The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

Josephine Verbisen Dodge

If not for an unfaithful beau, Josephine Verbisen would have never met the polite American soldier who changed her life forever.

"I did have a Belgian boyfriend, and we planned to get married -- then I found out he was dating a girlfriend of mine, and that disgusted me, so I started going out," says Josie Dodge, explaining in a nutshell how she became a war bride.

The fellow she soon started going out with was U.S. Army Sgt. Ervin Schaller, who was "very polite. My mother liked him."

Maybe in part because he wasn't a German.

Her mother's anti-German fervor had begun May 10, 1940, the day the Nazis invaded Belgium. The bombing and occupation were horrible enough, but soon life got worse.

When it was discovered that she had a Jewish friend, Josie was conscripted into forced labor, working in a uniforms factory that was festooned with photos of Hitler, where workers were described by a visiting Hermann Goring as "pig slaves."

She was luckier than many, however. Especially her friend who, like so many Jews, disappeared one day. Helpless and enraged, Josie fought back in her own way: As often as she dared, she would sew the uniform pockets together, ruining them.

When the war ended, the Americans arrived, among them Schaller. They dated for 1 ½ years and wed in 1947. They lived in Paris and then Germany. Then Ervin Schaller contracted tuberculosis and was sent back to the United States.

It was months before her paperwork was completed. By then, she had given birth to their first child.

The trans-Atlantic trip aboard the USS McCallum was a slice of hell. "It took a long, long time, and the boat was very rocky," she recalls. "I got seasick. My baby, too." So did the six other war brides and their babies -- she was sharing a room with.

The Herald-Palladium, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Sept. 26, 2001
by James B. Meadow (Scripps Howard News Service)

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