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Rich Relations:: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945 Hardcover – January 31, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three million boisterous, materialist and decidedly horny U.S. servicemen "occupied" Britain between 1942 and 1945, taking over large tracts of land for bases and depots, and Americanizing the country in ways that tended to be traumatic. Reynolds's vibrant social history, based on official papers, letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews, captures the GIs and Brits in their wartime moment together, mirroring the contrasts between their two countries. His purview is sweeping; he pays prolonged attention to Anglo-American romance in a way that eschews Glenn Miller sentimentality. Reynolds is frank about out-of-wedlock maternities, venereal disease and the racial aspect of relations between British women and black GIs. He goes on to discuss the surge in Anglo-American marriages during the final months of the war, then explores the culture shock British war brides felt in the States and black GIs' difficulties reaccommodating themselves to racism at home after their hospitable treatment overseas. Author of Britannia Overruled, Reynolds directs the history program at Christ's College, Cambridge, England. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Whether praised as saviors of the Western Alliance or castigated as "overpaid, oversexed, and over here," the American forces that overwhelmed Britain in World War II have been a stable item of military folklore ever since. There was more to the situation than a quaint culture clash, however, and both nations had to work hard to maintain an amicable wartime relationship. British historian Reynolds has performed the first in-depth analysis of the American GI's impact on his war-stressed host. A longtime student of Anglo-American relations, Reynolds deftly examines each group's social mores and class structure and shows how each was operating under highly unnatural conditions. His well-researched study of the racial situation alone makes the book valuable to modern readers. Although not popular history in the usual sense, this book is readable and anecdotal enough for the average military enthusiast. Recommended for military and historical collections.
Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Edwards AFB, Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 555 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679421610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679421610
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andrew J. Brozyna on June 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used Rich Relations in the research my own book Longshore Soldiers: Life in a World War II Port Battalion The men in my grandfather's battalion were stationed in England from April to June 1944. They were billeted in private homes and became very friendly with their English host families. This was actually a rare experience among GIs. Of the nearly 3 million US troops that moved through Britain only about 100,000 were assigned to live with local civilians. The vast majority of Americans lived in military bases and camps, and the US military wanted to keep them there as much as possible to prevent trouble with the British public.

Most GIs didn't live in the homes of local families, but they interacted with the British people in many other ways. Rich Relations is an excellent volume on this subject. The nearly 600 page text covers every possible angle. Reynolds details the official American, British, and Canadian authorities' policies towards foreign troops mixing with the local people. The nations tackled issues such as soldier health, marriage, racial segregation, crime, public opinion, morale, and military readiness. The broad view of official policy is complimented with specific personal experiences of individual soldiers and civilians. A massive amount of research and detail went into this text, while the writing is still very engaging. While the author is British, he manages to present a balanced view of the British-American relationship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mike B on December 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a very comprehensive analysis of U.S. soldiers during their "occupation" of Britain prior to the invasion of France in June, 1944. By May, 1944 there were over 1.5 million U.S. troops in Great Britain. Most were young men - so one can easily infer what this can lead to - boozing, broads and brawling! And even more so since prior to the invasion most were rather inactive.

The author examines these aspects from many different angles. There was geography for one thing. England is much smaller and more densely populated than the U.S., so training hundreds of thousands of soldiers was severely limited in comparison to what they underwent in the U.S. Accommodation had to made for these soldiers while England was still on a war footing and had lost much housing due to the Blitz. While the GI's were "inactive", those in the 8th Air Force were not - they had a deadly commute over the European continent. Black GI's experienced callous discrimination from their own countrymen, but were welcomed by British civilians. British soldiers for the most part despised the U.S. GI's for their higher pay, boisterous manners, and for "stealing" British girls.

The logistics could be overwhelming for both sides. The U.S. army had less than half-million men in 1939; by the end of the war they had an army of 12 million. A massive invasion involving several countries had to be planned and undertaken.

All of these problems and more are well laid out in this book. There are descriptions of successful and not so fortunate marital unions between GI's and British women. I grew up on a street where there were two British war brides from England, so this book had personal resonance for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By howardq9 on March 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent account of the relations between the Brits and the Yanks during World War II. Fascinating, very well written, insightful, comprehensive, humourous and perfectly captures the differences between these two English-speaking cousins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By HSP on October 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
One of a few texts that truly explores a key relationship during the second great war. Highly recommended.
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