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All In

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Yanks down under

Mister Doughboy, written and sung by Jack Davey.
[Courtesy of Crystal Stream Audio]

song words

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'Around the clock at American Service Club'
[AWM F00357]

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American Admiral of ANZAC area interviewed
[AWM F00338]


All in - 'over-sexed, over-paid and over here'
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Battlin’ the breeze – Sergeant
Frederick Nielsen (USAAF) and
Private Sam Brook (Australian).

Roy Hodgkinson, 1942.
[Crayon drawing 68.2 x 52.6cm,
AWMART21346]

Almost 1 million American service personnel, including about 100,000 African-Americans, passed through Australia during World War II. American troops started arriving in Australia in December 1941 and during the next four years they became a continuous presence in Australian life, opening major cities to a new culture and making a substantial impact on the local economy.

At first they were welcomed as saviours but as time went on the glamour of their presence wore off. Australians became a little more critical of American ways even though the importance of the American alliance was never in question. American servicemen and women set up enclaves of American culture with soda fountains and their own clubs where they could eat their own American-style meals. They were better paid and had access to more exotic consumer items in their military PXs (tax free stores) and many Australian women saw the well-paid Americans as desirable and romantic. More than 12,000 Australian women became American war brides, most of whom returned to the US with their new husbands at the end of the war.

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Australia turns to America

The American servicemen and women were camped or billeted in major cities as they trained or prepared to be sent to the Pacific front. Many were stationed in northern Australia – in Townsville, Cairns, Brisbane, Rockhampton – and others returned from the front for rest and recreation or to convalescence in Australia.

The Australian Government, lacking confidence in Australia’s capability to defend itself, had expressed its willingness to accept a supreme commander in the south-west Pacific - initially - from either Great Britain or the United States. Although MacArthur’s appointment had been discussed for some time, it was only confirmed after the devastating loss of the Philippines to the Japanese. Australia’s security became a vital link in the future American offensive against Japan, providing a base from which they could fight the Pacific war. From the Australian perspective, the US offered the opportunity for strategic protection as well as the acquisition of weapons and personnel with which to fight the Japanese.

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Staff members of the Myer Emporium in
Melbourne hanging a giant portrait of
General Douglas MacArthur, Commander
in Chief, South West Pacific Area,
outside the city store in preparation for
the celebration of American Independence
Day, Melbourne, Victoria, 2 July 1943.
[AWM139190]

In March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific Area, arrived in Australia from the Philippines. He travelled by train to Melbourne where he was met by a large group of federal ministers and senior Defence Force officers as well as enthusiastic crowds lining the streets. The Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, quickly established a new link between the government and MacArthur: the War Conference. There were just three members, himself, General MacArthur and the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Frederick Shedden. The military and political implications of MacArthur’s command of Australian forces were and are still today a matter of controversy.

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'Yanks down under'

On the Australian home front, the presence of so many American troops caused a huge boost in rural production as rural industries rushed to keep up with the new levels of demand for food supplies. The troops needed entertainment as well as food, and in towns and cities, opening hours of hotels, clubs and restaurants became more liberal to accommodate them. There was also some rivalry and a number of clashes between Australians and the better paid American troops. Most publicised was the ‘Battle of Brisbane’ which took place on 26 November 1942. Although this large-scale riot was essentially between Australian and US servicemen it was believed to have been started after provocation by the US military police of one of their own countrymen. The clash resulted in the death of one Australian soldier and serious injuries to several Australian and American soldiers.

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[Argus Supplement, 14 February 1942.]

The arrival of black African-American troops caused another impact on the Australian home front. Despite the discrimination they suffered in the US, they demonstrated the possibility of greater political and economic opportunities that were available to black Americans. Indigenous Australians, who had been largely excluded from the Australian forces, were influenced by the possibilities they seemed to offer.

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Although by the middle of 1943 it was clear that Australia was no longer under threat of a Japanese invasion, there were other perceived advantages from continuing military operations with the Americans. It was hoped that there would be both economic and diplomatic advantages if Australia could be involved during future peace treaty negotiations.

After World War II, Britain reasserted some of its lost dominance in the south-west Pacific. However, British power was clearly on the wane and the American alliance, forged in the dark days of 1942, has remained of central importance to Australia to the present day.

 

 

 

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Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Mister Doughboy written and sung by Jack Davey. [Courtesy of Crystal Stream Audio]