World War II War Brides

On the morning of September 2, 1944, the first allied forces arrived in the province of Hainaut in Belgium. Mons and Brussels were liberated the next day. Other major cities followed in quick succession: Antwerp (September 4), Gent (September 5-6), Liège (September 7-8). In the course of ten days most of Belgium was liberated by the British (mostly in Flanders) and the American (in Wallonia) forces.2

Everywhere they went, the troops were welcomed with open arms.  People danced and celebrated in the streets and women threw their arms around their liberators as they passed by. The Yanks and Canucks brought chocolate, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and candy. They were carefree and lighthearted and soon enough captured the hearts of numerous girls. Ellie Shukert and Barbara Scibetta, both daughters of war brides, estimate that approximately one million women married American GIs during and after World War II.3

The inhabitans of Eau Rouge in Belgium greet Allied Troups, 4 September 1944.4

Two Acts of Congress facilitated the admission of war brides to the United States. In December 1945, the so-called War Brides Act provided that alien spouses or alien children of United States citizens serving in the armed forces of the United States could be admitted to the United States and were not be subjected to the annual quota system. The soldier and his family had three years to apply for admission.5

In June 1946, the United States’ G.I. fiancée act further smoothed the way by allowing fiancés and fiancées of U.S. soldiers to enter as a non-immigrant temporary visitor for three months on a passport visa. They subsequently had three months to get married and provide proof of a valid marriage to the government. If they were not married within the three months, then they had to leave or else face deportation. The prospective U.S. citizen spouses also had to provide a bond to cover the alien’s deportation fees should the need arise.6

Belgian women were not immune to the charm of the allied soldiers. Before the end of 1945 several were preparing to leave their homes and families to join their husbands in North America. Exact numbers are hard to gauge, but the total number of U.S. war brides from Belgium most likely exceeded 1,000. Cornelius Jaenen and Mark Van den Wijngaert both report that 649 Belgian war brides departed for Canada.7 Newspaper articles from that era illustrate the ups and downs of the new Belgian-American couples.

Nellie Rosiers, born in Diest, Brabant, fell in love with Thomas H. Hubbard, a fighter pilot from Texas who was hidden by her family when his plane was shot down over Belgium. She married the Lieutenant Colonel in Belgium and traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, in May 1945.8

Thomas Hubbard and Nellie Rosiers.9

Lucienne Varlet from Houdeng-Gœgnies, Hainaut, met Army Staff Sergeant Lucien Maley at a club in Brussels in March 1945. She sailed for America on the SS Drottningholm from Gothenburg to New York in January 1947 and married her sweetheart in Syracuse on 15 February 1947.10

Lucien Maley and Lucienne Varlet.11

Yvonne Corens from Aarschot, met Army private George Ross of Philadelphia at a tea party.  She arrived at Ellis Island on 27 January 1947 and within a few weeks married George in Philadelphia.12

George Ross and Yvonne Corens.13

Marie Louise Mattot of Brussels was an interpreter for the U.S. Army when she fell in love with Captain William E. Ivory. She left Belgium on 13 August 1946 aboard SABENA Aircraft 00-CBG.14

William Ivory and Marie Louise Mattot.15

The immigration process did not always go smoothly. Marie Tieaga and first Sergeant James S. Davenport of Evansville, Indiana, had to remarry because there were complications over the authority of the government in Antwerp at the time of their first marriage.16

James Davenport and Maria Tieaga.17

Wess Williams, a B-17 pilot from Electra, Texas, tried to obtain passage to America for his Belgian fiancée, Nina Goetkint, of Antwerp, but after ten months gave up and in June 1946 married her by telephone instead. Three months later she was able to enter the U.S. and join her husband in Michigan.18

Wess Williams and Nina Goetkint.19

For a few Belgian brides the voyage to America ended in tragedy. The infant baby of Lucie Houbrechts from Tongeren and John J. Kotics of Brighton, Massachusetts, died aboard SS Zebulon Vance on the voyage from Le Havre.20

Lucie Houbrechts with her 3-month old daughter Frances.21

Mrs. Brigitte Colman suffered an internal hemorrhage at sea about 340 miles from Halifax. Upon arrival in New York she was immediately removed to a hospital.22

