tv World War II War Brides CSPAN February 17, 2021 4:19pm-5:05pm EST
>> lectures in history on american history tv, every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. lectures in history is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. 1 million women from 50 different countries married american servicemen during and immediately after world war ii. up next on american history tv, erin coggins, a high school teacher from alabama, talks about these war brides and their experiences both during the war and after moving to the united states. hosted by the friends of the national world war ii memorial this is 45 minutes. >> hello, my name is erin coggins. i am honored to be presenting at the virtual history conference. this is a subject dear to my heart. today i'm going to talk to you about war brides.
i have titled this presentation, "first came love, then came marriage, then came life in a strange new land and a farewell to everything familiar." it's a subject that has not received a lot of attention. you'll see a lot on canadian war brides, but not much on american war brides. this is a source that is really untapped. between 1942 and 1952, 1 million american soldiers foreign women from 50 different countries. this is a rough breakdown. it's an estimate. 100,000 were british. 150,000 to 200,000 were from continental europe. about 16,000 hailed from australia and new zealand. 50,000 to 100,000 were from the far east, including japan. and by 1950, 14,175 were german women. it wasn't supposed to happen,
this marriage between american g.i.s and foreign ladies. the 2 million u.s. servicemen arriving in britain were given a 38-page handbook instructing them to avoid upsetting the british during the so-called friendly invasion. the british already felt that the americans were overpaid, the g.i.s made more money, that they were oversexed because the british ladies were very attractive to these american g.i.s so there was a little bit of animosity already. so marriage was discouraged. in fact, a 1942 article read, don't promise her anything. marriage outside of the u.s. is out. some would say this is an
exaggeration, but not really. they really did not want this fraternization. the war department required overseas troops to obtain official permission before they were to wed. so you can see this is not something the american government really wanted. if you fell in love and you wanted to marry, it was a very complex process. it required up to 15 forms, and you could take up to a year to receive permission or even a rejection. it was a very complex process. what they would do is they had the british red cross and they would go to the bride's family, compiled information on their
allegiance, money, and their health. and they would use this to hand over in order to gain permission. the same thing took place in america. the groom's family were interviewed. their bank accounts were looked at. did you have enough money to support her, to support a family? and once these investigations were over, they had to give approval. there is one story of a gentleman whose commanding officer tried to get him to wait. he said, do not be hasty in marrying. one man's father rejected the marriage. it wasn't based on she being from england or she being a foreign war bride. it was based on, there was no
reason for the government to intervene in a personal relationship like marriage. so he denied his son from bringing home a war bride. so there are thousands of stories about this process. this approval process. in fact if you look at the old movies, especially the war bride movies, it involves usually that commanding officer. but it happens rather quickly in the movies, and we know it could take up to a year in real life. these ladies were called wallflower wives. many were perceived as nothing but a gold digger. they were capitalizing on opportunities to take americans' money and this was a prejudice in their own countries for this. at times, they had to wait and wait and wait. there was an incident in early 1945.
about 500 brides visited the u.s. embassy daily. they demanded, when can i join my husband in the united states? we need answers. some even had children to transport. in november of 1945, brides even took to eleanor roosevelt's hotel room in london. after the marriage was approved and they got the approval, they're really searching to get home, to their new home in the united states. but it didn't come easy. there were further blocks. once you were approved, there was a holding center. a processing camp in england. it was billed as a country club for war brides. however, it was not anything close to a country club for war brides.
