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Memento : Issue 31
12 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA American GIs when they were stationed in Australian towns and cities during the war, but few are aware that an even greater number of women came here to start a new life. They came from countries as far apart as Egypt, Canada, Switzerland, Italy and Japan. There could have been as many as 25,000 World War II brides. The first war brides from the 1939–45 conflict arrived in Australia in 1941, having sailed through potential battlefields to get here. Beryl Gehrig was among them and she was not happy. ‘It was such a thoughtless and selfish thing to do’, she said, ‘to send us off under such dangerous conditions’. Throughout late 1945 and 1946, ships carrying wives and children arrived in the ports of Australia. Fiancées followed soon after. Once again there were stories of unhappy reunions, or no reunions at all. There were relationships that did not work out but, for the most part, the marriages flourished. Women who came from Japan as war brides had a more difficult time in the era of the White Australia Policy. Australian servicemen were part of the occupying forces that arrived in Japan in 1946 and stayed for almost 10 years. Despite a non-fraternisation policy, young Australian men met and fell in love with Japanese women and in most cases applied to bring their wives to this country. It was not until 1952 that Australian authorities allowed Japanese war brides to come to Australia on five-year temporary visas. In 1956 they were allowed to become permanent citizens. Cherry Parker, who had married Gordon in 1948, was the first to arrive in 1952. When Australia sent troops to Vietnam in 1962, once again young Australians fell in love. And once again Australian authorities made it difficult for Vietnamese wives – and some husbands – to move here. At the time Australians were aware of Australian girls falling for the American GIs who came to our cities for rest and recreation, but the stories of the Australians who had partners in Vietnam were kept quiet. There are thousands of untold stories about war brides who made new lives in Australia. As the Repatriation Commission reported in 1947–48, ‘What better immigrants could be imagined than those who had been “hand-picked” as it were, by members of the services’! Carol Fallows is the author of Love & War: Stories of War Brides from the Great War to Vietnam, published by Bantam, 2002, and of War, published by Murdoch Books in 2005. She has written over 13 books and is currently working on a biography relating to World War I. Her website is www.carolfallows.com.au . [left] Cherry Parker was the first Japanese war bride allowed to enter Australia. She became an Australian citizen in 1957 and was photographed receiving her naturalisation certificate, with husband Gordon. [below] An airman greets his wife and child. This young arrival seems a little overwhelmed by the occasion. In some cases, men waiting at an Australian port were seeing their young children for the first time. NAA:A1501,A908/1NAA:A7342,M24