Brigitte Colman’s arrival in 1947.23

Many happy Belgian-American marriages were forged at the end of World War II, but for some brides the American honeymoon did not last long. Gabrielle Acke from Heule was frequently beaten by her German-American husband and pressed charges against him in May 1947. She was divorced by 1953.24

Mrs. Gabrielle Kirst (née Acke).25

Mimmie Reel Morgan’s marriage didn’t work out and she returned to Belgium in January 1947.26

Mimmie Reel Morgan’s departure in 1947.27

An unnamed Belgian bride discovered that her husband John Allen Cromar was an army deserter and thief. John had stolen the discharge papers from another veteran, married the girl in Belgium, and brought her back to the states in June 1947.28

John Allen Cromar, deserter and thief.29

Not all Belgian girls had a chance to start a life in the U.S. with their American boyfriends. A war correspondent in Belgium reported that when the Americans left Belgium they left many “sadhearted, red-eyed mademoiselles.”30

Tearful Belgian Girls.31

And an unnamed Belgian girl from Pirton wrote a letter to “Monsieur le Bourgmester de Townson-Town” asking him to contact the American soldier who had promised to marry her.32

Townson-Town Belgian Bride?33

Cite this post

Kristine Smets, “World War II War Brides,” The Belgian American, (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 16 November 2019.

