Historical links for US Navy ship docked in Belfast

The US Navy ship is docked in Belfast over the weekend. Credit: UTV

After seven months at sea, the crew of a US Navy ship have told UTV they’re excited to have arrived in Belfast.

USS Mason travelled nearly 60,000 miles to end up on these shores - even coming under attack off the coast of Yemen while on a mission back in October.

The destroyer is based in Norfolk Virginia but has historical links to Northern Ireland.

Commanding Officer Christopher Gilbertson said: "The ship that we're named after was last here 72 years ago, after what was a very dangerous and costly Atlantic convoy security mission that they did.

"The D529 was the first ship in the US Navy to have an all African American crew.

"One of the challenges of that time was that many places did not accept them and they would refer to them with names such as 'tanned yanks'.

The crew said they are excited to see Belfast. Credit: UTV

"When they came to Belfast and visited Derry that was the first time they were truly accepted anywhere in the world and they were actually just called 'yanks' and it was the proudest moment of their lives, I think.

"It was probably the greatest memory of their career, the visit to Belfast."

With around 350 crew on board, the USS Mason is heavily guarded by police for security reasons and will not open to the public.

But it will remain in Belfast until Monday before setting sail and heading home - hopefully in time for the New Year.