Jacob McChesney

Jacob McChesney

Bates College

US History and Medieval Studies


2006

Mentor: Dr. Kurk Dorsey, UNH Department of History

Overpaid, Oversexed, and Under the SOFA: U.S. Extraterritoriality in Great Britain during WWII

In the winter of 1944, Sir Eric Teichman, a 60-year-old retired British diplomat, was sitting before his fire when he suddenly heard a loud shot from the forest on his estate. Unarmed, he set out to investigate the noise. When he had failed to return by nightfall, his wife organized a search party. They discovered Sir Teichman's corpse shortly thereafter, shot by a U.S. military-issue carbine. An investigation into the crime led to the conviction of United States Pvt. George E. Smith in a U.S. military court of law and on May 8th, 1945, he was hanged.

American G.I.'s came head-to-head with British law far too often during World War II. In 1941 the United States joined the Second World War and began stationing troops in Great Britain for the allied effort. The addition of over 1.5 million foreigners to an already heavily populated country roughly the size of Michigan was bound to create some tension. The puzzle here concerns the trying of these servicemen in American military courts rather than British ones. This policy of allowing servicemen who have committed a crime while in a foreign country to be tried in a military court of their own government is called extraterritoriality, or a "Status of Forces" agreement (SOFA). These policies in wartime Britain marked the beginning of a new shape in American foreign policy emphasizing extraterritoriality. This thesis will examine this SOFA issue and the British and U.S. policies behind it concerning the American G.I., relating them specifically to the reshaping of American foreign policy concerning the U.S. military.

The focus of research efforts shall be in examining various primary sources including newspaper articles and reports of such crimes, military documents including court-martial transcripts, governmental policies concerning Americans in the United Kingdom including the "Status of Forces" agreement between Great Britain and the U.S., and various personal accounts and diaries. Interviews shall also be conducted with American soldiers and British citizens who were alive at the time. Various secondary sources shall be examined which touch on this Anglo-American relationship, including works by Paul Fussell, Norman Longmate, and David Reynolds.

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