Whittle: How were 'Yanks' described?

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"Over sexed ... over paid ... over here!!" was a popular warning British parents recited to impressionable young daughters about 'Yanks' (American soldiers) during World War II.

Did the warning work? Not very well, for more than 70,000 U.S. soldiers brought British wives to America in wake of WW II.

"That's what our parents and grandparents warned when the 'Yanks' came to help us defeat Germany," confirms England native Diana Brockton. "We heard that warning 'over sexed, over paid and over here' over and over as warnings to stay away from those dashingly handsome Yanks."

"Any gum chum?" was another chatty and cool question young Brit girls would ask American soldiers.

"Yanks, so handsome in their uniforms, usually had their shirt pockets and trouser pockets stuffed with gum and candy," recalls London native Helen German, who now resides in Rutherford County. "Before the Yanks would hand over a treat however, young Brit girls had to share their name and a personal note or two."

Don't let the "German" name fool you.

"I've been in America now for 48 years, but I'm still a Brit through and through," noted Mrs. German, who heads the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Transatlantic Brides and Parents Association, a British Heritage Society formed in 1946. "However, it wasn't until I moved to Middle Tennessee 11 years ago that I learned of and got involved in the Transatlantic Brides and Parents Association."

Today, the group has 18 members throughout Middle Tennessee who are planning on attending a national convention in Chattanooga. In the local groups' latest monthly meeting at Mrs. German's daughter Lorraine Petty's home in rural Rutherford County, they had displays showing Queen Elizabeth's picture, and a special display counting the days until Princess Kate (Windsor) gives birth to her second Royal baby.

"Kate could give birth any day, any hour," noted daughter Lorraine, the second of four generations in Helen's family as members of the on-going Transatlantic Association and the national general secretary for the British Brides and Parents Association."

London native Fran Rosenthal, age 88, was 11 when World War II broke out in Europe.

"I try not to miss our monthly meetings," Fran shared.

For six years (1939-1945), Fran slept in a bunker (bomb shelter) after German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler ordered the bombing of London ... known in history journals as the "London Blitz!"

"My family had a backyard bomb shelter, made out of corrugated steel, and that's where we slept for six years," recalls Mrs. Rosenthal, today a resident of Adams Place in Murfreesboro. "Most bomb shelters had bunk beds; actually, we didn't think much about it. As a citizenry, we pulled together and got on with our lives the best we could. I hope Americans don't mistakenly assume the American homeland can never be attacked by foreign invaders."

When walking during daylight hours throughout bombed out London, Brits knew to organize their steps according to locations of public bomb shelters, Rosenthal recalled.

She described the biggest danger faced by London citizens? ... "Buzz bombs that were launched on us from across the English Channel. As long as we could hear the 'buzz' of the bombs, we didn't panic. We worried when the bombs stopped 'buzzing,' for that's when we knew the bombs were about drop out of the sky."

"I recall being evacuated multiple times due to the buzz bombs," noted Mrs. German, at age 80.

How severe was the danger and damage?

"As a young girl, I saw all of London in flames, and in rubble," Fran Rosenthal recalled.

So, how did British children pass the time of day when bombs were not raining down on them?

"We collected shrapnel, much like a hobby," Mrs. Rosenthal accounted. "It was a different way of living. But, we took the buzz bombs in stride ... you had to get on with life."

Did Fran know any "heroes?"

"My parents (Lewis and Marie Lipman) were heroes, especially Mother, who somehow kept us fed, although such things as eggs were rationed to one every three weeks. We were rationed to two ounces of meat. And we grew a lot of vegetables during the war when Dad, an engineer, was also a designated 'air watcher' who searched the sky for enemy aircraft and buzz bombs."

What was their primary pastime when not going through rubble and collecting shrapnel: "We often listened to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and his 'blood, sweat and tears' inspirational talks on the radio. He was such a great man. While listening to him on the radio at night, all windows in London were blacked out."

Rosenthal and German are Jewish.

"Hitler's Nazis never made it across the English Channel," German stepped back in time. "I've never understood why he and the Nazi Army never crossed the channel, but if they had, we could have been in one of the Nazi death camps."

The British ladies referenced more than 6 million Jews murdered in holocaust death camps the Nazi Army operated throughout Europe in German-occupied nations.

"At the start of WW II, my aunt and uncle back in England took in a Jewish refugee girl out of Germany, to save her from the Concentration Camps," Rosenthal recalled.

Rosenthal shared how she became a bride to an American soldier.

"My husband (Henry) was in the 8th Air Force, working in communications," she danced back in time. "We met at a social event for soldiers. No, Henry was not a good dancer, but he got my phone number. We were married for 64 years. It took us 15 days to cross the ocean to get to America."
Henry Rosenthal, who died five years ago, initially taught high school when bringing his bride to America.

"But, he hated that. He ultimately became a nuclear physicist, and we lived at Oak Ridge, Tenn., for a while," Rosenthal related. "He also served in Antarctica for a year. We moved to Murfreesboro nine years ago."

The Middle Tennessee-based Transatlantic Association recently held a mini-convention in nearby Chattanooga, where a big national convention is slated in 2016, for the organization's 70th anniversary.

"We originally were formed for support of the young British brides who came to America," German noted. "Now, descendants can belong."
Persons wanting more information about the group can call 615-512-7099 or 931-437-2413.

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Dan Whittle
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