Can War Marriages Be Made to Work?
By Clifford Kirkpatrick
Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota
(Published November 1944)
In a crowded railroad station a girl clings to her soldier sweetheart, weeping as she thinks ahead to lonely days and months. Near a naval training center a sailor pushes a baby carriage. His young wife walks alongside him, both of them beaming with pride and pleasure in this fleeting moment of family unity.
A tired man and his equally tired wife sip their coffee in silence at a corner cafe. He is on his way home from the night shift at the war plant. She is about to punch in for her daytime stint on the drill press. This hasty meal in passing and another similar meeting in the evening make up almost the whole of their life together.
A happy young couple walk down the steps of a church under an archway of sabers. Another pair listen in a dingy office to an official mumble the words that make them man and wife. Either couple may have but a day or two together in some hotel before the husband goes back to camp, the wife to her parents or to live in a furnished room.
Juke boxes blare forth the song, “Ain’t I never gonna get a girl in my arms?” A sailor sprawled on the seat of a streetcar grins at the girl across the aisle from him and reads an invitation in her smile. Teen-age girls wait on dark corners for soldier friends or stroll in the bright lights, ready to strike up friendships that may ripen into intimacy within an hour.
Somewhere a woman puts two children to bed and then reads again her husband’s letter from the fighting front.
These are but a few glimpses of changes brought to courtship, marriage, and family life by the war. Most of us see only a swift series of episodes, not the whole picture, along with the rush of events.
One thing stands out, however: A vast number of American men and women have paraded to the altar since Pearl Harbor.
The march started with the first rumblings of American involvement in the war. It reached its quickest pace during the last month of 1941 and the first four months of 1942. Today, with millions of men in uniform, the peak of war marriages has passed.
Many of the thousands of “war-marriage” couples would have married, war or no war. But motives either not present at all in peacetimes or else greatly strengthened by war emotions have influenced large numbers of them.