D-Day Remembered: GI's crash course in keeping Tommy sweet

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The Independent Online
'YOU WILL naturally be interested in getting to know your opposite number, the British soldier, the 'Tommy' you have heard and read about. You can understand that two actions on your part will slow up the friendship - swiping his girl, and not appreciating what his army has been up against. Yes, and rubbing it in that you are better paid than he is.'

It was said in wartime Britain that there were 'only three things wrong with the American GI: overpaid, oversexed and over here'. Over There: Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942, sought to remedy that. Issued by the United States War Department when US servicemen came to Britain to prepare for D- day two years later, it succeeded where Irving, Emerson and Hawthorne had failed in interpreting the British to the Americans. Aptly, it was redistributed by the US Air Force when President Bill Clinton and his army of officials arrived in Britain last Saturday.

On courage: 'Don't be misled by the British tendency to be soft- spoken and polite. If they need to be, they can be plenty tough. The English language didn't spread across the oceans and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists.'

On servicewomen: 'Now you understand why British soldiers respect the women in uniform. They have won the right to utmost respect. When you see a girl in khaki . . . with a bit of ribbon on her tunic - remember she didn't get it for knitting more socks than anyone else in Ipswich.'

On physical hardship: 'The British people are anxious to have you know that you are not seeing their country at its best. There's been a war on since 1939. The houses haven't been painted because factories are not making paint - they're making planes.'

On the previous war: 'You can rub a Britisher the wrong way by telling him 'we came over and won the last one'. Each nation did its share. But Britain remembers that nearly a million of her best manhood died in the last war. America lost 60,000 in action.'

On social etiquette: 'A pub, or public house, is what we call a bar or tavern. The usual drink is beer, which is not an imitation German beer as our beer is, but ale . . . You will be welcome . . . so long as you remember . . . the men have come to see their friends, not strangers. If you want to join a darts game, let them ask you first.'

General do's and don'ts: 'Never criticize the King or Queen. Don't criticize the food, beer or cigarettes to the British. Remember, they have been at war since 1939.

'Let this be your slogan: It is always impolite to criticize your hosts. it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.'

(Photograph omitted)

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