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During World War II, the Americans and the British were not only allies in war. They were allies in love. In the spring of 1944, with D-Day just weeks away, LIFE photographer Ralph Morse strolled through London’s Hyde Park capturing the phenomenon that was the love between American soldiers and young English women.
Upwards of 2 million American troops were stationed in the U.K. during the latter days of the war, and as the Allied Invasion of Normandy drew nearer, soldiers took what leisure time they could. Often this meant playing baseball as English girls looked on, teaching English girls how to jitterbug, rowing English girls across the shallow Serpentine lake—in short, finding distraction from the realities of war in time spent with women.
“Always in spring, young couples have walked under [Hyde Park’s] elms,” the magazine explained. But this year, it continued, “American boys and British girls stroll there and sometimes kiss before all men in England turn to stern tasks of war.” Devoid of context, Morse’s images of young lovers might appear to be the very picture of carefree romance. But the world outside the frame provided plenty of reasons for the soldiers to seek shelter in the arms of young English ladies. The thought of impending death, however, kept many soldiers from allowing their flirtations to develop into deeper love. Their courtship rituals held no promise of happy endings.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.