Invading America, 1943


By Clifford Cole (author), Sara Goodwins (editor)

WW2 memoirs of how a British Anti-Aircraft Battery demonstrated their gunnery in the US.

“This sensation of being the centre of attraction was at first quite embarrassing, but as it never slackened, we began to get used to it. Being on show twenty hours a day was not something we had bargained for when we left England.”

Page 26, Invading America, 1943

ISBN: 978-1-908060-02-0 Categories: , , ,

Hitler defeated at Stalingrad. The Eighth army move into Sicily. The Americans take Guadalcanal. It is 1943.

America had been fighting in the Second World War for eighteen months, yet most of the American people had been untouched by war and indeed questioned their country's involvement. Roosevelt wanted to show the American people what war was like and what was needed to fight it. Churchill sent some ordinary British Tommies, soldiers who had seen life at the front and could talk about what they had seen.

The 1st British Anti-Aircraft Demonstration Battery Royal Artillery was made up of men who had seen intense fighting, many of them in North Africa. A composite Battery, it included both Heavy and Light AA guns, searchlights and highly technical specialist equipment such as radar which was barely off the drawing board. The Battery's mandate was to show the American people how Britain had fought off air attack, and by doing so encourage their support.

Clifford Cole was the radar expert attached to the demonstration Battery. He kept detailed records of the Battery's six-month tour through more than thirty states of the union and even into Mexico.

From New York to San Francisco, from Chicago to El Paso, Cole describes demonstration firing and ticker tape parades, broadcasting about the Blitz and hobnobbing with Hollywood, guarding prisoners of war and the long journeys by sea and train. He also provides a British reaction to an America far less known seventy years ago than it is now.

Nearly 200 photographs, correspondence from senior US officials, maps and press cuttings illustrate the Battery’s tour. Many of the photographs offer rare views of events such as Ack Ack guns firing at night, cadet training at West Point, Hollywood stars fundraising, life on Southern plantations, etc.

Fulfilling a Dream

With no internet, no satellite TV and every crossing of the Atlantic at risk from attack by U-boats, the US was cushioned against the realities of war. The British War Office needed to raise awareness and turned experienced British servicemen into their ambassadors at large.

Major Clifford Cole recognised the importance of the PR tour and dreamed of publishing his meticulous account of it some day. When he died in 2008, publication of his lifework seemed further away than ever. Then his typescript came into our hands.

We transferred the typsescript and photographs into digital format and managed to track down Major Cole’s widow and children. With their help to fill in some of the biographical gaps, Major Cole’s extraordinary account of his six-month tour was finally published.

Sadly he didn’t live to see his work in print. We can only hope he would have liked it.

Copyright 2011 Loaghtan Books. All rights reserved.