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The Battle of Brisbane
February 8, 2010 3:56 PM   Subscribe

The United States and Australia have long shared a peaceful alliance, but it was not always so. In 1942, U.S servicemen and Australian soldiers fought openly and violently in what is known today as The Battle of Brisbane.

During World War 2, almost 300,000 US servicemen were stationed in the city of Brisbane, Australia. Although the relationship between American and Australian soldiers was a mostly cooperative and friendly one, many Australian soldiers were disgruntled with not only the better pay and rations American soldiers recieved, but also the greater success that American soldiers were enjoying with Brisbane women as a result. Many Brisbane residents often complained at the behaviour of American service personell, with a popular phrase amongst most Brisbanites saying that the Americans were "overpaid, oversexed and over here." As a result, tensions began to rise between the two groups.

Because the events of the Battle of Brisbane were largely supressed at the time, there have been differing versions told of how the fighting began. However the most widely accepted story says that on November 26 an intoxicated Private James R. Stein of the U.S. 404th Signal Company left the hotel where he had been drinking when it closed at 6:50pm and began walking to the Post Exchange PX on the corner of Brisbane's Creek and Adelaide Streets. Stopping to talk to three Australian (it is unclear if they were soldiers or civilians), an American MP challenged Stein for his leave pass. In his drunken state it took Stein a little while longer than it should have to find it and the MP began to arrest him. The Australians verbally defended Stein and when the MP went to strike the Australians, the Battle of Brisbane began in earnest, running over the course of two nights with the end result seeing one Australian soldier killed, several U.S soldiers injured and several hundered people injured.
posted by Effigy2000 (51 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey neat, I was planning to do a post on this topic, but this is much better than mine would have been!

See also The Battle of Manners Street and the Zoot Suit Riots.
posted by Paragon at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2010




USA: 1
AUS: 0
posted by Slap Factory at 4:04 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nothing's changed all that much, really. Hell, last time I was in Brisbane I narrowly avoided not one but two empty beer bottles lobbed at my head. Wasn't cause I'm American, though. It's just that it was Saturday night and, hey, that's what they do in Brisbane on a Saturday night. No hard feelings, fellas!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:07 PM on February 8, 2010


Figures it would start near the Valley.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:11 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


USA: 1
AUS: 0


Yeah, go USA! Friendly fire is like embedded in your Constitution, isn't it?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:16 PM on February 8, 2010


The Battle of Manners Street

NZ: 2
USA: 0
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:18 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, go USA! Friendly fire is like embedded in your Constitution, isn't it?

It's in the 2nd amendment right after the bit about not messing with Texas. At least that's what Justice Thomas says.
posted by humanfont at 4:20 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading further, or indeed reading that very Wikipedia entry, suggests to me that nobody was actually killed at Manners Street. Either way I'm not sure it's in very good form for us to keep tallies.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:22 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez did we brawl with all the Anzacs when we were stationed abroad? And re: the Manners Street brawl: classy guys. I had no idea our servicemen were objecting to Maori soldiers using the service club. Brilliant. Living abroad is such a treat when you're American, it's pretty much a non-stop "Sorry we suck" tour.
posted by supercrayon at 4:26 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are we doing a re-enactment? Cool.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:26 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


turgid dahlia - you are right I am sorry. I just lept to the defence of our Australian cousins, because without them Kiwi's would be mistaken for South Africans even more often.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:29 PM on February 8, 2010


Are we doing a re-enactment? Cool.

We may very well if my husband takes any more of my chocolate muesli bars. ;p
posted by supercrayon at 4:29 PM on February 8, 2010


and thinking about it, leaping to the defence of friends without thinking is how this sort of thing starts in the first place.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:30 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


My squad always had "Fuckin' MPs" at the tip of their tongue. I guess that applies today here too.

Fuckin' MPs
posted by hal_c_on at 4:34 PM on February 8, 2010


Did they get a bootin'?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:38 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


you are right I am sorry

Don't be sorry, just don't do it again! ;-)
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2010


Anyway, it's a given that Brisbane has something of a reputation for street brawls. I got sucker-punched once in the Valley* by a guy from Glasgow. My reasoning at the time was that he ran out of stuff to punch over there.

*By which I mean the Hill of Discontent, and not a euphemism for my buttocks.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


the Hill of Discontent
Shan't ask what bit that's a euphemism for, then.
posted by Abiezer at 4:51 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Queensland was regarded as the 'Invasion State'

I think we should put this on our licence plates
posted by knoxg at 4:58 PM on February 8, 2010


Even the Romans knew that mixing militarizes (especially foreign ones) with the local population can cause trouble... I'd say calling this the "Battle of Brisbane" though is laying it on a bit thick. Some local women are going to find the soldiers attractive, and some men are going to think the foreigners are taking liberties with their homes... it is a recipe for resentment.