they slept in large, poorly heated dormitories once used by american soldiers. they were fed by prisoners of war. so it was not a happy reception at all. most of the british ladies reported the exams they had to undergo to check for health, a lot of them were humiliaing to them. they were personal in a female nature and many of them were raised in a very stoic, sheltered 1940s upbringing and they were just astonished at how they were being treated and they were like, we're not going to go to america. married or not. we're not going to be susceptible to such treatment. so many left, refusing to wait. they were just tired of waiting
to be with our husbands. and then came 1945. the war brides act. this was the answer the war brides were waiting for. congress enacted exceptions to the national origin quotas in the immigration act of 1924 and they did so to allow them to get to america. they had three years to move the families to the united states. it was expanded a few months later to include the fiancees. and that bill was a three-month temporary visa for the foreign fiancees. they had three months to marry or else they had to return home. it did not begin until after the
passage of this bill and the first operation war bride sailed from southampton to new york had 750 war brides on it. the act addressed the chinese wives on a non-quota basis. but they did not get japanese wives yet. that would come in 1947. as you can see, i feel that this was a pretty big impact of world war ii. the queen mary, which used to transport soldiers back and forth to england, i know that my husband's grandfather sailed on the queen mary when he was heading for "d"-day, and training in britain.
the queen mary took about 12,886 g.i. war brides to the u.s. from great britain. it was not a pleasant trip. the sea could be rough. my grandfather-in-law said the worst sea legs he ever had was sailing on the queen mary and being sick. these were foreign women coming to their country. people had a bias against them sometimes. they were not quite 100% accepted. but the queen mary tried its best to make these ladies feel at home. they created a newsletter for them called the story -- the wives aweigh. it was provided to the war brides. they were also able to contribute to it as well.
so it was kind of a way of saying, we're going to give you some tips on how to live in america. recipes, jokes, and stories. ways to act in america, written on there, written in the newsletter. and all kinds of things like this, preparing them for what it would be like when they stepped off the queen mary and on to the shores of the united states. it also kept the ladies up-to-date on things that they may have missed current events, those kinds of things. it was a reach out to say, hey, we are welcoming you. and we want you to contribute to society and our way of life. when the war brides arrived in the united states, there were three things they really had to worry about. one was expectations. what was it going to be like
when they got here? was everything they heard about the united states true? how would they assimilate and conform? or would they have to? and then that family back home. expectations. a lot of these ladies were quite surprised when they got to the united states. perhaps the grand homes they were promised by their g.i. husbands turned out to be nothing but a rickety farmhouse. so a lot of them had been lied to about what to expect. some of them entered abusive relationships in the united states. they were afraid to return home. they feared they might lose their children. some of them came into a family that had a discriminatory look at them for being from a different country, and so the expectations sometimes fell short. and then for lot of war brides,
probably the majority, the expectations were exactly what they thought. america was a place for peace. it was far away from a war zone. it seemed to be plentiful. so those things turned out to be what they expected. as far as conformity, this is where these ladies really had some issues. do you assimilate and become all american? do you hold on to all of your traditions from home? do you blend the two? and this really depended on what country they were from. the british tended to keep those traditions and live that american life with those traditions and not be looked down upon, as others from other countries. the family back home, if you read any war bride story,
leaving families was difficult. some never thought they would see them ever again. a lot of their families wanted their daughters to go. they were leaving a war-torn area. they wanted them to have that peace and security they felt the united states provided them. but overseas, also developed a relationship with these war brides. they created the transatlantic brides and parents association. it was a way to communicate with their children. also a way to work on how to visit the united states and their children and grandchildren. the united states had similar organizations here that worked with that particular one overseas. as well as started the war brides association that allowed these women to connect in these specific areas.
and to discuss what it is like. be able to talk to someone that knew what it is like. and in fact these war brides got together. a "new york times" article i will share with you had these ladies together for the last time as they are getting older to see the queen mary a few years ago. so a lot of them kept in touch. they still keep in touch through various organizations. now, we've talked about the british, how easy it was to assimilate. imagine being a war bride from the two enemy countries. here on this on the left there is a german war bride. she became one of the first german war brides who went to the united states. on the right is a japanese war bride. these ladies had it a little differently.
they weren't accepted as much. a lot of them really felt that when they got to the united states they really needed to change their heritage. a lot of them felt really guilt ridden on what their countries had done. and if fraternization was not accepted with the british, it definitely was stipulated to the americans in postwar germany. this was not the way to go. marrying the enemy. of course these ladies had positions with the united states army as translators and office workers. and love happened. the japanese particularly felt a lot different than the germans, as you could imagine. as soon as they applied for war bride status, they were given different names. a lot of times the commanding officer would pick a name, an american name.
