Thursday, May 22, 2008

"The ideal thing is to have a home near a small city where there are girls and movies."

Here's a report on the "rest homes" and service clubs in Australia for our servicemen on leave from battle. A Red Cross worker says our boys get along "awfully well" with the Australian girls — because they "speak the same language." I wish there was more in these meager reports! Do they get along well just because they speak the same language — and our boys are simply happy to be around any girls? Or is there something particular about Australians? Australians! I don't know anything about these girls. In my mind, they are just girls — speaking English. But they are making our boys happy. Thanks, Australian girls. I have a picture of them, those girls, with our boys. It's a vague picture, but it means something to me. Australian girls and American boys, going to the movies. What movies? What movies are playing in that small city in Australia? The article says the boys' favorite item on the rest home/service club menu is milk, and that they pick milk — and are healthier than the boys in the last war — because "health education has borne fruit." It's a wholesome image I'm getting from this tiny article: milk-drinking boys, going to the movies with English-speaking Australian girls. What movie are they seeing? I'm just going to go ahead and picture "Yankee Doodle Dandy."



THE YEAR THAT BLOG FORGOT IS: 1943.

10 comments:

Ron said...

The clip makes me think some wag would do a YouTube video of that song and the Iraq war....

I think 1943 is the peak year for US factory production for the war effort, but I could be off there.

Cagney's wife in that movie, Joan Leslie, just attended an event for herself in the theater where they hold the Oscar ceremonies, and she brought Olivia DeHavalland of Gone With The Wind/Robin Hood fame with her, all still well...

Ron said...

Meanwhile, the Kursk battles slog on, in "Nazis and Communists Kill Each Other A Lot, vol. 12"

George said...

Doing a stiff-legged balletic jig, Cagney dances up the stage's proscenium arch, singing "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Bob said...

I've read WWII accounts written by our sailors and other servicemen who had leave or liberty in Australia, and the affection between US men and Australian girls was nigh universal. Apparently the girls liked that fact that the boys were masculine but very polite; the Australian men tended to be more casual. After the war the US Navy sponsored a "Bridal Train" that took Australian girls who had married US sailors and Marines to (I think) Sydney, where they departed for the US. The Australian folk group The Waifs had a hit with a song about this titled The Bridal Train.

There was definitely a trend to label milk-drinking men as well-behaved and clean-cut. Casey Stengel, the famous baseball manager, grouped his players into two broad groups, the liquor-drinkers and the milkshake drinkers; he tended to have a low opinion of the latter.

Ron said...

the milkshake drinkers; he tended to have a low opinion of the latter.

That's cause ol' Casey wants to go to the Copa, as he would later with Berra, Ford and Mantle, and they ain't servin' milkshakes at the Copa!

Ron said...

or Toots Shor's for that matter!

LutherM said...

There seemed to be some feeling among both the Australians and the New Zealanders that they had been rescued from the Japs by the American armed forces.
A fascinating time - read James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific".

Paco Wové said...

A college roommate of mine who was ex-Navy said they always looked forward to shore leave in Australia, because of the reception they got from Australian women. I asked him why the reception was so enthusiastic, and he said, "Because Australian men are interested in drinking, fighting, rugby, and women ... in that order."

Davos said...

Australia was a pretty dull place in the 1940s. Americans brought excitement.

The arrival of the American military was a very big deal. Most Australians of my parent's generation thought that if it wasn't for the American's, Australia would have been invaded by the Japanese. They knew how grim that would be after the surrender of 40,000 in Singapore. Macarthur's defense included contingency plans to give half the country to the Japanese. I know people who were evacuated to the south to escape the expected Japanese invasion. The Americans gave people hope in what was then the 4th year of war, 4 years when most of the news had been bad news. Australians were grateful that the Americans were there. The gratitude continued after the war. A public collection funded a monument 258 feet high in Canberra, Australia, "In grateful remembrance of the vital help given by the United States of America during the war in the Pacific 1941-1945." As the "Ode of Remembrance" says, "At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them. Lest we forget." Google "American War Memorial Canberra" to learn more.

At that time, Australian men were pretty scarce. Out of a population of 7 million, thousands were fighting in other places like North Africa, New Guinea. Even before the outbreak of the second world war, there were significantly more women than men in Australia. In WWI, 60,000 young men in in a country of 5 million were killed, buried in far off places like France, Palestine, and Turkey. After WWI, the numbers of eligible women exceeded the numbers of eligible men. For many Australian women, the Americans increased the pool of eligible men. The Americans were better dressed, paid more, generally well mannered, and exotic. Naturally, they got together and enjoyed each other's company, as men and women tend to do.

On a personal note, in 1943, my Grandfather was killed while serving in the Australian army. He's buried in Sydney. My mother has never visited this grave - its just too painful. He left a wife and 3 daughters aged 5, 6, and 7. After my Grandfather's death, my Grandmother met an American soldier. They became acquainted in one way or another. I don't know if they went to "rest homes" or service clubs. What we do know is that my Grandmother was found dead face down in a river. Medical tests showed that prior to her death she had an abortion. At the time, abortion was illegal. This became a murder case that went cold and was never solved. The story was all over the Australian newspapers. No one knows what became of the American serviceman. My Grandmother was cremated, her ashes thrown away. There is no grave to decorate, or place to mourn except in the silence of the heart. My mother and her two sisters were disowned by their family, and sent to a "war orphan's home" where they had as normal an upbringing as one could have in the circumstances. The orphanage was run by a widow who's husband was killed in 1943 in New Guinea (and who's child had died in 1943, who's brother was killed flying for the RAAF in France, and whose other brother, a veteran of Tokruk was wounded in New Guinea). For these people, including my mother and aunts, 1943 was a lousy year. It was the beginning of what my aunts refer to as their "pretty shitty childhood". That's the significance of 1943 in our Australian-American family. Despite all of this, the widow was like a mother to the orphans, especially my mother. She was like a Grandmother to me. In the end things turned out OK.

James In Toronto said...

Robert Heinlein visited Australia in 1953 and wrote this in his book Tramp Royale:

"A friend of ours in Sydney told me later that the basic interests of Australian men were "—beer, the races, women, and work, in that order." Nothing that we saw in Australia caused me to doubt the accuracy of his statement.

"The subordinate position of women in this hierarchy of interests caused a good deal of friction during the War between Australian men, such few of them as were home, and American troops. The Australian male does not believe in spoiling his women; an attitude of, "Shut up and get hoppin' before I bash you one," is not uncommon. The American G.I. showed up with more money and an attitude that undercut the position of the local swains; the G.I. spent money on taxis—worse yet, he helped the Australian lass in and out of same. He bought flowers for her, candy, dinners, and shows, and in general exposed her to the Cinderella pattern which is common courtship among us, but not in Australia. He behaved like the city-slicker villain in a melodrama and naturally he was hated for it (by the Australian men) just as such villains always are.

"The emotional attitudes generated by this unfair competition have not entirely worn off.