Queen Mary arrived at New York on 10th February 1946, bringing 1,700 GI brides and 650 children to their new lives in America. She had been converted in Southampton in January 1946, when a nursery and a playroom were installed, along with extra laundries. There were now cots in all rooms. The standee bunks in the First Class swimming pool were removed and the area was used as a drying room for hundreds of nappies (or diapers!). American Red Cross nurses, Army welfare officers and baby specialists were aboard to help the mothers. This was the first of a series of crossings known as ‘Operation Diaper’, which took in total nearly 13,000 GI brides across the Atlantic.
The Americans had organised two large camps near Southampton, where the mothers and babies were assembled some days before they were due to sail. Here they were given lectures on the American way of life, language differences and cultural changes they could expect. She had left Southampton on 4th February. Most of the women and children aboard had never seen so much food, or many of the varieties available, and quickly gorged themselves, in spite of being given warnings from the authorities.
As Queen Mary arrived at New York, she had to plough through ice around Pier 90. On the quayside the 378th Army Service Forces Band played a selection of tunes to welcome the arrival of the brides – among their repertoire was Brahm’s Lullaby and Rock-A-Bye-Baby, all played eight to the bar! The welcome was appreciated by everyone aboard.