It was 22 December 1941. Judy Garland’s It’s a Great Day for the Irish was the number one song on the charts, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were about to sit down in the First Washington Conference and 4,600 US troops trickled into Bretts Wharf at Hamilton.
They were the first of 80,000 US troops who would pass through Brisbane during the final years of the war. With their smartly tailored uniforms, jitterbug dancing and pockets full of cash, these American soldiers launched a devastating charm offensive upon the city, and they had Australian women in their sights.
“Over sexed, over paid and over here!” was the common catchcry, as the dashing young Americans sauntered down the streets of Brisbane with polished shoes and manners to match.
To Australian women, the sudden arrival of flashy, gift-laden troops after years of austere rationing went a long way to boosting the soldiers’ popularity. So it should come as no surprise that within a few short years, an estimated 7,000 Queensland women became American war brides.
Against the backdrop of the Albert Street Uniting Church, up to 16 weddings a day were performed at the peak of the mania, with the minister allegedly sounding a gong at intervals to ensure speedy turnarounds between the services, bringing a whole new meaning to the expression “hearing wedding bells”.
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