Before America entered World War II, twenty-two U.S. citizens went to England and volunteered with the Royal Navy. Commissioned between September 1939 and November 1941, they stood side by side with their British compatriots, enduring all the hardships during Britain's darkest hours of WWII, fighting with great bravery during the Battle of the Atlantic and on other fronts. They won great admiration from the British people.
While the history of Americans serving in the Royal Air Force is well known, the story of these naval volunteers has not been previously told. Most trained at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, thus initiating what was to become the famous`over here' phenomenon as the two different cultures learned to adapt to each other's ways. The faculty commemorated the arrival of the first two men with a plaque in the Painted Hall; however, mindful of the possible legal consequences, since foreign military service is against US law and could have resulted in loss of citizenship, their names were omitted. Now, after more than 30 years of research, their identities and the details of their contributions can be made known.
What makes this tale compelling is that the men actually had a significant impact on the war effort. Showing up was just the start; some achieved remarkable accomplishments. This is their story; who they were, what they did and why and what became of them.
Eric Dietrich-Berryman, a native of Germany, is a thirty-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Reserve. He lives in Cape Henry, VA. Charlotte Hammond, a resident of Worthing, England, is a solicitor with a British law firm. Ronald E. White served in the Royal Navy in World War II. He died in 2009.