American GI’s in Nice

In 1945, more than 75,000 American GI’s (“Government Issue”) came to “ultraswank” Nice for Rest and Relaxation, filling the city’s 42 luxury hotels. According to Life Magazine (July 9, 1945), what they were most excited about were the girls, “American wacs, American nurses and friendly French girls.” Most of the French women did not know English, but it didn’t seem to matter.

While the beaches of Nice were enjoyed during the end of the war by the American soldiers, going into the water was strictly prohibited. It was shown to be unsafe, according to the American experts, perhaps due to issues involving the Nice sewage system where the Germans blew up the sewer pipeline into the sea (the water was 30x impure over the level acceptable by the army). American soldiers were stationed in Nice at least six months in 1945. The luxury they were shown was something they had never seen before, and most likey, would never see again. But this contrasted heavily with the experience of the local Niçois which had become hunger stricken and near famine conditions. According to the NYTimes in February 1945. A riot broke out during the showing of a movie, “Andy Hardy goes to town”, when a huge plate of caviar and salmon was shown on the screen. The film, “The Private Life of Henry VIII” was banned as it had scenes featuring great roasts of beef and fowl and other food.

The Americans complained about an increasingly lack of hospitality an intolerable black market, an unfavorable exchange rate and too much resentment of their presence in France. The French say that too many Americans act as if they owned the country, too many display the manners of insolent, irresponsible hoodlums and too many forget that they, not the French, are the foreigners.

American General General Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, would go on to vacation in Nice, Cap d’Antibes and Cannes on September 14, 1945, just after his visit to the pope in Rome, but his holiday was cut short and he left the next day.

Although often suggesting these American Red Cross nurses were disembarking in Normany, according to Corbis Images, this photograph was snapped on 15 January 1945 (seven months after D-Day) and was taken in the French Riviera area of southern France. Original caption: “Ladies Day” on the Riviera. Southern France. Time for Yanks in the coastal region of Southern France to sit up and take notice — lady visitors have arrived. As the ramp of this Coast Guard-manned landing barge swings down, American Red Cross women, carrying small packs and bags, jump out on the beach. Brought by Coast Guard transport from the US, they are prepared to carry out their duties and keep high the spirits of Yank fighting men.