World War II: A Changed America--War Brides

war brides
Figure 1.--This International News Photo was captioned, "French brides with babies to rejoin U.S. hubbies--Ohila, Pa. Two of the thirty five French wives of American soldiers, shown with their babies when they arrived on the S.S. Edward Hington, Oct. 8th for reunions with their husbands. Left to right are Mrs. John Brire and 14-months-old Lydia, of Byron, Georgia and Mrs. James Giles with 3-months-old Lydia, of Indianapolis, Ind."

Adding to the diversity of American society were the war brides arriving after the War. American soldiers married local women in the various countries where they were stationed. War brides came from more than 50 countries. They were concentrated, however, in a relatively small number of countries. We have only scattered reports on the numbers of marriages involved. Estimates of the number of war brides vary considerably, varying in part because of different time frames selected. A general range of estimates is about 250,000-300,000 from Europe and 100,000-150,000 from Asia. Generally the pertinent time frame is 1942 when American service began to be deployed in Britain to about 1952 when new immigration laws were passed. The War of course ended in 1945, but Americans continued to be stationed in Britain and the occupation of Germany and Japan only began at wars end. Marriages occurred in substantial numbers where large numbers of men were stationed and where no active combat operations. Thus large numbers of marriages occurred in Britain both during the War and after the war when Americans were stationed in Britain. There were fewer marriages in France because the United States did not maintain large bases there after the Liberation. There were also large numbers of marriages in Germany during the occupation following the War. About 100,000 war brides seem to have come from Britain. Most from continental Europe came from Germany during the occupation. In Asia, war brides primarily came from the Philippines and Japan. There were also marriages in New Zealand and Australia, but smaller numbers because of the relatively small populations in those countries. One source estimates that in Australia there were about 15,500 marriages and in New Zealand 1,500. Many of these brides brought children with them. Most of the war brides traveled to the United States on former troop or hospital ships. The first arrivals of war brides in late 1945 were met with considerable excitement by the press and the American public. Articles appeared in newspapers and magazines. There were a few who resented the foreign women who had "stolen our boys". Restrictive immigration laws passed in the 1920s established quotas for Europeans and barred Asians. The War Brides Act 1945 authorized the entry of spouses of American servicemen without restrictions imposed by immigration laws. Later a law was passed for finances, but they had to return if a wedding did not take place. Congress reaffirmed the quota system with the McCarran-Walter Act (1952). [Reimers] This is why war bride statistics often cut off at 1952. The war brides caused a substantial female blip in U.S. immigration statistics.

Diversity

Adding to the diversity of American society were the war brides arriving after the War. American soldiers married local women in the various countries where they were stationed. War brides came from more than 50 countries. They were concentrated, however, in a relatively small number of countries. Large numbers of marriages occurred in Britain both during the War and after the war when Americans were stationed in Britain. There were fewer marriages in France because the United States did not maintain large bases there after the Liberation. There were also large numbers of marriages in Germany during the occupation following the War. About 100,000 war brides seem to have come from Britain. Most from continental Europe came from Germany during the occupation. In Asia, war brides primarily came from the Philippines and Japan. There were also marriages in New Zealand and Australia, but smaller numbers because of the relatively small populations in those countries. One source estimates that in Australia there were about 15,500 marriages and in New Zealand 1,500.

Chronology

Generally the pertinent time frame is 1942 when American service began to be deployed in Britain to about 1952 when new immigration laws were passed. The War of course ended in 1945, but Americans continued to be stationed in Britain and the occupation of Germany and Japan only began at wars end.

Situation

Marriages occurred in substantial numbers where large numbers of men were stationed and where no active combat operations. This in large measure explains the differences between the different countries in terms of war brides.

Numbers

We have only scattered reports on the numbers of marriages involved. Estimates of the number of war brides vary considerably, varying in part because of different time frames selected. A general range of estimates is about 250,000-300,000 from Europe and 100,000-150,000 from Asia.

Children

Many of these brides brought children with them. They were almost very young children. Thus although foreign born they grew up being very American.

Travel

Most of the war brides traveled to the United States on former troop or hospital ships.

American Attitudes

The first arrivals of war brides in late 1945 were met with considerable excitement by the press and the American public. Articles appeared in newspapers and magazines. There were a few who resented the foreign women who had "stolen our boys".

Immigration Laws

Restrictive immigration laws passed in the 1920s established quotas for Europeans and barred Asians. The War Brides Act 1945 authorized the entry of spouses of American servicemen without restrictions imposed by immigration laws. Later a law was passed for finances, but they had to return if a wedding did not take place. Congress reaffirmed the quota system with the McCarran-Walter Act (1952). [Reimers] This is why war bride statistics often cut off at 1952. The war brides caused a substantial female blip in U.S. immigration statistics.

Sources

Reimers, David M. "Post-World War II immigration to the United States: America's latest newcomers," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 454, America as a Multicultural Society (March, 1981), pp. 1-12.






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Last updated: 8:49 PM 10/8/2011