this lady on the right, she was kimiko but they quickly changed her name to peggy. they just kind of picked names and gave these ladies these names. so they would try to make them fit in and assimilate a little more. these ladies commented on their clothing. how they had to change that. many of the japanese ladies came from very well to do families. and found themselves after the war with nothing. any hope of some kind of security really intrigued them with the american g.i.s and their families as well. this lady here on the right really was denied entry for a while until a young congressman by the name of john f. kennedy got hold of her. her case. he actually sponsored a bill called the hr 8588. it was called all for the relief
of kimiko yamaguchi of 1950. this bill allows for peggy to be able to follow her husband to the united states. a little bit of history of president kennedy there in helping this couple settle in boston. and it was not without drama as well with the war brides. there is a particular story, a war bride who was born in germany. she had an interesting background. her family supported the nazi party. eventually postwar she secures civilian employment with the war department. the war department loved her work. they felt she was excellent. they actually got permission from the commanding officer or commanding general to marry a u.s. citizen who was employed as
a civilian in the u.s. army. eventually she had naturalization as a u.s. citizen. she was temporarily excluded from the u.s. by the attorney general. she fought it and it goes to the supreme court and the supreme court does uphold saying, her background could be a threat to the united states, it may not be in our best interests to allow her. she was one more bride that was denied entry into the united states. so there was a little drama. sometimes with these war brides in the courts. the impact of war brides to me is the culture that they brought to the united states. it also was the beginning of hyphenating american identities.
you could be a german-american, japanese-american, an anglo-american. many began to hyphenate these names. they brought this culture to the united states in a different kind of way. we didn't quite say i am german. i am an american now, i am a citizen. i will assimilate. and i will do that by also bringing my ideas and my culture into the marriage and the united states. and raise their children that way. it broadened a lot of views of foreign countries and immigration as well. and so it is something to be studied. also, hollywood did not fail to capture on the war brides. making several movies about war brides. this was during the '40s. one of them started cary grant.
"i was a male war bride." if you have not seen that one, i would recommend. there was a japanese war bride movie. "john loves mary," ronald reagan actually starred in. it was the story of a war bride from england. so it was a hot topic. something that we talked about in the postwar period. weaving war brides into the curriculum. most of you guys probably teach american history. or world history. you get to spend just a little moment in time on world war ii. whereas i'm very fortunate. i get to spend 18 weeks teaching it. why would you even want to bring war brides into your curriculum when you have this small time? as i mentioned at the very beginning of our presentation, it is really an untapped source for students in the united states. as i was gathering research for this, i got into google and started looking for some stories
and primary sources, there were not many on the american side. not primary sources. there was a lot of canadian resources, a lot of canadian lesson plans. and videos. you had to dig a little deep. as i got into the library of congress and started doing a little look, i did find a whole another avenue of war brides. that was the issue of interracial marriage. there were some pictures of that particular couple and that discussion. but nothing that was really out there. so i think it is a subject that needs to be explored. these ladies' stories need to be told. as a history teacher, you already know this. i'm not telling you anything new or different. but primary sources are the best way to get students engaged. and i think the story of love, the story of assimilation, of
what would you do in certain situations is a great way to learn about impact of the united states. the goal is, what can these ladies teach us about postwar america? and all the things they went through. immigration, what was it like? if they are sitting in class, would they want to go through all of that for love? and the treatment these ladies received. how about for japanese war brides? do you just give up your entire identity to come to the united states? it's a good way to look at how the united states became such a supreme power after world war ii and everybody wanted to live here. at some point, not today, i will not present you the lesson plan. but you will receive some lesson plans from me for being a part of this conference. and it is going to be called
walking in their shoes. and i will present to you several primary sources to use and ways to use those. a little pedagogy session on how to get war brides into the curriculum and tell their stories. i will leave you with this thought. i work with a group called honored legacies for veterans. we are a local group group that works with world war ii and vietnam veterans and korean veterans. the number one thing we have learned from talking to these people is they want their stories to matter and to live on. the biggest honor they said anyone could give them was to make sure that children in school learn about them. and so i feel the same way about these war brides. and what they contributed to our country. and their stories need to be told. there are some really interesting ones. i will leave you with this story. a lady fell in love. her name was eleanor.
