When the general in charge of organising the state funeral of President Kennedy left the White House after meeting Jacqueline Kennedy on Saturday 23 November, he said to his fellow officers:
She wants the Irish at the funeral. The Irish weren’t even in the war. Will somebody tell her about diplomacy.”
But nobody was prepared to tell her about D-Day, and the fall of Berlin, and the fact that the Irish sat the whole thing out and called it The Emergency.
But after the funeral, the American generals changed their tune.
They were so impressed by the cadets’ drill, they had nothing but the highest professional regard for these soldiers from this small insignificant country.
Since the late fifties, Ireland had been playing its part on the world stage. Louth TD Frank Aiken was Minister for External Affairs and was promoting the rights of smaller countries at the United Nations.
General Sean McKeown, from Cooley, was Chief of Staff of the UN forces in the Congo, when Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was killed in a mysterious plane crash.
It was thought that the Belgians, who had colonised the Congo, and indeed the British, had some involvement in Hammarskjold’s death. this was a time of assassination.