Overpaid, oversexed and over here – WWII Phrase

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”’Overpaid, oversexed, and over here”’ is a phrase thought to have originated in Australia during WWII in regards to American servicemen who arrived in the country shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, and their interactions with the local populace. It was later used to describe American servicemen in Japan, France, and Canada, in Great Britain while it was found to be a common phrase the often misunderstood implication of the American GIs success with local women was an overplayed myth.

The meaning of the phrase derives from American Gis in World War II being paid considerably more than their allies, not being under rationing, and their non-reserved attitude.

British women were not particularly interested in American GIs as the evidence below shows, in reality, the phrase was more cliché than actual provable fact.

The British Myth

Before American troops landed in Britain in 1942 Britain had already begun their sexual revolution, the Blitz and non-stop bombing of London had caused the British people to experiment in ways they had not before. ‘That night fear and pleasure combined to provoke a mood of wild exhilaration,’ wrote Sir Peter Quennell. ‘The impact of a bomb a few hundred yards away merely sharpened pleasure’s edge.’ ‘People had love affairs they wouldn’t have had before the war,’ said Alison Wilson only a schoolgirl during the Blitz in 1940 and 1941. Wilson’s mother was one of many who, despite being married, had wartime lovers — in her case, a Scottish civil servant posted to London. Young people were also enjoying this sexual revolution, In November 1940 a probation officer at Southwark Juvenile Court spoke of seeing ‘youngsters in their teens, of mixed sexes, making up their beds together on the floors of public shelters, even under their parents’ eyes’. And a Mass Observation report from one of London’s largest shelters asserted that ‘prolonged observation, night after night’ had revealed ‘necking among young couples,’ along with glimpses of couples ‘engaged in sexual intercourse in the darker areas’. The increase in number of illegitimate births in England and Wales reflected this, they jumped from 24,540 in 1939 to 35,164 in 1942. The incidence of venereal disease rose by 70 per cent over the same period. So before the American’s even arrived in Britain, the native British were already enjoying far more sex than the Americans ever were.

But American women, on the other hand, were also undergoing their own sexual revolution, so common were letters sent to servicemen overseas from American women that the term “Dear John Letter” was coined in reference to a letter received from their girl back home informing them of their love for another man. “Back home, the faithless wife was becoming an issue. A large number of service wives had gone to work, including hundreds of thousands who had not worked before. They had money, they were in contact with men, and they felt the sexual excitement that wars induce. Good wives would indulge in a sort of sentimental hysteria over their far-away husbands, then go out to a bar for a pick-up.” A post-war study indicated that an unprecedented 60 percent of American brides were non-virgins when they stood at the alter in 1946.

The fact that Britain had already begun their sexual revolution meant that the “oversexed” part of the phrase did not apply whatsoever, in fact, a teenage girl from Birmingham said, “A lot was said about them being oversexed, overpaid and over here, but it was mainly a myth”. While undeniable that British women had relationships with American GIs, it was less to do with the fact they were American, and more to do with the fact that it was wartime and men and women alike sought comfort in other people’s arms. This was proven to be true by the fact that no “Battle of Brisbane” ever occurred in Britain during WWII, in fact, the only conflict was the “Battle of Bamber Bridge” and this was not to do with local women, but to do with how white American servicemen treated their black countrymen. Britain was not a racist country, and there was no racial segregation enforced by the British government, therefore the conflicts that did occur between white and black Americans usually meant that the local British would come down on the side of the Black GIs and general dislike for American servicemen began to grow. This was also coupled by the fact that the Americans were considered “late to the war”, Britain had already almost singlehandedly been fighting the Nazi war machine for years and had endured bombings and the Blitz for months at a time, local women did not want to be seen with Americans, and those that did were dubbed “Yankee bags” meaning even fewer women wanted to be seen with them.

The only group of women who did, in fact, want to spend time with Americans were women who used them for their money and access to gifts not so readily available in wartime Britain, a shortage of “nylons” was clear in America also during the war, and actually led to riots. “Nylons” were an example of something that American servicemen would give to women they were infatuated with, and British women took advantage of this. Most famously the prostitutes called the “Piccadilly warriors” would try and coerce the “yanks” to sleep with them as they knew they had the most money and would have more success with paying for sex, than with local women. The fact that most servicemen were sleeping with a certain amount of women, as opposed to sleeping with local women, meant that rates of VD among American GIs shot up but they were still the lowest during the entire European theatre. In the period of preparations preceding the Invasion of Normandy taking place in the U.K., the prevalence of STD’s was estimated at 35- 40/1000 soldiers, whereas during the invasion itself the incidence dropped to 5/1000 soldiers. However, soon afterward the prevalence of STD’s increased again reaching the level of 50/1000 in combat troops. In the second part of 1945, after the ceasefire was declared and hostilities in [[Europe]] ceased, during the occupation of [[Germany]] by the U.S. Forces, the incidence rate of STD’s surged (most of venereal diseases posed gonorrhoea) and it was estimated at 190/1000 soldiers (Sternberg & Howard, 1960). American servicemen just were not as successful with British women as other soldiers were and of course the native British Tommy. The other women that favoured the American servicemen were those brought up on cinema and who copied the dress of Hollywood, a Home Office report in 1945 stated “To girls brought up on the cinema, who copied the dress, hairstyles, and manners of Hollywood stars, the sudden influx of Americans, speaking like the films, who actually lived in the magic country and who had plenty of money, at once went into the girls’ heads. The American attitude toward women, their proneness to spoil a girl, to build up, to exaggerate, talk big, and to act with generosity and flamboyance, helped to make them the most attractive boyfriends.” The amount of these women who were obsessed with Hollywood evidently were very few, which reflected in the number of marriages between British women and American servicemen.

British women who did sleep with American servicemen found them to be awful in bed, “I have known many Yanks, the majority of them nice boys… But, blimey, they don’t know the first thing about love-making.” Was the words used by an English woman writing to YANK magazine in 1945.

In fact, the most successful nation with British women (apart from the native British men) were Canadian soldiers, the first arrived 17th December 1939. The amount of Canadian soldiers stationed in Britain during world war two only amounted to between 330,000 and 500,000. Yet, Canadian war brides totalled 48,000, and children were estimated at 22,000. This meant that Canadians were overwhelmingly proportionately more successful than American servicemen as there was a total of 3 million American servicemen who passed through Britain by the time the war was over, but there was only an estimated maximum of 70,000 American war brides a measly 2% of the total force, and the estimated children born out of wedlock is a measly 9000. Compared to the 13% of the Canadians, American servicemen were certainly not “overpaid, oversexed, and over here” in regards to Britain.

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