WWII GI brides celebrate role in American history
BOSTON — Peabody resident Simone Howland still remembers the moment she met her late husband 68 years ago.
Howland, 87, was just 19 when her home city of Brussels, Belgium, was reeling from the destruction of World War II.
“You couldn’t take a step outside without meeting (a GI),” Howland told the Herald last week.
“My husband (Edward Howland) walked by and said, ‘Hey girl.’ That did it for me. I went right to him,” she said. “I was really in love with him the day I met him. I know that now.”
Howland is one of the thousands of foreign-born women who married American GIs between 1942 and 1952.
This weekend, 80 brides, war babies and family members are expected to gather for the WWII War Brides Association reunion at the Hilton Back Bay.
“They are a unique part of our American history,” said Diane Reddy, a war baby and president of the association.
According to the book “War Brides of World War II” by Elfrieda Shukert and Barbara Scibetta, nearly 200,000 women from continental Europe married American GIs during the war and the years immediately after.
Despite differences in language and nationality, the brides describe themselves as a sisterhood.
“I have always had the feeling from the very first that war brides have an -awful lot in common,” said Ina Lothrop, 86, a German bride living in Salem. “There is a pioneer spirit in us. ... Saying goodbye to mother and father and a country you may never see again.”
By saying “I do,” German and Belgian brides were forced to renounce their citizenship.
Like Howland, Lothrop was just 19 when she met her husband, Thomas Lothrop, a member of the Army Signal Corps working as a civilian in Ina’s native Berlin. The couple married in 1947. He passed away in the late 1970s.
The association has 400 members, but as the generation ages fewer are able to attend gatherings.
Ashaway, R.I., resident Lonny Hammond still makes the journey at age 87 to reconnect with other brides.
“We took a chance, I thinka big chance. But I never regretted it. I never did. I love America even now,” the Berlin, Germany-raised Hammond told the Herald.
“We talk about everything you can think of. We always exchange when we met our husbands,” Hammond said.
Hammond married her husband, Asa “Zeke” Hammond, a soldier stationed in Berlin, in 1948 when they were both 23. He passed away four years ago.
“They said it would never last,” Hammond said. “We were married for 60 years.”