One of the War Department's Army / Navy Screen Magazine newsreels, this film was shown to U.S. servicemen and war workers. Segments include STRICTLY FOR ESKIMOS which shows G.I.s in Iceland adjusting to life in the harsh arctic climate. The Red Cross Club is one of the few places for these G.I.s to relax…the rest of the time they are dealing with the muddy, wet, and severely cold conditions. Yet their service there is important as Iceland guards a huge area of the Atlantic and is vital for fighting the U-boats. The light hearted BLESSED EVENT tells how the U.S. Government arranges medical services for the pregnant wives of servicemen. These maternity services were provided by Uncle Sam for enlisted men at no cost.
At the beginning of World War II, Iceland was a sovereign kingdom in personal union with Denmark, with King Christian X as head of state. Iceland officially remained neutral throughout World War II. However, the British invaded Iceland on 10 May 1940. On 7 July 1941, the defence of Iceland was transferred from Britain to the United States, which was still a neutral country until five months later. On 17 June 1944, Iceland dissolved its union with Denmark and the Danish monarchy and declared itself a republic.
During the German occupation of Denmark, contact between the countries was disrupted. Initially, the Kingdom of Iceland declared itself to be neutral, and limited visits of belligerent warships and imposed a ban on belligerent aircraft within Icelandic territory.
On 7 July 1941, the defence of Iceland was transferred from Britain to the (still officially neutral) United States, by agreement with Iceland, and US marines replaced the British. Iceland's strategic position along the North Atlantic sea-lanes, perfect for air and naval bases, could bring new importance to the island. The 1st Marine Brigade consisting of approximately 4,100 troops garrisoned Iceland until early 1942 when they were replaced by U.S. Army troops, so they could join their fellow Marines fighting in the Pacific.
Iceland cooperated with the British and then the Americans, but officially remained neutral throughout World War II.
During the war, drifting mines became a serious problem for Icelanders as well as the Allied forces. The first Icelandic Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel were trained in 1942 by the British Royal Navy to help deal with the problem. The British forces also supplied the Icelandic Coast Guard with weapons and ammunition, such as depth-charges against Axis U-boats. During the war, German U-boats damaged and sank a number of Icelandic vessels. Iceland's reliance on the sea, to provide nourishment and for trade, resulted in significant loss of life. In 1944 British Naval Intelligence built a group of five Marconi wireless direction finding stations on the coast west of Reykjavík. The stations were part of a ring of similar groups located around the north Atlantic to locate wireless transmissions from U-boats.
On 17 June 1944, Iceland dissolved its union with Denmark and the Danish monarchy and declared itself a republic.
The presence of British and American troops in Iceland had a lasting impact on the country. There was large-scale interaction between young Icelandic women and soldiers, which came to be known as Ástandið ("the condition" or "situation") in Icelandic. Many Icelandic women married Allied soldiers and subsequently gave birth to children, many of whom bore the patronymic Hansson (hans translates as "his" in Icelandic), which was used because the father was unknown or had left the country. Some children born as a result of the Ástandið have English surnames.
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