Today marks the anniversary of the first arrival of American troops to Great Britain during WWII.
Despite the gravity of the situation in the Pacific, the American high command was swift to send troops to Great Britain in preparation for the planned invasion of Europe. The 4,000-strong vanguard of this steadily growing commitment to the “Germany first” principle arrived in Belfast on Jan 25-26, 1942 and by the end of the war 1.5 million would be stationed in Great Britain or would pass on through to fight towards Germany.
Before crossing the Atlantic, American soldiers were given a 32-page booklet advising them on what to expect and how to behave in the British Isles, the pamphlet was titled ‘Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain’. One piece of advice was “The British will welcome you as friends and allies, but remember that crossing an ocean does not automatically make you a hero. There are housewives in aprons and youngsters in knee pants in Britain who have lived through more high-explosives in air-raids than many soldiers saw in first-class barrages in the last war”. The pamphlet was filled with great advice like “Don’t be a show off,” “NEVER criticize the King or Queen,” and “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.” The pamphlet concludes by telling the servicemen that while in Great Britain, their slogan should be “It is always impolite to criticize your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.”
Over 60,000 British women married American servicemen and came to the United States, many children were born from relationships formed during the war.