War brides are women who married military personnel from other countries in times of war or during military occupations, a practice that occurred in great frequency during World War I and World War II.
Among the largest and best documented examples of this were the marriages between American servicemen and German women which took place after World War II. By 1949, over 20,000 German war brides had emigrated to the United States. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are "... 15,000 Australian women who married American servicemen based in Australia during World War II and moved to the US to be with their husbands".Allied servicemen also married many women in other countries where they were stationed at the end of the war, including France, Italy,Luxembourg, the Philippines, Japan and China. This also occurred in Korea and Vietnam with the later wars in those countries involving U.S. troops and other anti-communist soldiers. As many as 70,000 GI war brides left the United Kingdom, 150,000 to 200,000 hailed from continental Europe, 15,500 from Australia and 1,500 from New Zealand, between the years 1942 and 1952.
The reasons for women marrying foreign soldiers and leaving their homelands vary. Particularly after World War II, many women in devastated European and Asian countries saw marriage as a means of escaping their devastated countries.
Due to the Philippine Insurrection, a few U.S. servicemen would take Filipinas as their wives, with documentation as early as 1902 of one immigrating with their servicemember husband to the UK. These Filipinas were already U.S. nationals, when immigrating to the United States, making their legal status significantly different from previous Asian immigrants to the US.
During and immediately after World War II, more than 60,000 U.S. servicemen married women overseas and they were promised that their wives and children would receive free passage to the U.S. The U.S. Army's "Operation War Bride", which eventually transported an estimated 70,000 women and children, began in Britain in early 1946. The press dubbed it "Operation Diaper Run". The first batch of war brides (452 British women and their 173 children and one Bridegroom) left Southampton harbor on SS Argentina on January 26, 1946 and arrived in the U.S. on February 4, 1946. Over the years, an estimated 300,000 foreign war brides moved to the United States following the passage of the War Brides Act of 1945 and its subsequent amendments, of which 51,747 were Filipinos and an estimated 50,000 were Japanese.
Robyn Arrowsmith, a historian who spent nine years researching Australia's war brides, said between 12,000 and 15,000 Australian women had married visiting U.S. servicemen and moved to the U.S. with their husbands. Significantly, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Newfoundland women married American servicemen during the time of Ernest Harmon Air Force Base's existence (1941-1966), in which tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen arrived to defend the island and North America from Nazi Germany during World War II and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Many of these war brides settled in the U.S., so much so that in 1966 the Newfoundland government created a tourism campaign specifically tailored to provide opportunities for them and their families to reunite.
In 1945 and 1946 several Bride trains were run in Australia to transport war brides and their children travelling to or from ships.
In 1948, Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell announced that no Japanese war brides would be allowed to settle in Australia, stating "it would be the grossest act of public indecency to permit any Japanese of either sex to pollute Australia" while relatives of deceased Australian soldiers were alive.
About 650 Japanese war brides migrated to Australia after the ban was lifted in 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force. They had married Australian soldiers involved in the occupation of Japan.
47,783 British war brides arrived in Canada accompanied by some 21,950 children. Since 1939, most Canadian soldiers were stationed in Britain. As such, about 90% of all war brides arriving in Canada were British. 3,000 war brides came from the Netherlands, Belgium, Newfoundland, France, Italy, Ireland and Scotland. The first marriage between a Canadian serviceman and a British bride was registered at Farnborough Church in the Aldershot area in December 1939, just 43 days after the first Canadian soldiers arrived. Many of these war brides emigrated to Canada, beginning in 1944 and peaking in 1946. A special Canadian agency, the Canadian Wives' Bureau was set up by the Canadian Department of Defence to arrange transport and assist war brides in the transition to Canadian life. The majority of Canadian war brides landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, most commonly on the following troop and hospital ships: Queen Mary, Lady Nelson, Letitia, Mauretania, and Île de France.
From relationships between Italian women and African-American soldiers, "mulattini" were born; many of these children were abandoned in orphanages, because at the time interracial marriage was not legal in many U.S. states.
Several thousand Japanese who were sent as colonizers to Manchukuo and Inner Mongolia were left behind in China. The majority of Japanese left behind in China were women, and these Japanese women mostly married Chinese men and became known as "stranded war wives" (zanryu fujin). Because they had children fathered by Chinese men, the Japanese women were not allowed to bring their Chinese families back with them to Japan so most of them stayed. Japanese law only allowed children fathered by Japanese fathers to become Japanese citizens. However, recently[clarification needed] Japan lifted the restrictions on the women and citizenship for children born to foreign men and they have been migrating back to Japan with their Chinese husbands and children.
8,040 Vietnamese women came to the United States as war brides between 1964 and 1975.
War brides from wars subsequent to Vietnam became less common due to differences in religion and culture, shorter durations of wars, and direct orders. As of 2006, about 1,500 visa requests had been made by U.S. military personnel for Iraqi spouses and fiancées. There have been several well-publicized cases of American soldiers marrying Iraqi women.