  1. Sgt. Carpenter, “The inhabitants of Eau Rouge in Belgium greet Allied troops, 4 September 1944,” photograph, 1944; digital image, Wikimedia Commons (http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//46/media-46104/large.jpg).
  2. “Bevrijding,” Belgium WWII (https://www.belgiumwwii.be/nl/belgie-in-oorlog/artikels/bevrijding.html : accessed 8 October 2019).
  3. Elfrieda Berthiaume Shukert and Barbara Smith Scibetta, War Brides of World War II (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), p. 1-3.
  4. Sgt. Carpenter, “The inhabitants of Eau Rouge in Belgium greet Allied troops, 4 September 1944,” photograph, 1944; digital image, Wikimedia Commons (http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//46/media-46104/large.jpg).
  5. United States Congress, U.S. Statutes at Large, vol. 59 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1945), 659, “An Act to Expedite the Admission to the United States of Alien Spouses and Alien Minor Children of Citizen Members of the United States Armed Forces.” In 1945, the annual quota for Belgium, established by the 1924 immigration law, was 1,304. See Statistical Abstract of the United States 1951 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1951), pt. 2, p. 93. See also, “U.S. Immigration Legislation Online,” University of Washington Bothell Campus Library (http://library.uwb.edu/Static/USimmigration/USimmigrationlegislation.htm), entry for 1945 War Brides Act.
  6. United States Congress, U.S. Statutes at Large, vol. 60 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1947), 339, ” An Act to Facilitate the Admission into The United States of The Alien Fiancées or Fiancés of Members of The Armed Forces of The United States,” entry for 1946 Alien Fiancées and Fiancés Act.
  7. Mark Van den Wijngaert, België in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Antwerpen: Mateau, 2015), p. 273. Also, Cornelius J. Jaenen, “Implantation of Belgian Immigrants in Western Canada,” 43, no. 1 (2011): 242.
  8. “Ol’ Man Hubbard Learns Lesson from Old Ma Hubbard,” Daily News (New York, N.Y.), Thursday 24 May 1945, p. 25, col. 1-2. Also, “Texas Flier Brings Back Belgian Bride,” Austin American Statesman, 24 May 1945, p. 9. Also, “Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/bostonpl/), manifest USS Hermitage AP-54, Southampton, England, to Boston, Massachusetts, arriving 23 May 1945, list 1, line 25, Nelly R. Hubbard.
  9. “Ol’ Man Hubbard Learns Lesson from Old Ma Hubbard,” 24 May 1945.
  10. “Belgium to Syracuse,” Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.), 2 February 1947, section 2, p. 15, col. 7. Also, “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7488),  manifest SS Drottningholm, Gothenburg, Sweden, to New York, arriving 27 January 1947, list 11, line 28, Lucienne Varlet. Also, “Mr. and Mrs. Maley,” Syracuse Herald American, 21 June 1992, p. AA12, col. 1.
  11. “Belgium to Syracuse,” 2 February 1947.
  12. “Nephew of Salisburian Weds Belgian Sweetheart,” Daily Times (Salisbury, Md.), Tuesday 18 February 1947, p. 7, col. 4. Also, “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7488),  manifest SS Drottningholm, Gothenburg, Sweden, to New York, arriving 27 January 1947, list 19, line 12, Yvonne Corens.
  13. “Nephew of Salisburian Weds Belgian Sweetheart,” 18 February 1947.
  14. “Ex-Army Captain Weds Belgian Girl Who Served as Interpreter in War,” Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, N.Y.), Tuesday 27 August 1946, p. 1, col. 1-3. Also, “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7488 : accessed 8 October 2019), manifest Sabena 00-CBG, Brussels, Belgium, to New York, arriving 13 August 1946, information sheet for Marie Louise Augustine Ghislaine Mattot.
  15. “Ex-Army Captain Weds Belgian Girl,” 27 August 1946.
  16. “Yank Ranger Planning To Rewed Belgian Girl,” Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Md.), Thursday 25 October 1945, p. 3, col. 1.
  17. “Yank Ranger Planning to Rewed Belgian Girl,” 25 October 1945.
  18. “Electran and Belgian Bride,” Wichita Daily Times (Wichita, Texas), 17 October 1946, p. 2, col. 2.
  19. “Electran and Belgian Bride,” 17 October 1946.
  20. “Brighton Vet’s Baby Dies in Ship Epidemic,” Boston Daily Globe, 23 May 1946, p. 2, col. 4-5. Also, “Father Plans to Start Action for Negligence,” Troy Record (Troy, N.Y.), Saturday 25 May 1946, p. 17, col. 8.
  21. “Brighton Vet’s Baby Dies,” 23 May 1946.
  22. “War Bride Arrives On Stretcher,” Princeton Daily Clarion (Princeton, Indiana), 26 July 1947, p. 3, col. 3-4.
  23. “War Bride Arrives on Stretcher,” 26 July 1947.
  24. “Bride Claims Love Nest Was 1-Woman Jail,” Daily News (New York, N.Y.), 30 May 1947, p. B8. Also, “He Beats Me, But He’s My Man, War Bride Tells Court,” Daily News (New York, N.Y.), 5 June 1947, p. 6, col. 3-4. Also, Los Angeles, California, United States District Court Files, no. 1584455, Gabrielle Elisabeth Acke, 1953, petitions for naturalization; digital image, ” California, Federal Naturalization Records, 1843-1999,” Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com).
  25. “Bride Claims Love Nest Was 1-Woman Jail,” 30 May 1947.
  26. “Bride Loses Out On Marriage But Wins Friendships,” Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Md.), 28 January 1947, p. 1, col. 5.
  27. “Bride Loses Out on Marriage,” 28 January 1947.
  28. “Deserts, Imports GI Bride; Jailed as Thief,” Daily News (New York, N.Y.), 29 February 1948, p. 58, col. 1-2. Also, “EX-GI Faces Charges of Desertion,” Long Beach Independent (Long Beach, California), 9 March 1948, p. 9, col. 2.
  29. “Desert, Imports GI Bride,” 29 February 1948.
  30. “Belgian Girls Tearful as Yanks Leave,” Troy Record (Troy, New York), 20 March 1945, p. 12, col. 5-6. Also, Hal Boyle, “War Correspondent’s Notebook: Hospitable Belgian Folk Weep As Yanks Push on Eastward,” Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, N.Y.), Monday 19 March 1945, p. 2, col. 1-2. Also, Hal Boyle, “Yanks Leave — Belgians Weep,” Poughkeepsie Journal (Poughkeepsie, New York), Wednesday 21, March 1945, p. 2, col. 3-5.
  31. “Belgian Girls Tearful as Yanks Leave,” 20 March 1945.
  32. “Towson-Town Makes Plan To Welcome Belgian Bride,” Evening Sun (Baltimore, Md.), Friday 25 January 1946, p. 36, col. 1-2.
  33. “Towson-Town Makes Plan,” 25 January 1946.

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