After a sobering month or more in Britain, I came back to the United States with a couple of thousand GI brides. The first shock came shortly after the liner thundered its great horn as we slipped away from the dock at Southampton. All the mothers clung to the rail, and all the babies clung to their mothers and watched England slide away. Along the entire main deck of the ship the handkerchiefs fluttered in an unbroken line, like washing day in Manchester or Leeds; and then a small coastguard cutter came scuttering alongside the liner like a playful puppy. An American soldier stood at the cutter’s bow, cupped his hands, and yelled, “You don’t want to go back, do you?” And the young mothers and wives, weeping like mad, yelled, “No.”
The ship turned about, we headed into the Channel, night began to fall, and we moved below deck. And then came the first surprise. There was a meal, with meat and a vegetable that was not easy to recognise right away. It was not, you see, Brussels sprouts …
The fifth day out we sighted land, way off on our left. Away ahead there, rising like a rim of mist was the almost dewy coast of New Jersey. On the
right was the flat, twinkling line of the south shore of Long Island, and then for a half day, with the blue sky swooping all over us, we came slowly up New York Harbor.
And the captains of tugboats would look up and wave at the brides, and soon we saw great signs painted on the ends of docks, and on the roofs of pier buildings that said “Welcome Home” and “Well Done”. A soldier friend of mine told me about the lump that came in his throat when he heard the bands and saw these signs. Full of pride and bounce, he came down the gangplank to meet New York and its grateful citizens, and then he started to look for a hotel room. Then just a room. He wound up begging a man who ran a Turkish bath to rig up a cot just for the night. That was the due of fame. That was his welcome home.” —Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America: No 1, March 24 1946