and she fell in love with one of our pilots. and they had been together for about a week. when he was shot down and taken prisoner of war. he made sure that he was able to write to her through the red cross. and they stayed in constant contact through his term. there in prison, in the p.o.w. camp. in fact, the camp he was in was what "hogan's heroes" television series is based on. they were able to marry as soon as he was released. the war was over and he was able to get her to the united states and they were married. for about 60-something years. there are some great stories in there. some gems that show these ladies simply by falling in love made a
great impact on our country in the postwar period. after this q&a here, there's a great book called "g.i. brides" that we'll put in your lesson plans. it will have more information on some wonderful love stories. thanks for taking the time to listen to me. i love world war ii and i appreciate every one of you guys for being interested and wanting to teach your students about the greatest generation. >> thank you so much for this wonderful presentation. we're going to jump into some q&as. are you ready? >> i am. my internet is a little unstable. i hope we could get through this. you want me to start with the first question? >> i'll read them out. we'll do a back and forth.
from maggie b., how did japanese-americans who had been interned during the war feel towards japanese war brides? >> it is an interesting study. it is just what you would imagine. in japan, when they started falling in love and getting in getting married, they were looked at as basically prostitutes and enemies. when they came to the states it was the same exact thing. the ladies that were in internment camps through the war, they had these ladies come in and they were a little upset by it. and so they had a really difficult time assimilating in america for those reasons. they were experiencing prejudice on both sides. they weren't accepted at home. and no one really was in love with them. >> thank you. from julie, have you explored
war brides from other wars? >> in my research for this and i am just a world war ii researcher. i have a passion for it. i did find some articles on world war i. it was handled a little differently. the prejudice wasn't as obvious as world war ii, but i haven't done enough research to be able to answer that question well. >> okay, thank you. from sarah, so did the k-1 visa process mostly known from "90 day fiancee" have its roots in the legislation from 1945? >> yes. >> i see someone has their hand raised. i will try to get through all the written ones and then call just so i don't miss anything. >> i see what she's saying now. she's talking about the television reality show. no, i don't know. maybe it does. but i can't answer that. i misread that.
i'm not a reality television person. >> fair enough. from gordon, what about stories of our enemy p.o.w.s brought to america who might have married americans? i know there was a camp in north carolina, and the american women go home with him. >> i haven't done much of my research but that is very interesting. i have a friend who was a guard in the p.o.w. camp of italians and germans in wyoming. he often talked about the friendships that were established between guards and prisoners, and also ladies and prisoners. he is african-american and he was denied serving as a paratrooper, which is what he wanted. he's always told me that he learned more about african-american history from the germans than he ever did in
his own country. he was raised in l.a. he said they were really beneficial to him in teaching him about his own history. so i found that interesting as well. >> that's awesome. from kath, you mentioned that japanese women were looked at as prostitutes in the u.s. how many actually were prostitutes when they met the american g.i.s? >> lots of these japanese war brides came from very wealthy families. in war-torn japan they lost everything. the reason so many of them were looked at as prostitutes is they were finding a way out. they were going somewhere that wasn't war-torn, it was just a derogatory comment. trying to put them down for finding a way out. >> awesome. this is from susan. are there any universities or
archives that have concentrated resources about war brides? she says she has been looking for resources further than just genealogy. or are the resources mostly scattered? she says her paternal grandmother was a polish war p bride and she never saw her family again. and she's been wanting to do more research. >> oh, that's supercool. in my research, i couldn't find very much. there were a lot of studies. we did a quick survey and a lot of them come from the university of montana. so, i think i would start there to see what their collection is. the library of congress didn't have much. the archives had a little bit more than the library of congress. as i mentioned the loc focused a lot on african-american interracial marriages from the war, which is an entirely different study and topic that can go on forever. but the university of montana really did pop up a lot. so, that would be a good start.
