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Category: Army History/WW2

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War Brides

These "Welcome" booklets were produced by the YMCA of South Australia to make welcome the WW1 war brides that accompanied Diggers home from England France and other countries.
These Canadian War Brides are on their way to New Zealand, having married NZ men in Canada for the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) in WW2. RCAF photo
LOVE & WAR: Stories of War Brides from the Great War to Vietnam
By Carol Fallows
Bantam Books, 256pp

In August 1916, during World War I, a young Australian soldier billeted in France wrote a letter to his mother about an adorable girl he had met. "Loulou is really a brilliant girl, but like all French girls is apt to be too sentimental if not watched carefully." With a disarming turn of phrase, he confided his fear that her parents expected a commitment. "When I left them that evening it was with a sense of a pending calamity and I thought to myself, well lad, you are up against it now."

Carol Fallows has included the story of this engaging couple's courtship in Love & War: Stories of War Brides from the Great War to Vietnam. Although Arthur and Loulou's romance had a happy ending, for many of the women who followed their Aussie soldiers to Australia, the course of true love did not run smooth.

Ayako Wakabayashi and Ron Cameron on their wedding day in 1954.

Using taped interviews, letters, memoirs, newspapers and historical accounts, Fallows has researched the love stories of couples who met and married during the world wars and the Vietnam War. It is the letters that provide the most revealing glimpses of their personalities, and it seems certain that future social-history research will be impoverished by the use of terse, impersonal and disposable emails.

Many books have been written about war, but few have focused on the poignant stories of the women who fell in love with Australian soldiers and sailed across the seas to join them. Fallows makes us aware of the difficulties that the war brides had to face even before they arrived in Australia. At a time when few people had travelled outside their own town, let alone overseas, these feisty young women left home and family behind, to start married life in a faraway land. Many had to face the opposition of parents, in-laws, and sometimes even the army, and they parted with parents whom many never saw again.

Love & War contains memorable vignettes that illuminate their difficult situation. One bride's family had to organise her wedding at a day's notice, while another couldn't buy a wedding dress because clothing was rationed. Fortunately the ???WAAF came to the rescue with a "one-fits-all gown" with an elasticised waist, provided for these occasions.

On arrival in Australia, some brides experienced prejudice, jealousy and resentment, even within the family. One group of new arrivals was physically attacked on the Melbourne wharf by factory girls enraged that Aussie men, who were in short supply, had chosen foreign wives.

Love and war are powerful themes, particularly when they are intertwined and complicated by personal conflicts. With such a wealth of human stories, it is disappointing that Fallows's narrative style doesn't always do justice to the dramatic subject. Even her own parents' romance, which inspired this book, is recounted in a flat, colourless manner. But where she writes with depth and detail, and we get to know the couples, as with Arthur and Loulou, for instance, the stories are fascinating.

When authors amass a surfeit of interesting material, it is often difficult to assess what to cull. Fallows apologises to some of her sources for not including them, but the book would have been better served had there been more apologies. There are too many sketchy accounts of couples whose stories add nothing to the book. More attentive editing was needed to eliminate some of these lists, remove repetitive comments, and ensure greater clarity.

The illustrations are a delight and include wedding photographs from 1919. As the images are placed close to the relevant text, it is a pleasure to be able to look at the people while reading about them. An excellent selection of contemporary poems, ditties and song lyrics evoke the mood of each era.

In documenting stories of the war brides, Fallows has added an interesting chapter to Australian social history. In the process, she has revealed the triumph of courage and love over prejudice and war.

Japanese War Brides

Teruko and BillCherry and Gordon

I had poison, and a suicide letter, he didn't know. I kept that deep in my drawer and when the time comes I will destroy myself because I disgraced my parents, sister you know. And after he go, what the people say ... like Madam Butterfly.

Teruko Blair, recalling her painful life in occupied Japan, after her secret marriage to an Australian serviceman. Australian personnel served with the British Commonwealth Occupation forces in Japan after the end of World War II, arriving in February 1946 and remaining stationed there for the following ten years. When the troops finally withdrew, more than 600 Japanese women then returned 'home' with their Australian husbands (after a little trouble with the 'White Australia Act'). Almost 50 years after the first war bride landed on these shores, producer Dai Le has tracked down their compelling stories of bicultural marriage in occupied Japan, and of life ever after in war-scarred Australia.

Photographs are of Teruko and Bill in the 1950s and Cherry and Gordon in the 1990s

Background note:
In 1942, Molly Johnson, an Australian woman, married Robert L. Wilson, aide-de-camp to Admiral Van Hook of the 7th Fleet, at a naval base near Brisbane, Australia. Molly had worked at a nearby American army base before they married, but quit soon thereafter. When Robert was ordered to return to the United States in 1945, Molly had to wait with 5,000 other brides for transport to the United States.

During the long wait, Molly lived in barracks near the army base, passing her time reading, writing letters, and attending a flurry of parties and events put on by the Army, Navy, and the Brides' Club. Rumors abounded about the imminent arrival of transport ships. Molly wanted to return to her job at the army base, but she learned that family friends did not want her to work. "I'm tired," she wrote, "of well-meaning people telling me what to do" (1946 January 2). She never returned to work during her two months at the war brides' barracks, but instead took music lessons and wrangled with immigration officials.

On January 23, 1946, Frank DeCellis, Robert's fellow officer, notified Molly that he obtained passage for her on the Monterey in February, but cautioned her to keep it secret, because she was taking precedence over women who had been waiting longer. "The longer the husband has been in the States, the quicker the wife gets over..." (1946 January 2). Molly wrote that she "put the word around that she was going to Perth to see her mother, then she will get on the ship a day before the other brides."

She traveled to Sydney by train in early February, 1946, and was robbed of her wedding ring and money by someone she knew, but never named. In Sydney, she discovered that obtaining a petition was unnecessary due to passage of the War Brides' Act; she needed only to prove her marriage to a United States citizen. She boarded the Monterey on February 14, 1946, and arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, two weeks later.

Scope and contents:
The Molly Wilson Papers consist of 21 letters written by Molly to her husband Robert prior to her departure for the United States. The letters provide an Australia bride's-eye perspective of the war bride experience after World War II.

There are two main areas of interest in the Wilson Papers. First, Wilson's letters to her husband detail the process of emigrating to the United States. The War Brides' Act (Public Law 271) was passed by Congress on December 28, 1945 to facilitate "admission of alien spouses and alien minor children of citizen members of the United States armed forces." Wilson struggled with the Australian government attempting to ensure that her visa is valid and that she has a petition to enter the United States. Not until early February, a month after Congress had passed the War Brides' Act, did she learn that all that was needed to enter the United States was proof of being a war bride.

The second area of interest involves the interaction of Australian women with armed forces personnel stationed in Australia. Many brides met their husbands while employed at a United States military base. Molly wrote of how nice the officers are to the brides, having parties and screening movies for them. When the food at the war brides' barracks was inedible, the Army stepped in and provided food service for the brides. Naval officers secured her passage on the first bridal ship although she was low on the priority list.

During World War II, an estimated one million American soldiers married women from over fifty different countries. In the Pacific, 16,000 of the one million American soldiers married Australian and New Zealand women. The war brides represent the largest migration to the United States since the 1920s.



Shukert, Elfreda Berthiaume and Barbara Smith Scibetta. The War Brides of World War II. (Novato, Calif., 1988).

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