The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

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World War II War Brides Association

In the 1980’s, Barbara Scibetta, the daughter of a German War Bride, and Elfrieda Shukert, the daughter of an Austrian War Bride and herself a veteran of the U.S. Army, met at San Francisco State University while attending a course in “Problems of American Identity.” They became co-authors of the book, “War Brides of World War II” which was published by Presidio Press in 1988. During their five years of research for the book, they had been in touch with more than 2000 War Brides from all 50 states. They also organized the very first War Brides reunion on board the Queen Mary in the harbor of Long Beach, California. This beautiful ship was most appropriate because so many of the English War Brides had come over on her during and after the war. This first reunion took place in April of 1985 and was attended by 500 War Brides and their husbands. Those who attended this reunion remember it well and still talk about it because it was the very first time War Brides from so many different countries got together. They were honored and talked about all over the U.S. and even in some foreign countries on TV, newspapers and in magazines.

Before the reunion and before the book was published, very little was known about us as a group. Through the book even we found out many things that we did not know before. For instance, a War Bride or Groom is any foreign national who married an American member of the Armed Forces or an American civilian who was in a foreign country as a result of U.S. mobilization for World War II or as a result of the subsequent military occupation between 1942 and 1952. During those years about one million War Brides from 50 different countries came over here primarily “for the love of an American soldier.” Not since the last great wave of immigration in the 1920’s had so many people, so many women in particular, come to the United States.

When the book was finished in 1988, Barbara and Elfrieda invited all of us to a “Publishers Tea Party” on board the “Jeremiah O’Brian” in San Francisco. The Jeremiah O’Brian was a Liberty Ship which had brought many Australian War Brides to San Francisco. More than 100 War Brides and husbands attended this Publishers Tea Party and most of us from out of town spent several more days sightseeing.

In August of 1989, another reunion took place in Southhampton, England which was attended mostly by English War Brides, but by a few from other countries as well.

But in the United States, after the 1985 reunion, 10 years went by and absolutely nothing happened in the way of a national reunion. Karin Yount talked about organizing another reunion in San Diego, but Juliane Zombek, Hildegard Savage and Connie McGrath were afraid that they could not even come close to duplicating the splendid reunion we had on the Queen Mary in 1985.

However, about one year before the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII, the four of us gathered up enough nerve to organize another reunion, and on May 8th, 1995--exactly 50 years after the end of World War II in Europe--200 War Brides and husbands attended the San Diego reunion.

After our Banquet Dinner on the second day, one British War Bride, Eileen Orton, volunteered to write a monthly bulletin for all War Brides, which was later, and is to this day, called "The Courier". The Courier helped to bind us together, to attract new members, and to plan a national reunion in different parts of the U.S. every year since. Eileen herself organized the next year’s reunion in Laughlin, Nevada, at which time a Board of Directors was voted in. Eileen established bylaws and registered our organization with the IRS as a nonprofit organization.

Connie McGrath

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© 2005 M. Thomas