I'm a pretty peaceful guy, but even I have been in little conflicts (mine where only verbal and trading threats) with boys from the local air force base - I submit "the Battle of Moose Jaw" for further study.
posted by Deep Dish at 4:59 PM on February 8, 2010


The much cherished Britishness of this sub-tropical outpost, clinging tenaciously to the habits of a dying Empire, was both affronted and bemused by crass Yankee-dom; much as the pervasive White Australia Policy was compromised by the first substantial non-European migration of African-American troops into the region. Local press reaction bordered on sycophancy.

"Much cherished Britishness." That's quaint. What was it that the English said? Overpaid, oversexed, and over here.

Some invasion. It probably never occurred to the Aussies (and English) that the most if not all of the Americans would gladly have been anywhere else doing anything else at the time.
posted by three blind mice at 5:10 PM on February 8, 2010


Remember reading about The Battle of Bamber Bridge, one of a number of clashes resulting from the attempt to enforce Jim Crow among US troops stationed in England that led to fights, riots and near-mutiny. Pleased to see the locals were apparently anti-segregation.
posted by Abiezer at 5:12 PM on February 8, 2010


USA: 1
AUS: 0


They were rejects from Britain for heaven's sake, of course we beat them!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:31 PM on February 8, 2010


The link to street view in Google Maps shows a view of what was the Red Cross canteen. The PX was on the corner diagonally opposite (where the 7-11 is now).
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:57 PM on February 8, 2010


Crikey! Those pickpockets sure are protective of their whores.
posted by codswallop at 7:24 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


They were rejects from Britain for heaven's sake, of course we beat them!

If we weren't married right now I'd deck you for that.
posted by nudar at 9:01 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, go USA! Friendly fire is like embedded in your Constitution, isn't it?

It doesn't count as friendly fire when we meant to do it. Only as victory.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:29 PM on February 8, 2010


I'm an American working remotely with guys from Brisbane. I'll have to mention this to them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:00 PM on February 8, 2010


I can't believe nobody's mentioned the Pogues' song yet. The lyrics really sum the whole thing up nicely.
posted by GeckoDundee at 10:30 PM on February 8, 2010


Queensland was regarded as the 'Invasion State'

I think we should put this on our licence plates


I believe that Pauline Hanson had the exact same idea - you know, to remind Queenslanders that they were being invaded by Asians.

And Aboriginals, can't forget them.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:31 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, I was about to mention the Pogues song.

Shame the Americans only get to hear the instrumental version - the powers that be wouldn't allow the sale of a song with so many C-bombs being thrown around with such reckless abandon.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:36 PM on February 8, 2010


Did they get a bootin'?

Kicked their c*nts to Cairns and back.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:09 AM on February 9, 2010


Living abroad is such a treat when you're American, it's pretty much a non-stop "Sorry we suck" tour.

It could be worse. You could be Canadian. Then you just always get mistaken for the people who suck. It's like getting accused of sleeping with someone's wife without the sex.
posted by srboisvert at 2:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


sexual relations were revolutionised as men and women began interacting in quite unprecedented ways.

I rather doubt that they were actually unprecedented.
posted by Phanx at 2:43 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


They were unprecedented in Australia.

Up until around 1920, the population of the country was approximately 99% male; convicts & free settlers with nothing to their name, striking out in search of a life better than mining in Wales for 20 hours a day or sucking on potato peels in some Irish pit bog. The only exceptions to the all-male rule were a few syphilitic harridan convict women, deported specifically in order to boost the self-esteem of the Governor's wife.

WW1 brought a shock, and the government embarked on a "populate or perish" policy. The solution came in the form of tens of thousands of orphaned babies from Liverpool and Manchester, brought across en masse in cargo ships. These were the women who were coming of age just at the time that American servicemen were showing up in hordes, pockets full of gum and nylon stockings.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:54 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I heard another one of the reasons they got the ladies was that they were absolute gentlemen in comparison to the locals. They "knew how to treat a lady." I think a lot of you would be shocked how backwards cities like Brisbane and Perth were in the 1940s.

Plus, yeah, the saying in the [MORE INSIDE] is pretty true. They knew how to charm a lady out of her knickers, and were absolutely loaded, cash wise. We all know who a female's gonna choose if a fat wallet comes into the equation eh fellas? No wonder it all ended in tears.

Crikey! How's that for 4-5 unsubstantiated generalisations?!

