The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

Austria, Salburg Fräuleins and GIs (Boltzmann-Institut/Steinocher-Fonds Interview Archive, Salzburg)

Austrian talks about the GIs

"Meeting an American soldier was a glimpse of hope..."
"The times were terrible. You have to try to imagine that, for years, we had nothing, no coffee, and...we were thirsty for something better. Meeting an American soldier was a glimpse of hope. I only condemned the girls who hopped from one guy to the next. They called us...well, you know what they called us - ... . But I was never a kept woman, I always worked for myself. I was in love with him. He was a handsome man, and I was young and single and free." Ingeborg S., born in 1923, met an American soldier during the days of liberation in Salzburg in May,

"My fiancé was gunned down in the war, and then I met Bob..."
"Those were difficult years. And especially for a girl of my age, they should have been the most wonderful time of my life. But it was far from that. Cooking was very hard. We hardly received any butter or shortening, just a few ounces. There was nothing to wear. My shoes - when I think of what I wore in the laboratory - there were holes left and right. There were no shoes to be found, nothing, absolutely nothing! And of course there was a ban on dancing because the soldiers were fighting on the front. Just at the time that should have been the best years of my life, there was nothing. My acquaintances, the boys who I went dancing with, they all died in the war. There was no one left. They were all dead. My fianc‚ was gunned down in the war too. And then, in the summer of 1945, I met Bob, an American soldier. He was stationed right near where I lived. We spent a lot of time talking to each other. The Americans had all gone to inspect these camps, like the Mauthausen concentration camp. Bob told me about all the dead bodies they had seen there. That was something new for me, that I had never heard about before." Gertraud D., born in 1922 in Salzburg, was 23 years old at the end of the war.

"They were good-looking guys and they had money..."
"Why were the GIs so interesting for us? First of all, they had money, so they could pamper and indulge their girlfriends. A girl living then in postwar Austria earned almost nothing - the entire country was still in the process of reconstruction. And the GIs in those days could get along pretty well on their pay. The dollar was very strong - 26 Schillings. I can still remember very clearly that a Schnitzel and a soup, an entire dinner with all the trimmings cost 12 Schillings back then. And it was exciting to discover something new. And, they were good-looking guys. Of course, before then, my conception of the man of my dreams was certainly a different one: he had to be blond and German, with blue eyes, curly hair and tall, no glasses, an engineer or perhaps someone who worked in an office. But Frank, the man I later married, was so attractive to me, so communicative and considerate." Marianne E., born in 1932 in St. Johann/Salzburg, as an Austrian war bride was married in the USA in 1953 and now lives once again in Austria

"They were more gallant, not so macho..."
"I had already had an Austrian boyfriend - like most adolescent girls growing up then. I was 17. But in those days there was a big difference: the Americans were more gallant, not so - as they say nowadays - macho. In our house when I was growing up, the rule was: the father's word is law. There was no contradicting, no ifs, ands or buts. Period. Later, my husband and I compared our respective experiences - in his family, it was pretty similar. That's the way he grew up. But his generation was different. For him, it was the most natural thing in the world to pitch in a little with the housework., It was also quite remarkable to my mother. - years later, she frequently came to visit us in the USA - that a man would push a baby carriage. I always had to remind her not to stare when she saw this, but she simply found it so interesting." Elisabeth C., born 1931. Experienced the end of the war in Salzburg, married an American soldier in 1954 and moved to the USA with him.

"...and now his daughter is having a baby, and from the American enemy, no less..."
"It wasn't just an affair for me. We wanted to get married. I didn't want to stay in Salzburg. I had always wanted to leave. I wanted to go to America. Like I said, we wanted to get married. Then, in October, the entire division was transferred back to America. My boyfriend was part of a so-called line division. The actual occupation forces only arrived later. I was naive and of course I believed that I would receive some word from him. But I never heard from him again. America is far away. Now, I can somehow understand - he would probably have had difficulties in his home town if he had brought an Austrian or a German woman back with him. My father became enraged when he learned that I was pregnant. He was a highly decorated major and had received many medal for extraordinary bravery. He had even seen action in World War I, and now his daughter is having a baby, and from the enemy against whom he had fought, no less. I was not permitted to stay at home; I had to move to a farm in the countryside. And when we drove away, he refused to permit me to get into the car in front of the house. The driver had to wait for me in a nearby street. My daughter was born in 1946."
Gertraud D., born in 1922 in Salzburg, was 23 years old at the end of the war.

