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Liverpool Blitz: American servicemen

GIs were American soldiers (GI stood for Government or General Issue). America didn't officially enter the war until December 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, but soon Liverpool was full of US servicemen.

Wartime performers on stage
Wartime performers on stage
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GIs were immediately popular with Liverpool's people, particularly the ladies. They had exotic movie star accents, smart uniforms and money. They were generous with items like cigarettes, nylons and sweets all of which were limited in wartime Liverpool. They also brought with them crazes like swing music and the Jive. Many entertainment venues offered free entry to uniformed personnel in the hope of attracting GIs with their money and style.

GIs weren't popular with everyone. Local men felt threatened by the Americans with their glamour and wealth. Germany played on this worry, scattering leaflets over British soldiers, reminding them that their girlfriends and wives were at home, prey to American money and glamour.

Stranded barges
Barges are left stranded when the Leeds-Liverpool canal bank is broken, 20/21 December 1940.
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Many women courted American servicemen, but were often criticised for their behaviour. Those who married the soldiers, known as GI Brides, weren't automatically granted US citizenship and had to apply to enter the country like everyone else.

Damage to Brunswick dock
Damage to Brunswick dock, 27 September 1940
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In total more than 1.2 million US troops and their equipment passed through Liverpool docks. Many thousands were based at Burtonwood air base near Warrington. Burtonwood was the maintenance and supply base for the US Air Force in Europe. It repaired and modified equipment, especially planes, for use by 70 US bases, bringing production line methods to Britain for the first time.

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Find out more about Burtonwood and GI Brides.

Learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbour.

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