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Americans in Southampton


The first Americans

[4643] Landing craft

magnify Landing craft

The story of American soldiers in Southampton began in July 1943 when a small transportation unit called  ‘The Fourteenth Port of the United States Army’ arrived in the city. Their task was to arrange the shipping and supply of equipment and troops. Initially this was as part of America’s ‘Lend-Lease’ arrangements to help equip their British Allies. ‘Lend-Lease’ was a scheme that allowed America to make loans of armaments to countries essential to American defence, possibly without repayment.

What greeted them was a port that had suffered a lot of damage and had been left to decline. Before 1939 Southampton was not a significant cargo port, its main focus had been passenger liners. Being so close to enemy airfields in northern France, Southampton was a natural target and had suffered many heavy wartime bombing raids. The operation of the port had been wound down to such an extent that much of its equipment and also registered dockworkers had been moved to other regions. As a 'Reserved Occupation', experienced dockworkers were in short supply and the machinary was too valuable to be left to the German airforce. Fortunately the Fourteenth Port brought with them their own equipment such as ready-made cranes and forklift trucks. These were new to England and the novelty posed too much of a temptation to some Southampton residents and some cases of 'forklift joyriding' were reported. 

[3177] Bombed cold store

magnify Dockside bomb damage

The process of re-awakening the Port of Southampton began and in the first months after their arrival, the Fourteenth Port moved such a large amount of military cargo that Southampton became the third largest discharge (importing) port in the world. Perhaps Southampton would never have thrived as a successful cargo port after the war if it hadn't been for this chance to show what it was capable of.

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