The War Brides Act represented a change not only in the number of immigrants allowed entry to the United States but also in the gender make-up of total immigration, as it allowed far more women than men to immigrate. The law also allowed many Asians to enter the country at a time when national quota restrictions were still blocking the entry of Asian immigrants.
The War Brides Act of 1945 was passed to allow U.S. military personnel to bring their newly wed spouses and other family members from Europe and Japan to the United States for a temporary period without regard to national origins quotas or other restrictions in U.S. immigration law. Before 1945, U.S. immigration policy conformed with the quotas set by the Immigration Act of 1924. That law’s national origins provision limited the number of immigrants allowed entry to the United States to 2 percent of the number of people from any given country who had been living in the United States in 1890. The law also forbade virtually all Asian immigration, with very limited exceptions, and effectively limited immigration from southern and eastern Europe because few people from those regions were residing in the United States at the time of the 1890 U.S. Census.
By the time World War II ended in 1945, a significant number of U.S. military personnel had married or had children with women from European nations and Japan. The War Brides Act passed in 1945 gave these servicemen temporary permission to bring spouses and family members to the United States. The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization worked with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Army, and the American Red Cross to develop official transportation networks for these foreign-born spouses and family members to enter the United States.
The official number of foreign-born war brides was listed at 115,000 in 1945, but many scholars believe that the actual number was much higher because many of U.S. service personnel who had British, Germany, and Italian spouses had arranged on their own for their spouses to come to the United States, thereby causing them not to be counted in official U.S. Army estimates.
The War Brides Act of 1945 also
Meanwhile, the act brought Japanese-born spouses and family members to many American cities and towns, particularly on the West Coast. These immigrant women and their families were instrumental in helping to reinvigorate Japanese American communities that had been devastated by the experience of internment camps during World War II. These new immigrants also represented a dramatic shift in Asian immigration patterns. Prior to 1945, the few Asian immigrants who had been allowed entry to the United States were predominantly male laborers who lived in bachelor communities, apart from the mainstream of American life. The new Japanese immigrants and their families became a group that would seek full participation in American institutions even as they retained aspects of their culture. In many ways, they became models of assimilation for members of later Asian immigrant groups.
Hibbert, Joyce, ed. The War Brides. Toronto, Ont.: PMA Books, 1978. Kaiser, Hilary. French War Brides in America: An Oral History. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008. LeMay, Michael C., and Elliott Robert Barkan, eds. U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Laws and Issues: A Documentary History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Shukert, Elfrida Berthiaume, and Barbara Smith Scibetta. War Brides of World War II. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1988. Virden, Jenel. Good-bye, Piccadilly: British War Brides in America. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
Australian and New Zealander immigrants
World War II