My great aunt [from Brisbane] married a US soldier and he stayed here. The first American I ever met, in fact. I remember an interesting story he told me how he hated cricket… and then fell in love with it overnight after the tied Test [in Brisbane] of 1960. He finally "got it."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:01 AM on February 9, 2010


I think a lot of you would be shocked how backwards cities like Brisbane and Perth were in the 1940s.

The 1940s, you say?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:15 AM on February 9, 2010


Nice one, UbuRoivas! I absolutely walked into that one.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:19 AM on February 9, 2010


Looks like the US servicemen don't like Aussie women so much anymore.
posted by b33j at 3:25 AM on February 9, 2010


Nevar Forget! to serve beer ice-cold

I think one of the things it's easy to forget is how dirt-poor Australians generally were in comparison to Americans during the war and the post-war period. For example, one of the reasons Australian homes dating from that period have such an eclectic array of fittings is that family and friends actually used to give building materials to each other as gifts: a bathroom sink, some roof tiles, a few sheets of wallpaper, a set of taps, etc. Inconceivable these days. Back then we were scroungers at the arse-end of the world.
posted by Ritchie at 3:26 AM on February 9, 2010


UbuRoivas, I've been out of the house for 2 hours and just read your previous post properly...

Up until around 1920, the population of the country was approximately 99% male; convicts & free settlers with nothing to their name...

I'll let that one slide. I'm 99% sure you meant 1820. Not sure if the ratio was that bad right up until 1820, but I agree it was bad for quite a few years after 1788.

WW1 brought a shock, and the government embarked on a "populate or perish" policy. The solution came in the form of tens of thousands of orphaned babies from Liverpool and Manchester, brought across en masse in cargo ships.

WW1 or WWII?

Orphaned?

Babies?

Would you be so slap dash with the facts if you were describing Australia's other, black-armband-pseudo-history, stolen generation?

pedant

It's WWI, not WW1

/pedant

posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:49 AM on February 9, 2010


most if not all of the Americans would gladly have been anywhere else doing anything else

Actually it does seem a bit of an odd strategic judgement that the most effective place to put 300,000 soldiers during WWII was Brisbane.
posted by Phanx at 6:53 AM on February 9, 2010


Living abroad is such a treat when you're American, it's pretty much a non-stop "Sorry we suck" tour.

You must be going to different places than I go. I've only ever encountered hostility on account of my nationality from Europeans. I used to figure this was just dumb luck, but I've been living abroad for some time now, and while I keep waiting for the anti-American sentiment to pop up, it never does.
posted by artemisia at 7:00 AM on February 9, 2010


Living abroad is such a treat when you're American, it's pretty much a non-stop "Sorry we suck" tour.

You must be going to different places than I go. I've only ever encountered hostility on account of my nationality from Europeans.

The last American tourist I became friends with [worked with him for ~6 months] was definitely on a "sorry we suck" tour.

Except he volunteered it before there was even a hint of hostility. Like, during the introductory handshake. "Yes I have an American accent sorry about Iraq sorry we suck."

At every opportunity. The drunker he got at parties and bars, the more it came out.

It was during G. W. Bush's final year, and to doubly make it suck for my poor Lefty friend... his surname was Bush!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:45 AM on February 9, 2010


The 2nd para of my post above was quoting artemisia, and should have been italicised.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2010


Would you be so slap dash with the facts if you were describing Australia's other, black-armband-pseudo-history, stolen generation?

Hey, so I didn't pay much attention in History; shoot me.

Or, you could wait for the next instalment, in which I tell how Harold Holt - in order to raise funds for the Melbourne Olympics - sold England the rights to test hydrogen bombs at Woomera, which created a wormhole that he accidentally swam into & was carried back to the Dreamtime, where he met Burke & Wills, who had arrived there by a different route: they were swallowed by the Rainbow Serpent as they attempted the first ever circumnavigation of the Great Inland Sea, which has now dried up due to global warming.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:46 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you writing scripts for Yahoo Serious now, Ubu?
posted by h00py at 8:03 PM on February 9, 2010


You mean you haven't worked it out yet?

I am Yahoo Serious!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:23 PM on February 9, 2010


Seriously?
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:10 PM on February 10, 2010


many Australian soldiers were disgruntled with not only the better pay and rations American soldiers recieved, but also the greater success that American soldiers were enjoying with Brisbane women as a result.

My paternal grandmother was a young lady from Brisbane who was wooed by my grandfather while he was stationed there during the war. Hot damn, my ancestors are part of the problem!

I always thought grandma got a raw deal, being talked into moving from Australia to rural Nebraska. But hey, whatever works.
posted by COBRA! at 2:14 PM on February 10, 2010


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