Though relations between Australian servicemen and US Marines in Melbourne were initially tense, a timely public relations function at the Melbourne Cricket Ground ensured ongoing goodwill between the two forces. A Marine veteran tells the story:
There was one group that did not appreciate our presence. The 9th Australian Army Division had been in North Africa for a couple years fighting battles for the British. They were relieved and brought home only to find the U.S Marines were crowding all the pubs and had all the eligible girls. They had good reason not to like us.
The lament was – the Marines are over-paid, over-sexed and over here.
Our pay scale, as compared to the Australian military and compared to local citizens, was quite good.
So, the aggravation of the Aussie 9th at our presence finally boiled over. They put out an ultimatum requiring all Marines to be off the streets by 9.00pm. Guess what? That evening the battle of Melbourne took place. There was a brawl such as the city had never seen. I remember one Marine came back who had his finger bit off.
In order to calm the troops, a huge party was arranged to be held in the Cricket Grounds. Great entertainment was provided and more beer than even that crowd could consume. You never saw such a mess! The next morning there were laid out Diggers and Marines as far as the eye could see.
Image (right) Australian and United States servicemen toast each other at the Allied forces get-together night at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, 14 March 1943. Reproduction courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.
“Marines and Aussies line up for beer at the party on the Melbourne
cricket grounds”. Reproduced from George McMillan,
The Old Breed: A History of the First Marine Division in World War II, 1949.
~ Rachel Jenzen Private Collection: donated by Colonel Mark Paul Fennessy ~