In 1960, the Irish army's numbers had gone from about 50,000 during the time of the Emergency, down to about 8,000.
The army's first major peacekeeping deployment came in June 1960 when the U.N. requested an Irish force to be sent to the fledgling country.
The Belgian Congo became an independent Republic on 30 June 1960. Twelve days later, the Congolese government requested military assistance from the United Nations to maintain its territorial integrity.
The Irish were deemed to be suitable for the job given their anti-colonial past and the fact that they were a rarity being white and neutral, and on the 28th July Lt-Col Murt Buckley led the 32nd Irish Battalion to the newly independent central African country.
Many of those Irish soldiers departing for the Congo did not even know where the country was and there was a belief that the man in the blue helmet would never have to fire a gun in either anger or self-defence.
However, 26 Irish soldiers lost their lives in Congo.
Nine soldiers died in a single incident called the "Niemba Ambush", in which a small party of soldiers was almost totally wiped out.
A total of 6,000 Irishmen served in the Congo from 1960 until 1964.
This documentary is a mix of memories of that time and original recordings with the soldiers as they depart for the Congo, with contributions from Lt. Gen. Sean Mc Eoin, Col. Richard Bunworth, Brig. Gen Redmond O' Sullivan, PTE. Thomas Kenny, Sgt. Dick Dunne and historian Conor Cruise-O'Brien.
Produced by Cathal Goan.
Presented by Cathal Goan.
First broadcast 7th January 1984.
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