"...When the stags fight, the doe goes to the winner..."
"It was really easy for the Americans to get girls, with all their nice pubs and bars. We just couldn't compete in this respect. And as physical specimens as well - compared to a skinny, undernourished Austrian returning from a prisoner of war camp, the Americans were far superior. In those days, celery was the most popular vegetable among Austrian housewives, because it was said to be able to reinvigorate tired husbands. Along with the returning POWs came the many reports of the soldiers who had died in battle. It was no wonder that many women were afraid that they wouldn't be able to find a husband. So the Amis had an easy time of it. It's exactly the same in the wild - when the stags fight, the doe goes to the winner." Josef W., born in 1920 as the son of a farmer. He served in the army in World War II, and was 25 years old at the end of the war

"The GIs wanted to dance with our girls, without asking us..."
"I was a musician and played quite a few gigs for American soldiers. In Salzburg, for instance, in the Steinkeller. That was one hot spot, man. Both American GIs and Austrian civilians could get in and of course that could very often get out of hand. The two sides just didn't hit it off. Why? Because our boys didn't want the Americans to take away their girls. The Amis just thought they were God's gift to women and could simply take whatever they wanted. To cut in on a dance with the lady, it's customary to ask the permission of the gentleman...but they didn't waste much time asking questions, which often led to trouble. And sometimes it really turned ugly. I remember one time when it got way out of hand - the beer glasses were flying. Our drummer was hiding behind his drums and a few of us were over in the corner behind the piano. Some of the other managed to make it out of a window. I want to tell you, that was a hell of a fight. It was like that all the time."
Joe W., born in 1920, then a Jazz musician in Salzburg

"How could you ever marry an American..."
"I met my future husband while I was working for the Americans in Salzburg after the war. We got married in 1954. The attitude of my family had been made perfectly clear to me - how could I even think of doing something like marrying an American, especially after my father had died in the war. My father was killed during an air raid - he had been in the air force. But so it goes. That was war." Elisabeth C., born 1931. Experienced the end of the war in Salzburg, married an American soldier in 1954 and moved to the USA with him.

"...what happened to the women in the countries that were overrun by Hitler's army..."
"As an American soldier who understands German well enough to read your paper, I also read the article entitled `Chocolate Girls' written by a former soldier in the German Army. I have been here for 11 months, and I am now waiting to marry an Austrian girl. During this time, neither I nor any one else has heard that this girl has been going out with another man. Sure, there are a lot of girls that are whores, as they say, but that doesn't mean that they all are.

The ex-soldier who condemned the girls who go out with Americans knows as well as I do what happened to the women in the countries that were overrun by Hitler's army. Is he trying to shift the entire responsibility from his gender to the other? Figures prove that more illegitimate children were born to French girls and German fathers (to say nothing of the other countries occupied by Germany) than from all other occupation armies put together."
"Pongauer and Pinzgauer Post", Austrian weekly newspaper, June 29, 1946

"Do you think that Austrians and Americans should marry?" This week's Reveille will present only views opposing such marriages. In our next issue the GIs defending such will be given a chance.

Pfc. F.J. Marlarsie, Hq. Btry., 280th FA: "No! In the first place, the Austrians are our enemies. In the second place, an Austrian girl might have been in love with a Kraut or one of your buddies before you got here. If she goes out with GIs, her enemies, she isn't even a good Kraut. Why don't COs transfer guys out if they see them getting involved?"

Pfc. Waldo B. Thomas, C Co., 242d Inf: "No! Plenty of girls at home, darn it! We came over here to fight a war, not to marry." S-Sgt. Mario Salvatore, I Co., 232d FA: "No! Go with a girl and have your fun, but don't marry. I can't see marriage when my buddies have been killed by brothers and boy friends of the girls GIs would marry."

Pfc. Norman Klopping, 124th Gen. Hosp.: "No! The Austrian culture and society is notably different from ours and, although there are many high-standard Austrian girls, the readjustment of a new environment so necessary to make a successful marriage cannot occur under our strained relationship. In plain words let's go back to the girls at home that are waiting for us!"
"Rainbow Reveille", GI newspaper of the "Rainbow Division" in Austria, February 2, 1946.

"European Maiden versus American Girl"
"A quiet revolution is taking place in America. (...) It is an upheaval brought about by the contact of US soldiers with European women. (...) What happened to American men in Europe? The modesty and unpretentiousness of the average European woman, the thankfulness and devotion with which they repay the little that they receive but above all the happiness they bring as partners in love were the strong impressions that Americans brought home with them. It has been, above all, this `spiritual revelation,' as Sergeant Thomas D. Crayton of Cincinnati wrote in a letter to the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, that has nurtured this slowly but surely emerging men's revolution. Whether justified or not, the American male believes himself to be `oppressed' by American women, and he has found, in his image of the European woman, the banner of his rebellion.
Eight out of ten returning American veterans, their fists clenched in anger, so to speak, eagerly await the moment in which they can show their women how a `real woman' should behave and what sort of role they as men wish to play from now on."
"Frau von heute", Austrian women's magazine, 1947/18

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