>> cool. all right. from david, did many american women meet people they met overseas, like an american nurse marrying a british man and stay there? >> yes, that happened absolutely. more this way though, more trying to get to america. as i said about our men, those british ladies, they liked our men when they were over there. and so they -- they were -- you know, they would fall in love that way more so than the ladies in that opposite direction. but, yeah, there are stories of that as well, yes. >> from melissa allen, do you have any recommendations on where to start looking for information on specific war brides? so, i guess rather than broader archives, if you have a specific person in mind? >> right. a specific person in mind, i am not sure except for like what earlier, ancestry. but a really good start, this book -- i don't know if they showed it. it's the gi war brides book.
it does have a lot of resources in the back where the particular stories came from. so, i would suggest maybe getting a copy of this. i think it has the university mentioned too. right now i can't find it. but it's a great book for starting where you might want to look. >> great. from louisa, what role did war brides have in increased diversity and the civil rights movement? >> oh, i think that's great. i think this is the one reason i wanted to do this as an impact of world war ii because they did have such an impact. you know, it started that entirely -- at first people wanted them to asemilate, especially the japanese war brides. but they brought so much culture from their countries, and they started to be proud of who they were. it started that hyphenation of i'm a german-american or i'm a
japanese-american. i don't know an exact correlation, but i know it did. it also helped with women's rights as well. >> yeah, definitely. and related to that, from brianne, she's wondering if you found any instances of war brides being used as ramping up tensions in the cold war. >> oh, yes. there are some great stories about how war brides were used actually for propaganda in the cold war, not in a derogatory sense but using their stories of oh, they needed to flee or this is why they wanted to leave certain areas. so, yeah, there is a connection there. >> okay. from michael rogers, was the process to marry foreign prides so difficult for safety reasons or to discourage it or both, i guess? >> it was to discourage it, definitely. you can find an american lady, why do you want to do this now.
and the fact they would go to the families and really do a lot of research on them to see where their allegiance was and why they were marrying, if they were marrying purely for money or things of that nature. so, i would say most of it was for discouraging. >> from mary jocelyn mcpherson, as the women waited to move to the u.s., how were they treated by their family and friends, especially if they were from access countries? were they disowned? >> most of the research i went through, the families were very excited for their family members or their girls to move to america. america was peaceful. the war had not hit it directly. so, it wasn't a war-torn country. they were also seen as heroes even in m soft access countries. by the time america goes in, it's a totally different story, right? o, they were really excited about them.
the other side was they were very excited about perhaps they could never see their families again, see their family members. but most of them, yes. in japan, a little different. in japan the families tended to be -- they would shun them, especially fathers. mothers were a little more easy going. but fathers really felt a little, i guess, slap in the face that you would want to leave this country and go to america. so, it just depends on what area they were coming from. >> right, right. thank you. from shannon mathis, how many war brides divorced after coming to the u.s.? were many of the marriages just for convenience to get out of the war zone? >> oh, there are lots of stories of divorces. and most of them that you find are really the ladies came to america under false pretenses. you know, they were promised grand mansions and lots of money. they would get here and their husbands would be alcoholics and they would be abusive.
a lot of ladies did look to some of these guys to get out of those war-torn countries, especially those who had children. they were widows from the war, and they were looking for someone to help take care of children. but a lot of it was they just got over here and it just -- you know, they weren't promised -- their husbands basically lied to them. so, that did cause a lot of problems. as i mentioned, a lot of them stayed married though out of fear, fear that if i divorce him i'm going to be sent back to a country i left. he may keep my children and i can't take them back. so, a lot of those things that i think even abused women still feel today, except these ladies were from miles and miles away. >> yeah. how frequent was it for them to decide not to live in america? >> they always came back to america, just about it.
