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MoB Sunday Stories: War Brides of Brisbane

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.

Women with visiting American sailors, Brisbane 1941. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.
Women with visiting American sailors, Brisbane 1941. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.

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”.

Want to know more about the Americans in the Second World War?

From War Brides to the infamous Battle of Brisbane, click here to discover our latest historical walking tour.

Nurses and patients at an American Hospital in Queensland 1943. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.
Nurses and patients at an American Hospital in Queensland 1943. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.
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Museum of Brisbane respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Brisbane and surrounding areas, and other First Nation peoples. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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