War bride - The term used in reference to war-time marriages.
Yank - A term used by the British to describe all Americans
War Brides WWII - (U.S. Army estimates from the Family Act of 1945). Estimated number of U.S. war brides by country: Britain, 100,000; France, 8,700; Australia, 15,000; Philippines, 850; Japan, 1,100
A photo of the heavy anti-aircraft battery somewhere in England. Photo includes Agnes Pflueger, who will be featured next week.
The Family Act, a.k.a the War Bride's Act - HR 4857 Pub L-79-271;59; The 79th Congress, Dec. 28, 1945
This act of Congress was instituted and passed to insure all U.S. military personnel who had taken wives or had fathered children, while serving their country overseas during the war time period, that a free and safe passage would be guaranteed to all wives and children to the doorsteps of each eligible veteran.
This act helped ease the immigration laws. It also insured the safe passage of disabled wives or children to their new homes. A free medical examination of all disabled wives or children would be performed and notifications of such findings would be forwarded to local health authorities to ensure continual medical aid. This act also insured free transportation to their new doorsteps. The act was non quota.
Operation War Bride
In January 1946, the U.S. Army officially began Operation War Bride where, in Britain, the USS Argentina was loaded with 455 British war brides along with 132 children who were the first of many to cross the Atlantic passages scheduled in the near future. During Operation War Bride, the U.S. had negotiated contracts with over 70 ships being used in this operation. These ships included Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and the Acquitain.
The Petticoat Pilgrims
This was the name given to these young brides. Imagine how thousands of English women felt in those early months of 1946, boarding those large ships taking them away from their home country to a new land with new laws and customs.
A Very Precious Cargo
The town of Essex had been host to thousands of overseas veterans during World War II. Some military personnel merely touched down in transit, but others were stationed in that part of England for months and more for years. It was hardly surprising with the majority of Britains eligible bachelors away fighting that romance blossomed between the smartly dressed young men and girls living in towns around all those military bases and camps. These young American men were once described as overpaid, oversexed and over here!
The majority of registered war-bride marriages ended up in happiness for many couples, some still on record of over 65 years.
But for a few coming into the U.S., the Cinderella story ended with stepping off a ship's gangway or a train's step.
When they arrived and re-met the man they planned to spend the rest of their lives with, they didn't see that handsome Yank who left them behind. They didn't see the man who was altogether different from those fellows they had met before.
What some girls saw was entirely different. That young, strong, handsome lieutenant was now a taxi cab driver. That major she had seen with all that brass was now selling life insurance. The full bird colonel, a clerk at the family owned drug store. America as Britain was now experiencing an after-war economy. Most high paying jobs were now nonexistent.
That GI who, in England, seemed to be swimming in money, now seemed to be struggling for it and the girls who were always being romanced overseas were now living with men who were suffering from combat related problems. Some had turned to drinking which created a marriage that placed these women as victims of an abusive marriage.
The ending stories
It's now 65 years later and many war bride stories will only be told by people like me who heard them from a real war bride.
A time in life fading away. As our heroes fade away, we still have Agnes to tell us how it was and how she did it. A petticoat pilgrim in January 1946 while on a rust bucket sailing towards the U.S., she took classes we would consider silly, but to her they were essential, on things she must know - things like what a nickel, dime and quarter are - only to go down to the ships store and being told that box of candy was two bits.
She ran back to her bunk looking for that paper given to her about our currency and not finding on any page that coin the clerk asked for. Two bits. What coin was two bits? What else needed to be learned? Will I be accepted? Will I speak right? Will I dress right?
Next week, we will feature one of these war brides - Agnes Pat Pfleuger.
- Submitted by John Fedyszyn Fredonia