Throw on a frock and head into town…the sailors are here! 58



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Throw on a frock, put your dancing shoes on and head into the city…the sailors are in town.

From the Great White Fleet’s visit in 1908, through the heights of WWII, in which U.S. General Douglas MacArthur had direct command of the Australian military, to today’s friendly military exercises, the U.S. Navy has been a regular visitor to Australian shores and this week’s arrival of the USS George Washington in Brisbane is no exception.

And in typical fashion, the arrival of 6,000 sailors for a weeks R&R brings with it as good excuse as any for a good night out. Long held traditions of getting dolled up and heading into town to pick up a sailor, won’t be extinguished this week.

Brisbane in particular, has a rich US military history, having seen 45,000 U.S. troops arrive in just six days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the fall of Singapore at the hands of the Japanese.

With the ‘charming’ US soldiers flooding dance halls, bars and cinemas the country over, local ladies were often swept off their feet by the mysterious Americans, who, at the time, were largely unknown except as doyens of stage and screen. They were seen as the heroes and saviours of the Pacific. They were fighting a war thousands of miles away from home, they were lonely and they were looking for love…or sometimes just a good time. Many local girls fell for the charisma of these fit and good-looking foreigners.

old navy

With more than a million Americans passing through Australia during the war, it is no wonder that there were a reported 15,000 or more ‘war brides’. Yet their presence wasn’t always looked upon approvingly. With thousands of Australian soldiers and navy servicemen also stationed in the cities, tensions often flared over the favouritism towards the American men. There was a growing community perception that young Australian women should ‘reserve their affections’ for Australian soldiers and not surrender to their U.S. counterparts.

American warships (particularly nuclear ones) visiting Australian shores has always bi-polarised public opinion however, one can not refute the rich history and long lasting influence it has had on, not only Australian culture but on American – Australian relations.

So, if you do happen to be in Brisbane this weekend, consider throwing on a frock and heading into town for a walk down memory lane.

Did you ever go into town to pick up a solider? Did your parents? Do you have a story to tell? Please tell us.

Image: Credit to Queensland State Library

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My mother met my dad during ww2, he was in the army, the uniforms dazzled our girls : she made a good choice because without her meeting him I would not be here 🙂

  2. Here is a scrap of information you may or may not know ..I found it amusing..When the US Navy landed in W.A during WW2., they had to close the brothels after a few days, The US sailors wore our girls out, they ended putting them on restricted use 🙂

    3 REPLY
    • Year heard that my uncle worked in oil deposit in Townsville and sold them har har pigeons that hit fences and lines

    • I’ve been to Apia, Samoa, where, the US servicemen went for R& Agie Greys! They made a film about her, starring, Rita Hayworth. 🙂 They are still eating “Tinned Cornbeef,” left over from the war?? Hahaha (Y)

    • That I don’t sought when I started work as a stockman the army disposals had carrier sets from light horse

  3. Having a laugh at the news report interview last night with brothel owners. 80% increase in business upon the arrival. They are very pleased to have made a difference in boosting the economy!! I think they pay taxes.

  4. I remember a very funny story I heard years ago when the sailors came to town (in Sydney). They had a “do” on the boat and invited members of the Australian navy. One of the wives was caught skinny dipping in the pool.

  5. My poor old neighbour up the road disinherited her daughter when she married an American Sailor and although the marriage didn’t work and she Came back with a baby girl, the old girl never forgave her. Driving from Grafton to Brissie at the moment, but have hubby with me,oh well.


    He held her tight in loves embrace and whispered softly in her ear
    I’ve never known a woman yet as smart as you – I love you dear.
    The nights dark shadows covered all, she could in truth his face not see.
    but hoped his words were truly spoke, not jest or taking the mickey .

    She contemplated what he said – he asked her how she came to know
    so much of life and of the world – she thought hard and then answered slow.
    My knowledge of the world is gained from in the pages of a tome
    the Women’s Weekly tells me all – delivered monthly to my home.

    He must have taken that on board and stored it in a private place
    for when a birthday came around a card was sent and on its face
    was the symbol of this great mag – it told her he had sent a gift
    a years subscription just for her. This appealed to her sense of thrift.

    She asked him once, should we be wed – would you give up your all for me?
    He said I cannot tell a lie I have a wife and family.
    More than a little shocked and shamed but in the end it mattered not.
    His home port was a long way off in climates cold not climates hot.

    That was a long, long time ago ‘twas he that told her ‘ men don’t lie
    but do not always tell the truth’ – in truth this was his alibi.
    But she was young, madly in love. He still remains her one obsession
    which she, now in her Autumn years can claim was loves young indiscretion.

    I sometimes wonder if perhaps he looks down from his higher place
    and sees a woman with a smile upon her now aged face.
    And does his lawful wedded wife some times when reading The Weekly
    realize the poem printed there was written by that other She.

    Maureen Clifford ©

  7. Wow, I have so many!!!! I could write a book. My girlfriend & I were on the R& R list to take the Americans around Sydney. They were only here for 5 days & had money to spend. We met some fantastic guys, always went out in foursomes. We took a few of them home to meet our families, went to the best restaurants & saw some great entertainers!!! Chequers, the Chevron Hotel up at the cross, the Texas tavern, Whisky a Go Go, Bourbon & Beefsteak, Mandarin club, Motor club. We have pics at all the restaurants. The boys treated us so well & we had huuuge crushs on a couple of them! We used to write & keep in contact with a few of them. I kept all my letters until my father asked if he could throw them out when I was about 30. Hahaha. Have some fantastic memories of an amazing time!!!!

    2 REPLY
    • Hi Marianne
      Our paths have definitely crossed as I also was on the R & R Centres list as were my parents. One of my friends married a man she met at the Friday night mixer party at the old Australia Hotel. Like you I met many a delightful young man and keep in touch with a few even to this day. We did have fun didn’t we?

  8. When i was youngish my mumuse to say that during the ww2 with all the yanks in town it was said to lock up your daughters.

  9. I went to a party 47 years ago at a work mates place and met my husband. He was on the Kerstein Bakke,was a sailor and was an Electrical engineer on board. He was a shippy ( my mother used to call them ) .I was terrified for her to meet him, but when they met they clicked and I was married for 34 years, and the rest is history.

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