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History

Pulling back the curtain on all the great debates and controversies of American History.

December 17, 2016

Episode 32 - Overpaid and Oversexed: The US ‘Occupation’ of Wartime Britain, 1942-1945

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In 1942, GIs who were being deployed to Britain were presented with a clear set of official instructions which warned them what they could expect to find when they reached wartime Britain:

‘‘You are coming to Britain from a country where your home is still safe, food is still plentiful, and lights are still burning. So it is doubly important for you to remember that their British soldiers and civilians have been living under a tremendous strain. It is always impolite to criticize your hosts. It is militarily stupid to insult your allies.’ – Instructions for American Servicemen (1942)

Equally, in December 1943, the novelist George Orwell wrote in the Tribune that ‘It is difficult to go anywhere in London without having the feeling that London is now occupied territory.’

Both extracts give a sense of uneasy alliance between two nations which have all too often been portrayed as locked together in a ‘special relationship’ for seventy odd years. But like all relationships, alliance warfare between the US and the UK underwent periods of severe strain as well as harmonious efficiency. In this podcast, with the help of Dr Frances Houghton (University of Manchester) we’ll be discussing the extent to which the 3 million US personnel who passed through Britain between 1942-45 were really perceived as ‘overpaid, over-fed, over-sexed, and over here’ in wartime Britain.

A huge thanks from both of us for tuning in for another year. We can't wait to get back to podcasting in the New Year, and we've already got many esteemed guests lined up for 2017 to discuss more fascinating topics in American History.

Cheers,

Mark and Malcolm

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