Ask a War Bride

By James P. Kushlan

It was over. It was really, actually over! The war that had seemed so endless, so impossible to finish, had somehow done the impossible and ended. All at once, life was about more than just enduring, surviving, making do, persevering. Even if the new peace was fragile, and countries that should have been tired of war were still rattling their sabers, World War II was over.

Millions of Americans felt such a tidal wave of joy inside them that it almost hurt not to shout, squeal, cry, laugh, kiss, jump, or dance—anything to let the pressure out! Doing these things in the middle of the street with a crowd of other people experiencing the same intense emotions felt all the better. On August 14, 1945—the day Japan’s surrender was announced—that’s exactly what Americans did. They did it in cities and small towns across the United States, in the cities of Europe, and o ships, bases, and battle lines across the Pacific. As their yells and laughs and songs rose heavenward, they mingled with those of exuberant Brits, Russians, French, Chinese, and people of countless countries that now dared to take a breath and start life afresh.

If I had to pick a poster-person to represent all the promise and possibility of that wonderful, euphoric period when peace returned to earth, it would be a war bride. The women from any of 60 or so countries (including Germany and Japan) who married American GIs and came with them to the United States to build families and grow old together embody something that offers real hope. In the midst of war, and despite differences of culture, language, and perhaps even religion, these women and US servicemen saw in one another something beautiful and loveable that transcended any differences that divided them into separate and sometimes opposing categories.

The war brides and their soldier husbands saw each other as human beings first and foremost; every distinction was secondary. Their commitment to one another inspired them to take bold steps to build a future, even when the forces of history and pressure from family and countrymen conspired to hold them back and keep them down. They knew what mattered most, and they stuck to it.

Perhaps the founders of the United Nations, whose international peacemaking organization came into existence as World War II drew to a close, should have turned to the war brides and their Yank husbands for guidance in navigating the mined waters of postwar international relations.

James P. Kushlan, former editor of Civil War Times and Columbiad magazines, is the editor and publisher of America in WWII. This column originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of America in WWII. Order a copy of this issue now.


Copyright 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.