The Friendly Invasion
Jackie Stuart, April 2014
Jackie Stuart once wrote a dissertation for her degree in modern history. She then turned it into a very readable paperback, which several of us have read. She then went one step further, added more material and presented the whole as a thought-provoking and highly amusing talk on “The Social History of the Yanks in East Anglia during World War Two” at our April meeting.
This was no dry book-research, but rather a slice of living history, using the words of the volunteers and enlisted men themselves. Much from their written accounts, letters and diaries, but also plenty from her personal contact with the people themselves, both on their visits to the U.K. and hers to America. Many are still living, fit and well and moving into their nineties.
We are used to the phrase "overpaid,over-sexed and over here", but we should also remember how much it pleased the British people that the American forces were over here. Their very presence meant that we now had a chance of winning and that maybe the war would soon be ended. Of course we heard a lot about relationships between local girls and G.I.s, with more than a few becoming G.I. brides. Here is Leroy Kuest with Margaret, shortly before their lifelong marriage. Note also the highly functional wartime garden. It was also touching to learn of the long-lasting friendships that developed between lone US husbands and young English families missing and worrying about their Dads and big brothers.
There were no end of amusing stories, many too risqué for the Parish Mag, but some that we can share. Like, “What did you think of the English summer?” “I don’t know. I had to work that day!” There were language problems: “I look a bum dressed in this”. We now know that he meant a tramp – but we didn’t in 1943. Nor do we know the exact words used by the ground-crew sergeant visiting a local family when he discovered that Mum had been cutting up old dress-making patterns to use as toilet paper, sometimes forgetting to remove the pins.
Lots of laughter from the audience, but at the end there was a sudden hush. Row upon row of crosses at the American cemetery reminded us that out of every ten planes taking off on bombing missions from East Anglia, only six returned.