By Tom Dare
A HEARTWARMING VIDEO showing United States air force personnel from the Second World War using their Christmas break to visit an orphanage in the UK has resurfaced this week, in the run up to the big day.
The footage, taken over the winter of 1944 which saw tens of thousands of Americans stationed in Great Britain as part of their D-Day service, shows the men dressing up in Santa outfits and dancing around a giant Christmas tree with children from the orphanage.
Further footage shows another airman dressing up as a cowboy to play songs to a group of listening children, while ‘Father Christmas’ can be seen handing out gifts to the children later on in the film.
Great Britain found itself inundated with American visitors toward the end of the Second World War, with military personnel from the army, navy and air force being shipped to our shores en-masse in 1944 ahead of the D-Day landings.
On the first day of D-Day alone upward of 73,000 Americans left British shores to launch a land invasion of France, with thousands more setting off from the UK over the next few days. The men of the air force, who can be seen in the video, often found themselves using Great Britain as a base from which to launch attacks.
While not conducting operations the men of the American air force often found themselves alone and with time on their hands on the British mainland. As such, British families were encouraged to invite American GI’s round to their house for Christmas dinner, to ‘fill the space left behind by our own fighting men.’ This was often an offer taken up to enthusiastically by American GI’s, though, with thousands of British women said to have been seduced by their American visitors.
But orphanages such as the one visited in the film provided the men with the perfect opportunity to do some good with their time off. Thousands of children were sent to orphanages after losing their parents to the fighting, the Blitz or both, and visiting servicemen were always a welcome distraction in the homes.
By the time the war was over approximately three million US soldiers had spent time in Britain, where they were frequently described as being ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’.