US military to stand with the victims of terrorism, indeed they have also suffered at the hands of groups linked to Irish Republican terrorists. In the grounds of the base there stands a memorial dedicated in 1986, this graceful monument pays homage to the 273 Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors who died in the service of their nation in Beirut, Lebanon, and during the Grenada invasion. Names of the deceased are engraved on grey granite walls set in a placed grove of Carolina pines and azaleas. A bronze statue of a Marine stands in an eternal vigil over his comrades.
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