WWII American Servicemen in Australia: The known and unknown

American soldier dancing on a table, Eagle Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, during World War Two, ca. 1943. SLQ Negative: 156796

American soldier dancing on a table, Eagle Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, during World War Two, ca. 1943. SLQ Negative: 156796

Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, America entered World War Two. American servicemen arrived in Brisbane by the end of December. They were largely concentrated near Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville, and Queensland became an important base for American forces during the War in the Pacific.

‘Over-sexed, over-paid and over here’



American soldiers were much more popular with Australian women than were Australian soldiers. They had smarter, sharper uniforms, smoother chat and deeper pockets with which to attract and entertain Australian girls. Nylon stockings, chocolates and cigarettes were a few luxury items unavailable to Australian soldiers, which Americans could easily afford and access. Conflict followed.

Clashes between the two groups of servicemen spilled over in a violent two-day (26 and 27 November, 1942) riot, known as the Battle of Brisbane, involving servicemen and civilians, which left one Australian soldier dead, and hundreds of Australians and US servicemen injured. Details, however, were kept secret from the public.

What happened when US servicemen were killed?



The Queensland Registry’s index to deaths for WWII is available on microform and online, but it does not include records of American servicemen who died in military-related events in Queensland.

Despite the pervasive American presence in Brisbane, there was no record in the Queensland Registry indexes, or in the newspapers, of the name of any American who died. See, for example, the following crash report.

The Telegraph, 17 September 1943, page 2.

The Telegraph, 17 September 1943, page 2.

Recently, an client from the United States asked us for information about why the accident occurred, and focused attention on its cause and the details of the unlucky pilot. The client knew much more about the individual than is available in newspapers or in other Australian records. He had been able to access a confidential file in the US Veteran’s service records, which provided full name, injury details and the place of burial during the war (Ipswich), as well as information about his identification tags. A more detailed analysis of the accident, which he sought, was not available to him either in the US or, as it turns out, in Australia. At the end of the war, American war dead were disinterred from United States war graves in Queensland and returned to their homeland for re-burial. Unfortunately, 80 per cent of veterans’ records, stored in St Louis, were destroyed during a fire, mostly by the sprinkler system, but our client was lucky and able to get the relevant personal confidential file there.

Funeral procession for American soldiers, Brisbane, Queensland, 1947. SLQ Negative: 202821

Funeral procession for American soldiers, Brisbane, Queensland, 1947. SLQ Negative: 202821

Finding sources on Americans in Queensland



The MacArthur Museum Brisbane provides links to records of US servicemen in Australia during the war. The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds draft records of US servicemen, which were held separately from veterans’ records. See also the NARA guide, Finding information on personal participation in World War II.

State Library holds an interesting range of material covering this formative period, including photographs, documents, books and objects, covering everything from racecourses, dancing and baseball, to the conflicts that arose between American and Australian servicemen. Check in our One Search catalogue using terms such as ‘Americans Queensland’.

State Library blogs also feature vignettes of Americans in Queensland during the war. In the search box of the Conversation hub, use terms such as ‘World War II’ or ‘Americans’. The blog, Baseball downunder features a collection item from the period.

6495 World War II American Baseball 1942. SLQ Record No.: 396621

6495 World War II American Baseball 1942. SLQ Record No.: 396621

This is an American baseball that was used by some American servicemen stationed in North Queensland during World War Two. It was used in a game held in Townsville on Christmas Day 1942, and was signed by a number of the participants.

The Australian War Memorial provides some interesting background to the Americans in Australia, but the National Archives holds a wider range of material, such as occasional shipping records, including those related to immigration. Locating them, however, is often like finding a needle in a haystack.

For many people the role of the Americans in Queensland was very much appreciated. They offered security in the Pacific War, an opportunity for fun, and the experience of American consumerism. The American Command kept control of records concerning American military in Queensland, so there are records we cannot find in Australia, if at all.

One Search Catalogue: http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au

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Leang Peou

Librarian, Information Services

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Exellent summary about US servicemen in Australia during WWII - I believe Brisbane's population went from 300,000 to about 600,000 very quickly when the US to use Australia to fight the Pacific War.Almost One million U.S. military personnel came to Australia in WWII - included around 100,000 African-Americans.The Americans were here for a range of reasons, deployment, combat operations, resting, convalescing, refitting, construction, supply and manning installations .Finding records on them is a much harder task.Thanks

A fascinating insight into America's view of "bringing them home".I followed up by reading about the Ipswich cemetery where the American soldiers were kept until the end of the war and the woman who looked after the graveshttp://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/81408582I think the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a better idea.

Very interesting article. I never knew about the US involvement with Australia during WW 2. Thanks for the post.Teri GreenAtlas Biomechanics

I am looking any records of Noel thomas Edward Brown American in Australia 1940

Hi Colin. Thank you for reading our blog post. If you are looking for some help in locating any records for Noel Edward Brown please go to our Ask Us page, http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/ask-us, and fill in our research enquiry form. One of our staff can then have a search for you and see what they can find.

my father said when he was wounded fighting in wwII pacific he was treated for a head injury in australia are there any recordscan anyone help me find records of his treatmentthanks mike

Hi Mike. Thank you for reading our blog post. If you are looking for some help in locating any records please go to our Ask Us page, https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/plan-my-visit/services/ask-us, and fill in our "Research and information enquiry" form. One of our staff can then have a search for you and see what they can find.

We're there any American warships in Geraldton Western Australia in early 1940.

My father was posted in Australia, later New Guinea, and finally the Philippines when the war ended. JB (initials only) nicknamed "joy boy" Waldrop was an E5 for the 175th Ordnance. I cannot find anything about that unit. I assume it is part of the Quartermaster Corps. JB Waldrop was in Australia, Nadsap, Lae, Laete Bay Philippines, and Manila. I would be thankful for any information.