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.