Always Treat Your Girlfriend Right: A WWII Case Study

The British Army had a proverb before the war, “Treat your girlfriend right and she’ll treat you twice as well.” In 1943, they were deployed to North Africa. They took their girls with them because of how much work it was to find someone willing to tolerate such close proximity.

Sledge’s experiences in combat changed his view of the Japanese soldiers he was fighting. He had previously seen them as a “civilized” race, but after seeing their actions firsthand, he came to see them as “savages.”

Vintage soldiers in trench loading grenade gun with bomb.

For months, Sid Phillips, 18, and his Marines had been surviving on maggot-infested rice.

At the commencement of the Guadalcanal battle, enemy forces had disrupted supply lines. Sid was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds at the time. Sid weighed just 145 pounds at the conclusion of the battle in December 1942.

That’s when Sid was taken off the front lines and sent to a beach construction duty. Navy ships had only just been permitted to dock, and supplies in large quantities had finally started to arrive. Sid was assigned the task of unloading a consignment of canned goods.

Consider the following scenario. A hungry young guy unloaded piles upon stacks of food as tall as he could reach. Sid did what any starving guy would do: he did the only thing he could think of. He and his longtime friend Tex each slurped a full gallon of sliced pineapple from cans.

Of course, neither guy could keep the meal down. They just sat on the boat and vomited overboard till they were free. They puked and laughed and puked and laughed and puked and puked and puked and puked and puked and puked and puked and pu

“That was too much of a good thing, wasn’t it?” Tex lamented.

Keep that image in mind as you fast forward a week to the Marines’ departure from Guadalcanal, sailing to Australia, and dropping anchor.

The Marines’ time in Australia would ultimately evolve into a protracted season of recuperation and training as they prepared for their next war. Interacting with Australia’s civilian populace is very important.

In four months, none of the Marines had seen a woman. Some guys were tempted to “gorge” on women in the same way that Tex and Sid gorged on pineapple cans. Other males, on the other hand, were more restrained.

Sid was one of them this time, and he’s always been glad he went with his gut.

This is why.

One plot thread in the HBO miniseries The Pacific has Sid Phillips (played by actor Ashton Holmes) meeting and ultimately having a sexual connection with Gwen (played by actress Isabel Lucas).

Sid, on the other hand, will tell you that “Gwen” was a made-up figure invented for a Hollywood narrative. “Gwen” never existed, and the racy moment between Sid and Gwen was concocted by the miniseries’ authors.

In real life, Sid became friends with Shirley, a lovely 16-year-old Australian. She had an elder sister who married Deacon Tatum, one of Sid’s acquaintances.

The girls’ mother, a widow whose husband died from the consequences of being gassed in WWI, gave the lads a severe talking to straight away. If the Americans wanted to date her daughters, they had to do it in groups. Neither Deacon nor Sid were to ever leave either sister alone.

The young folks became good friends over time. Shirley was from a modest but diligent household. The grandmother was also a resident in the family’s home, which lacked a refrigerator and even power. As a result, Sid and Deacon went to the grocery store on a regular basis to purchase steak, potatoes, and other delectable foods to bring back to the home. The dinner would be prepared by the mother for all of them. The two guys ate at the residence approximately twice a week for months.


Sid and Deacon brought the girls to the cinema, amusement parks, and historical places in Melbourne most regularly for trips. They spoke, laughed, and took long walks, all hoping that the conflict would end soon.

The Marines were stationed in Australia for over a year, and Shirley and Sid parted ways when the men were ultimately deployed off to fight the Battle of New Britain. Their connection, according to Sid, remained chaste the whole time.

Here’s one of the main reasons Sid feels pleased with his decision today:

Shirley remained in Australia after the war, while Sid returned to Alabama and became a doctor.

There was no easy method for people to stay in contact if they lived far apart back then. For many years, Sid and Shirley exchanged Christmas cards and letters, but that was all.

Shirley soon married David Finley, an Australian Spitfire pilot who proved to be a good husband and parent.

Sid married Mary, his high school sweetheart, whom he adored. (Best man at the event was Eugene Sledge, a Marine who went on to write the legendary war book With the Old Breed.)

David and Shirley Finley visited Sid and Mary Phillips in the United States while they were both in their thirties. Finley’s son met the Phillips’ daughter during that visit, and the two became great friends.

The son and daughter were both youngsters at the time, but the Finley son and the Phillips daughter reunited after they’d both grown up. They rekindled their friendship and finally fell in love and married. Shirley’s son is also a doctor, and they now reside in Florida with their three children.

So, did you see the link?— Sid’s ex-girlfriend is now the mother-in-law of his daughter. Sid and Shirley have the same grandkids now.

The years passed. Shirley’s husband, David, and Sid’s wife, Mary, both died a few years ago. Sid and Shirley are now in their late eighties and still write to each other on a regular basis.

Shirley and Sid are still living in Australia and Alabama, respectively. They’re not searching for a romantic involvement with each other, Sid informed me, even if they’re both single today. He’s delighted he treated her with gallantry, civility, and respect when they first met as youngsters.

What is the moral of the story?

Vintage man holding gun in his left hand with a dog.

Sid Phillips and Shirley Finley’s tale is a plea to consider both the present and the future—and to properly manage both.

The anecdote demonstrates what can happen when individuals truly wish one other well. Many friendships are fleeting, and individuals may quickly drift away as time passes or circumstances change.

Take this as an opportunity to be appreciative for the close connections you have right now.

It also serves as a reminder that every dating relationship ends in one of two ways: either the pair breaks up or they marry. There aren’t any other choices. That’s a good extrapolation to remember while dating.


You may be tempted to feed yourself on your girlfriend’s goodness like a starving man on canned pineapple, but there’s a big possibility she’ll marry someone else eventually. Her kids and your offspring may potentially marry in the future. As a result, it will benefit everyone if you can always look each other in the eyes with a clean conscience.

How can you be sure about that?


Treat every lady you date with gallantry, kindness, and respect, just like Sid Phillips did.

What are some practical ways that young men may show their women gallantry, civility, and respect?

What are some practical ways that young men may show their women gallantry, civility, and respect?

Marcus Brotherton contributes to the Art of Manliness on a regular basis. He’s the author or co-author of many military nonfiction works, including Sid Phillips’ combat experiences in Voices of the Pacific. Visit to read Marcus’ blog, Men Who Lead Well.




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