The Yank: My Life as a Former US Marine in the IRA


John Crawley

August 2022

April 1975. A young Irish-American from Long Island, NY, is on a mission to enlist in an elite unit of the US Marine Corps. His goal: to receive the most intensive and rigorous military training possible, and then move to Ireland to join the IRA and fight to end British occupation of the six counties of Northern Ireland.



THE YEAR IS 1975. A young Irish-American is on a mission to enlist in an elite unit of the US Marine Corps. His goal: to receive the most intensive military training possible and then go to Ireland to join the IRA and fight to end the British occupation of the North.

In this powerful and brutally honest memoir of his extraordinary experiences, John Crawley details the gruelling challenges of his Marine Corps training, and how, not long after his discharge, he joined the IRA. Soon he found himself in Boston, working with notorious American mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger to amass a shipment of weapons. When captured on the Marita Ann gun-running trawler off the Kerry coast, Crawley was imprisoned for ten years, and upon his release he became one of the masterminds behind the IRA’s plan to throw London’s electrical system into disarray.

Crawley is blisteringly candid about the people he worked with and unflinching in his commentary on the IRA leadership. Through it all comes the steadfast voice of a man on a mission, providing an evocative and passionate account of where that mission led him and why. To this day, he remains committed to the establishment of an all-Ireland Republic.


John Crawley
 is a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and a former Irish Republican Army volunteer. Born in New York to Irish immigrant parents, he moved to Ireland as a young teenager and later returned to America to receive formal military training in order to join the IRA. John was imprisoned for ten years for taking part in a daring cross-Atlantic gun-running operation. Upon his release, he returned to IRA active service before being arrested in London for conspiracy to cause explosions. He received another 35-year sentence but was released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.  John remains committed to the establishment of a united Irish Republic.

1. Recon
2. Volunteering
3. Goodbye Kansas
4. A Lone Gunman
5. A Fiver for Boston
6. Whitey
7. Boston’s Littlest Terrorist
8. Assembling an Arsenal
9. Into the Eye of the Storm
10. Portlaoise
11. Political Context
12. Sweet Freedom
13. Reactivation
14. The Belly of the Beast
15. A Different Agency
16. Down the Republic!

The Yank is an extraordinary piece of work. No sentiment or self-pity; hardboiled and disarmingly direct. A compelling read.’
Patrick McCabe, author of The Butcher Boy

‘In terms of insider accounts John Crawley’s The Yank is as good as it gets. Strategic rather than starry eyed, the highly regarded former IRA volunteer peels away the layers of mist that have shrouded the IRA. Not a sensationalist read, but very much a gripping one.’
Anthony McIntyre

The Yank is the electrifying memoir and definitive account of guerrilla days in modern Ireland, by a man who refused to shy away from duty and love for this country. Powerfully written and relentlessly nerve-shredding, it’s a modern-day masterpiece unlike any other book ever written about the war in the North of Ireland.’
Sam Millar, author of On The Brinks

‘I read The Yank in one sitting . . . Crawley draws you in from the first line to the last and he doesn’t go . . . he writes with a candour and clarity that is both absorbing and direct. This is a seminal book that should be read by everyone with an interest in Irish affairs’
Richard O’Rawe, author of Northern Heist