Facts from a monumental story and time in history.

It was an extraordinary time, unprecedented in history. From 1942 to 1945 hundreds of thousands of American service personnel ‘invaded’ Great Britain. It’s estimated up to two million US men and women passed through the British Isles within these three years. At its peak strength in Britain, the USAAF employed 450,000 people.

These young Americans brought a breath of fresh air. From the big band music of Glenn Miller to nylon stockings, from smart uniforms, chewing gum and Coca Cola to peanut butter – a slice of the American Dream crossed the Atlantic.

Servicemen's generosity

American service personnel were renowned for their generosity. People who were children at the time of the Second World War tell so many stories of how youngsters were adopted by airmen.

These two tales gleaned from the Eastern Daily Press newspaper of the 1940s give us some idea.

On Christmas Day, 1942, USAAF officers based in Norfolk hosted 60 local children, and then took them to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Norwich.

Two years later, the EDP reported “thousands” of Norfolk children getting a Christmas they would never forget courtesy of the generous Americans.

As guests of the bomber bases, they got unheard of treats such as ice cream. Santa Claus arrived at Bury St Edmunds in a Flying Fortress bomber, then the children helped load up a Liberator aircraft with fruit, candy and toys they had made to send to kids in recently-liberated Paris.

A bit of R&R

The Friendly Invasion

The American Red Cross provided recreational facilities for troops on leave.

Weekend passes were quite frequent, while eight-day furloughs were granted every six or seven months.

In Cambridge there were eventually six clubs; one for officers, five for other ranks.

They provided diversions including: wrestling, weightlifting, baseball, volleyball, running, pool, snooker, darts, dominoes, cards, bingo, films, community singing and tea dances with bands.

For the more serious-minded, intellectuals such as Bertrand Russell gave talks and held discussions on topical issues.

G.I Jane

The Friendly Invasion

The Women’s Army Corps was created in May, 1942. Despite some opposition at home and among male colleagues, up to 150,000 women eventually served during the Second World War.

It was the first time women had been in the US military for anything but nursing.

They operated telephone exchanges, teletypes, conducted weather observation and acted as mechanics, freeing men up for the front. Others volunteered for the Red Cross.

Boss Lady

The Friendly Invasion - Boss Lady

The names of American bombers have passed into folklore.

Many were named after girlfriends and movie stars, boasting appropriately glamorous nose art.

There were Memphis Belle, Beau Jac, Suzy Q, Lili Marlene, Ice-Cold Katie and Buffalo Gal. Some went for something more macho; The Playboy, Hellzadroppin’, Holy Joe, Wolves Inc and The Avenger.

Some were straight to the point – Flak Magnet – while one philosophical and historically-minded pilot chose Tom Paine, after the English radical writer born in Norfolk - the man who helped save the American War of Independence.