A Home Away From Home: Friendship and Families
It struck me as odd that you were considering the impact of US servicemen on Australia. My feelings have always centred on the impact of Australia on US servicemen. Perhaps in a sense I feel I’m repaying a debt to one person that I owe to many Australians. “You” were wonderful to us! You adopted a group of malaria ridden teenagers who were a long way from home.
Contrary to popular representations of American servicemen as ‘over-paid, over-sexed and over here’, many were in fact little more than young boys, away from home for the first time and eager for the comfort and reassurance of domestic life. A significant number of visiting Marines struck up close friendships with local families and spent much of their leave enjoying the generous hospitality extended to them. The friendships between the Marines and local people also proved to be enlightening cross-cultural encounters for both parties and, in many instances, continued for decades after the war.
Irving ‘Red’ Schlesinger sums up the overwhelming sense of gratitude the Marines feel towards the people of Melbourne: ‘I and all my “cobbers” in the 1st Marine Division have always considered Australia as our second home. I can not put into proper perspective the manner in which those fine Australian people treated we fellows, who had just come out of combat with the enemy and were in dire need of love and affection. Honestly, it was love at first sight when we left Guadalcanal on January 5, 1943 and arrived in your wonderful country’.
U.S. Marine James Martin and friend with the Thomas family, Victoria, 1943
~ Rachel Jenzen Private Collection ~