Image US soldier and air-raid shelter, Brisbane, 1942

TLF ID R9198

This colour photograph taken in May 1942 shows a US army officer posing at the entrance of an underground air-raid shelter in Brisbane. The photo was taken in the grounds of Somerville House, an exclusive girls' boarding school requisitioned by the US forces in the Second World War as one of their headquarters in Brisbane. The officer, Lieutenant Mark T Muller, wears a metal helmet and peers into the sky in what seems to be a publicity pose. The shelter appears to be made of timber boarding and has earth piled on top of it.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Air-raid shelters such as the one seen here were built in Brisbane as fears of a Japanese invasion increased in response to attacks on northern Australia. Australia had declared war on Japan in 1941 after Japanese forces invaded the Malayan peninsula and attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1942 parts of northern Australia, including Darwin and Townsville, were bombed and Sydney was attacked by miniature submarines.
  • The soldier shown here was one of 80,000 US servicemen located in Brisbane at the peak of the War. Australian prime minister John Curtin, realising that Britain was in no position to provide assistance as it was engaged in a struggle for its own survival against Germany, had turned to the USA for help in 1941. The USA had remained neutral until the Japanese attack on the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 forced them to enter the war.
  • The lieutenant in the photograph was on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, who arrived in Melbourne from the Philippines in March 1942. By July he had set up headquarters in Brisbane under the direction of General Eisenhower, who had decided the US forces would direct much of their campaign in the southern hemisphere from Australia.
  • Somerville House, in the grounds of which the air-raid shelter was located, was one of several buildings requisitioned by MacArthur, who was personally based in the AMP Building in the city centre. Base Section 3 at Somerville House was the signals section centre where Lieutenant Muller was on staff. It is believed news of the Japanese surrender came here first to be passed on to MacArthur. A flagpole and an air-raid siren erected by the Americans still stand at the school.
  • Welcomed as saviours by Australians at first, some of the glamour of the US servicemen wore off after a time. Disagreements between US and Australian forces caused tension, with Australians critical of the US pay scales and stylish uniforms, a wider range of items available from military PXs (tax free stores), relationships with Australian women who saw the US soldiers as desirable and romantic, and race relations regarding black US servicemen.
  • The presence of large numbers of US troops also had many benefits for Australia - rural industries rushed to keep up with the increased demand for food supplies and the US forces introduced trends in fashion, manufactured goods, domestic technology and consumerism. By the end of 1944, two-thirds of Australia's imports came from the USA and the alliance formed during the Second World War has remained of central importance to Australia today.
Year level

F; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements