War bride

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Australian Flying Officer reunites in Sydney with Canadian bride and daughter in 1945.

War brides are women who married military personnel from other countries in times of war or during military occupations, a practice that occurred in great frequency during World War I and World War II.

Among the largest and best documented examples of this were the marriages between American servicemen and German women which took place after World War II. By 1949, over 20,000 German war brides had emigrated to the United States.[1] Furthermore, it is estimated that there are "... 15,000 Australian women who married American servicemen based in Australia during World War II and moved to the US to be with their husbands".[2] Allied servicemen also married many women in other countries where they were stationed at the end of the war, including France, Italy,[3] Luxembourg, the Philippines, Japan and China. This also occurred in Korea and Vietnam with the later wars in those countries involving U.S. troops and other anti-communist soldiers. As many as 100,000 GI war brides left the United Kingdom, 150,000 to 200,000 hailed from continental Europe, 15,500 from Australia and 1,500 from New Zealand, between the years 1942 and 1952.[4]

The many Scots who emigrated as war brides were celebrated in Bud Neill's Lobey Dosser series by the G.I. Bride character (with her baby Ned), forever trying to thumb a lift from the fictional Calton Creek in Arizona back to Partick in Scotland. The statue was erected in Partick station in 2011.[5]

The reasons for women marrying foreign soldiers and leaving their homelands vary. Particularly after World War II, many women in devastated European and Asian countries saw marriage as a means of escaping their devastated countries.[6][7]

Philippine-American War[edit]

Due to the Philippine Insurrection, a few U.S. servicemen would take Filipinas as their wives, with documentation as early as 1902 of one immigrating with their servicemember husband to the U.S. These Filipinas were already U.S. nationals, when immigrating to the United States, making their legal status significantly different from previous Asian immigrants to the US.[8]

War brides in World War II[edit]

A US serviceman and a British girl in Bournemouth, England, 1941.

United States[edit]

During and immediately after World War II, more than 60,000 U.S. servicemen married women overseas and they were promised that their wives and children would receive free passage to the U.S. The U.S. Army's "Operation War Bride", which eventually transported an estimated 70,000 women and children, began in Britain in early 1946. The press dubbed it "Operation Diaper Run". The first group of war brides (452 British women and their 173 children, and one bridegroom) left Southampton harbor on SS Argentina on January 26, 1946, and arrived in the U.S. on February 4, 1946.[9] According to British Post-War Migration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service reported 37,553 war brides from the "British Isles" took advantage of the War Brides Act of 1945 to emigrate to the United States, along with 59 "war bridegrooms".[10] Over the years, an estimated 300,000 foreign war brides moved to the United States following the passage of the War Brides Act and its subsequent amendments, of which 51,747 were Filipinos.[11] According to journalist Craft Young, a daughter of a Japanese war bride, there are an estimated 50,000 Japanese war brides.[12]

Robyn Arrowsmith, a historian who spent nine years researching Australia's war brides, said between 12,000 and 15,000 Australian women had married visiting U.S. servicemen and moved to the U.S. with their husbands.[13] Significantly, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Newfoundland women married American servicemen during the time of Ernest Harmon Air Force Base's existence (1941–1966), in which tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen arrived to defend the island and North America from Nazi Germany during World War II and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Many of these war brides settled in the U.S., so much so that in 1966 the Newfoundland government created a tourism campaign specifically tailored to provide opportunities for them and their families to reunite.[14]

Great Britain[edit]

Some war brides came from Australia to Britain aboard HMS Victorious following World War II.[15] Roughly 70,000 war brides left Britain for America during the 1940s.[16]


English war brides who arrived in Brisbane in October 1945

In 1945 and 1946 several bride trains were run in Australia to transport war brides and their children travelling to or from ships.

In 1948, Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell announced that no Japanese war brides would be allowed to settle in Australia, stating "it would be the grossest act of public indecency to permit any Japanese of either sex to pollute Australia" while relatives of deceased Australian soldiers were alive.[17]

About 650 Japanese war brides migrated to Australia after the ban was lifted in 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force. They had married Australian soldiers involved in the occupation of Japan.[18]


47,783 British war brides arrived in Canada accompanied by some 21,950 children. Since 1939, most Canadian soldiers were stationed in Britain. As such, about 90% of all war brides arriving in Canada were British. 3,000 war brides came from the Netherlands, Belgium, Newfoundland, France, Italy, Ireland and Scotland.[19] The first marriage between a Canadian serviceman and a British bride was registered at Farnborough Church in the Aldershot area in December 1939, just 43 days after the first Canadian soldiers arrived.[19] Many of these war brides emigrated to Canada, beginning in 1944 and peaking in 1946.[20] A special Canadian agency, the Canadian Wives' Bureau was set up by the Canadian Department of Defence to arrange transport and assist war brides in the transition to Canadian life. The majority of Canadian war brides landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, most commonly on the following troop and hospital ships: Queen Mary, Lady Nelson, Letitia, Mauretania, RMS Scythia and Île de France.[21]

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 has exhibits and collections dedicated to war brides.[22] There is a National Historic Site marker located at Pier 21, as well.[23]


During the campaign of 1943–1945, there were more than 10,000 marriages between Italian women and American soldiers.[3][24]

From relationships between Italian women and African-American soldiers, "mulattini" were born; many of these children were abandoned in orphanages,[3] because at the time interracial marriage was not legal in many U.S. states.[25][26]


