Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945
by David Reynolds, Random House, 544 pages .
In April 1942 a BBC poll found that in Britain “it was probably not an exaggeration to say that a great many people are simply without opinions of any kind or even prejudices, about anything so remote as America.” This would not last. There were already twelve thousand GIs in the United Kingdom, and by the end of the war three million had tramped through. Between 1942 and 1944 the Yanks changed in the British mind from overpaid, sex-obsessed occupiers on perpetual holiday to proven heroes, and to the Americans a fusty, class-ridden nation showed itself tough and unified under the blitz. David Reynolds, author of An Ocean Apart: The Relationship Between Britain and America in the Twentieth Century , shows how the GIs and the British people grew together, presenting a social history of the army that came over, breaking it down to its individuals, and explaining exactly who they were.
“My God, but it was easy to fall in love in those two months before D-Day,” remembered one Canadian soldier in London. “There was a feeling that these were the last nights men and women would make love.” In his last chapter the author includes stories of British children of GIs who found their natural fathers decades later. This first-rate book pays vivid tribute to both a people under siege and an army of “young men living life to the full as they waited for war.”