Entangling Alliances: Foreign War Brides and American Soldiers in the Twentieth Century

Entangling Alliances: Foreign War Brides and American Soldiers in the Twentieth Century

New York University Press
320 pages, 8 illustrations
ISBN: 9780814797174

Susan Zeiger

Throughout the twentieth century, American male soldiers returned home from wars with foreign-born wives in tow, often from allied but at times from enemy nations, resulting in a new, official category of immigrant: the “allied” war bride. These brides began to appear en masse after World War I, peaked after World War II, and persisted through the Korean and Vietnam Wars. GIs also met and married former “enemy” women under conditions of postwar occupation, although at times the US government banned such unions.

In this comprehensive, complex history of war brides in 20th-century American history, Susan Zeiger uses relationships between American male soldiers and foreign women as a lens to view larger issues of sexuality, race, and gender in United States foreign relations. Entangling Alliances draws on a rich array of sources to trace how war and postwar anxieties about power and national identity have long been projected onto war brides, and how these anxieties translate into public policies, particularly immigration.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. “Cupid in the AEF”: U.S. Soldiers and Women abroad in World War I
  • 2. “The Worst Kind of Women”: Foreign War Brides in 1920s America
  • 3. GIs and Girls around the Globe: The Geopolitics of Sex and Marriage in World War II
  • 4. “Good Mothers”: GI Brides after World War II
  • 5. Interracialism, Pluralism, and Civil Rights: War Bride Marriage in the 1940s and 1950s
  • 6. The Demise of the War Bride: Korea, Vietnam, and Beyond
  • Notes
  • Index
  • About the Author

…One of the most important factors in the structuring of soldier marriage has been race. The state’s repression and condemnation of interracial relationships was a feature of war bride marriage for much of the century. In World War I, for instance, U.S. military and civilian authorities took a paternalistic stance toward white soldiers, determined to “protect” them from sexually promiscuous foreign women. But this attitude was reversed in the case of “colored troops,” as military officials warned allies of the sexual danger that African American servicemen allegedly posed to the white women of other nations. By World War II, racial ideology in the United States had begun to face resistance by activists of color and their white allies, who challenged racial segregation in the military and at home, as well as “oriental exclusion” in immigration policy. Yet despite the state of flux in race relations in the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. government, with the urging of the armed services, maintained its segregationist policies in soldier marriage.  These included initially excluding Asian women from the GI Brides Act and denying the marriage requests of black and white interracial couples on the grounds that “miscegenous unions” were illegal in many U.S. states. Deeply held views about racial inferiors and superiors continued to underlie American military engagement in the Cold War. The legacy of biracial relationships in the Vietnam War, as it involved Vietnamese women, American men, and their “Amerasian” children, is one further indication of the centrality of race in analyzing gender relationships in wartime and postwar periods…

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