Ireland Pardons WWII Deserters Who Fought Hitler

About 4,500 left neutral Irish army to fight with Allies
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2012 5:38 PM CDT
Ireland Pardons WWII Deserters Who Fought Hitler
A soldier from the Irish army is pictured outside Fairview Park in Dublin on the day Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived for a visit in 2011.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Ireland remained neutral during World War II, but about 4,500 of its soldiers didn't: They left the Irish army and joined the Allied forces fighting Hitler. For that, the government branded them deserters, published their names, and forbade them from holding public sector jobs when the war ended. Today, about 70 years later, the government issued a formal apology and pardoned them, reports RTE. It figures about 100 are still alive to enjoy it.

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"The government apologizes for the manner in which those members of the defense forces who left to fight on the Allied side during World War Two were treated after the war by the state," the defense minister told parliament, according to Reuters. "In the almost 73 years since the outbreak of World War II, our understanding of history has matured. It is time for understanding and forgiveness." About 60,000 other Irish men also joined the Allies, but they weren't in the Irish army first and so weren't labeled deserters. (Read more Ireland stories.)

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