i don't know the percentage. the majority were definitely coming back home. >> and then from maggie b., this is kind of related to what you just spoke about on the divorces. but i guess the new part of the question is how -- if there's any research into how these marriages impacted the children. >> kind of what i've said, you know, about keeping those kids. there's a wonderful picture in the library of congress of a war bride with her children coming off the ship, seeing her husband who had been sent ahead of them. and it's beautiful because the kids are ahead of her. so, they were looking, you know, for that father figure. so, if i was to study that, i think i would look at that impact of what these kids thought of these new dads in a new country. it would be a very interesting study. >> yeah, definitely.
from ray, have you ever read or used some of the fictional novels about war brides, and are they useful? >> oh, yes. i love them. i've got -- i'm sitting in my world war ii room right now, and i've got a ton of those fiction novels, ray, and i -- yes. there's wonderful stories to pull out and use for the kids. the lesson plan i sent is not as in depth as i wanted to do, but what i usually love to do is give the kids some stories, and i included some sources on there of stories you can just get online from newspapers. and, you know, i love for the kids to get in that mindset where, okay, you're a war bride or you're a groom, how would you communicate this to your family how things are going? and i think fictional novels are great to use in that kind of situation to pull out certain stories. >> yeah, definitely. that's awesome. from debra puckett, she says her great uncle bill brought his
french war bride, aunt kristine. she was from paris and moved to a very small rural farm in west tennessee. she did leave him and moved back to france. he went to get her. they moved to a urban area where she socialized with other french war brides. do you have any advice. she keeps in touch with their daughter. >> that is such a great story that ties in with the research i found. they get here and they're like what do i do? am i completely happy? the fact he went and got her -- debra how long were they married, if you know? that would be great to know. i would start by research with the -- they had so many war bride -- what's the word i'm looking for here -- reunions around here and how they kind of found that, like she said, that
she found similar people that understood. that's great research. but i guess you're looking for research -- i guess it's what she's talking about, finding research of how they got together and found people like them. i'm not sure if that's what she's asking. but there are lots of stories there on that transatlantic bride thing that i mentioned in the presentation. >> great, awesome. and i'm getting to the end of my -- i see one more question. but everyone can keep the questions coming, and we still have time. or, like i said, i know there was a hand raised earlier that got put down. you're welcome to raise your hand again and ask the question yourself. from debra, she says she passed away in the 1960s of tb and they moved to arizona. >> ah, that's sad. >> yeah. but yeah, keep the questioning coming in. mary mcpherson says john f. kennedy's sister was a war bride. he stayed in britain after the war even after her husband was
killed shortly after they got married. are there other high profile war brides you are familiar with? >> i am not. i am familiar with that story and the fact she married a very upper class british gentleman would be one reason she decided to stay there. i don't know any more. that would be interesting to find out. that gives me something to do today, do a little research. >> the next project. >> yeah. >> yeah. are there any more questions? keep them coming in if you do. and you can also raise your hand if we want. no? >> i would like to see us, everybody in this conference here to flood the internet with some lesson plans on war brides from the american perspective because when you just do lesson plans, you're just coming up with canadian war brides or australian where they have memorials to war brides and museums to them.
so, i would like for maybe us to start a movement and flood the internet with our ideas. >> awesome. well, there we go everyone. we have a challenge set for us. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies. and today we're brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. weeknights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. architectural historian barry lewis died in january at the age of 75. tonight we begin a night of programs on architecture and art with two of his talks from the new york historical society. first mr. lewis discusses the design and construction of the iconic brooklyn bridge, which was built in the 1870s.
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called it freedom of the use of the press, and it is indeed freedom to print things and publish things. it is not freedom to what we refer to institutionally as freedom of press. >> lectures in history on c-span3 every saturday at 8:00 p.m. history. "lectures in history" is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. the friends of the national world war ii memorial host an annual teachers' conference where educators give presentations on world war ii history. next, david hogan with the u.s. center of military history examines the meaning of world war ii and the lasting impact. the friends of the national world war ii memorial provided this video. >> hello and greetings to you all. hope you've had a really good week with the world war ii conference, friends of world war ii. i'm here from the army center of