Several thousand Japanese who were sent as colonizers to Manchukuo and Inner Mongolia were left behind in China. The majority of Japanese left behind in China were women, and these Japanese women mostly married Chinese men and became known as "stranded war wives" (zanryu fujin).[27][28] Because they had children fathered by Chinese men, the Japanese women were not allowed to bring their Chinese families back with them to Japan so most of them stayed. Japanese law only allowed children fathered by Japanese fathers to become Japanese citizens. It was not until 1972 that Sino-Japanese diplomacy was restored, allowing these survivors the opportunity to visit or emigrate to Japan. Even then, they faced difficulties; many had been missing so long that they had been declared dead at home.[27]

Korean War[edit]

6,423 Korean women married U.S. military personnel as war brides during and immediately after the Korean War.[29]

Vietnam War[edit]

8,040 Vietnamese women came to the United States as war brides between 1964 and 1975.[30]

2003 Iraq War[edit]

War brides from wars subsequent to Vietnam became less common due to differences in religion and culture, shorter durations of wars, and direct orders. As of 2006, about 1,500 visa requests had been made by U.S. military personnel for Iraqi spouses and fiancées.[31] There have been several well-publicized cases of American soldiers marrying Iraqi women.[32][33]


  1. ^ "The Atlantic Times :: Archive". Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Peter (2007-04-26). "Aussie brides reunite". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Archived from the original on December 25, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
  3. ^ a b c Francesco Conversano; Nené Grignaffini. "Italiani: spose di guerra. Storie d'amore e di emigrazione della seconda guerra mondiale". RAI Storia (in Italian).
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-01-05. Retrieved 2015-05-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Home at last! – Corporate Information – Strathclyde Partnership for Transport". SPT. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  6. ^ E.g., Wanda A. Adams, "My mother, war bride", Honolulu Advertiser, October 10, 2006; accessed 2019.04.10.
  7. ^ Kathryn Tolbert, "The Untold Story of Japanese war brides", The Washington Post, September 22, 2016; accessed 2019.04.10.
  8. ^ Uma Anand Segal (2002). A Framework for Immigration: Asians in the United States. Columbia University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-231-12082-1.
  9. ^ Miller, Donald L. (2006-10-10). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster. pp. 518, 519. ISBN 9780743298322.
  10. ^ Isaac, Julius (1954). British Post-War Migration. Cambridge University Press. p. 60.
  11. ^ Michael Lim Ubac (July 2012). "Whatever happened to Filipino war brides in the US". Philippine Daily Inquirer.
  12. ^ Lucy Alexander (October 5, 2014). "Daughters tell stories of 'war brides' despised back home and in the U.S." The Japan Times.
  13. ^ Ellis, Scott (18 April 2010). "Here come the war brides: a love story 65 years on" – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
  14. ^ "Marriage Between Americans and Newfoundlanders". Heritage.nf.ca.
  15. ^ "Australian Brides In England". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  16. ^ "British war brides faced own battles during 1940s". Los Angeles Times. 20 October 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Mr Calwell will not allow Japs 'to pollute Australia'". Hobart Mercury. 10 March 1948.
  18. ^ James Jupp, The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p 523.
  19. ^ a b "About the Canadian War Brides of WWII". Canadianwarbrides.com.
  20. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "British War Brides Arrive In Canada (1944)". YouTube.
  21. ^ Raska, Jan. "Major Waves of Immigration through Pier 21: War Brides and Their Children". Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Archived from the original on 2016-07-13. Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  22. ^ "War Brides | Pier 21". Pier21.ca. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  23. ^ "Pier 21 Museum". Pier 21. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  24. ^ Silvia Cassamagnaghi (26 February 2014). Operazione Spose di guerra: Storie d'amore e di emigrazione (in Italian). Milan: Feltrinelli. p. 319. ISBN 9788858817216.
  25. ^ "1943–1946: spose di guerra, storie d'amore e migrazione". libereta.it. 2014-06-10. Archived from the original on 2016-10-10. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  26. ^ Giorgio Boatti. "Italia 1945, that's amore. Le spose di guerra oltreoceano". Storiainrete.com.
  27. ^ a b Journal, The Asia Pacific. "Left Behind: Japan's Wartime Defeat and the Stranded Women of Manchukuo – The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus". japanfocus.org.
  28. ^ Mackerras 2003, p. 59.
  29. ^ Eui-Young Yu and Earl H. Phillips, Korean women in transition: at home and abroad, Center for Korean-American and Korean Studies, California State University, Los Angeles, 1987, p185.
  30. ^ Linda Trinh Võ and Marian Sciachitano, Asian American women: the Frontiers reader, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, p144.
  31. ^ "In love AND WAR". Colorado Gazette. 2006-08-13.
  32. ^ "Two US soldiers defy order, marry Iraqi women". Indian Express. 2003-08-28. Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  33. ^ "Few Battlefield Romances From Iraq". Newsweek. 2007-10-13. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011.


  • Lonnie D. Story (March 2004). The Meeting of Anni Adams: The Butterfly of Luxembourg. ISBN 1932124268.
  • Carol Fallows (2002). Love & War: stories of war brides from the Great War to Vietnam. ISBN 1863252673.
  • Keiko Tamura (2003). Michi's memories: the story of a Japanese war bride. ISBN 1740760018.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]