The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II

England


This story was written by Gladys Calderwood of Strongsville, Ohio

"I Was a G.I. War Bride"

At the height of World War II, I worked as a teleprinter operator at a Royal Air Force base, 14 miles from my hometown of Reading, England.

It was there on a cold January day in 1944 that I met an America military policeman stationed nearby.

Our first date was a blind date, and for the next 8 months, Francis and I saw each other every chance we got. By September we were married.

As newly weds we lived off base for a few short months before Francis was shipped back to the United States. He was en route to the Pacific theater nearly a year later when the Japanese surrendered and the war ended.

I stayed back in Britain, where I waited and wondered. When might I be allowed to go to America?

It was in January 1946 when I finially received word that I could soon leave for the U.S. While it was an exciting time for me, it was a sad time for my family when departure day came. I knew they were filled with apprehension, not knowing exactly what kind of life I would live far away on the other side of the ocean.

Memories of Shipping Out

Our shipload of war brides only the second to head for the U.S. sailed from Southampton, and it took 14 days to cross the Atlantic. I didn't get seasick, but many others did.

Upon our arrival in New York Harbor on February 17, 1946, we were all greatly inspired at our first sight of the Statue of Liberty, and then again when passing near it on our way into port. What a breathtaking sight!

We were given quite an unexpected reception. During our trip up the Hudson River, we were welcomed by a boat of entertainers who sang Sentimental Journey and many other songs. To me it was just overwhelming and unbelievable that so much effort was expended to make us feel welcome. I knew then that I would love America.

When we reached New York, everyone on board and those meeting us were terribly excited. Our ship, the Santa Paula, wasn't a large ship, but since it was only the second boatload of war brides, the welcomers apparently felt it carried precious cargo.

People were so kind and considerate in ensuring we reached our correct destinations.

The next evening I was personally escorted to the train station by a uniformed officer who assured me the train conductor would "keep an eye on me" and give me any needed help.

The following day the train stopped at Leavittsburg, Ohio, just outside the city of Warren. There I was met by my husband and by reporters who interviewed and photographed me. For a while, I felt like a real heroine.

Trading Tea for Coffee

That fall my husband entered college. While he was in school I worked for an insurance company. There I got to know the American people a whole lot better. And I made a huge transition trading in my teacup for a morning cup of coffee?

Compared with England, America seemed vast. I was simply amazed that people thought nothing of taking a ride 40 or 50 miles. And it took me quite some time to remember that oncoming traffic was now on the "other side of the road".

Like many other war brides, I was specially impressed with America's supermarkets and clothing stores. After so many years of austerity, it was unreal to see such a large variety of food and clothing.

In time, I even developed a real affection for the sport of baseball. It reminded me of "rounders", a game I had played as a child. To this day I am a avid Cleveland Indians fan.

Francis and I returned to England several times over the years. We traveled through the British Isles by car, and I found that I still dearly love the land of my birth. But America is my home now.

I can truly say that life here has been good to me. How lucky I was to be a G.I. war bride!



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