Published Date

November 1, 1944

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 30: Can War Marriages Be Made to Work? (1944)

Many war marriages are hasty marriages. Many are made while men are on leave or furlough. Often the time of the marriage is determined by the approaching end of a short leave.

Military promptness and the speed-up of work in war plants tend to hasten marriage. Entrance into service is an abrupt change of status. Why not, some argue, make an abrupt change from single to married status? If war can change life overnight, why not make the change more complete by marrying? If the Army is going to snatch you away from civilian life, why-not strengthen your ties with that life by leaving a wife behind you? And for many a girl who watches the boys going away from the home town, the “dates” of the hectic hours before they go may seem the last chance for marriage.

Courtship, no matter how disguised, is competition. To the soldier marriage offers, among other advantages, a device to ward off the competition of rivals while he is away.

In war nothing is certain but uncertainty. Even an unwise marriage may give a feeling of certainty for a moment. Unconsciously it may seem to offer an escape from doubts and confusion.

Many war marriages come about through loneliness or fear of loneliness. A soldier returns to his home town on leave; his old friends are gone; many things have changed. Or a girl takes a job away from home and is separated from her family and friends. Both to the girl away from home and to the soldier on leave, marriage is an intimate relationship that seems to offer escape from loneliness. Absence makes the heart grow fonder—if there is nobody else. And there may be nobody else in time to prevent a marriage that might never have taken place under normal conditions.

The man in service hears many appeals to consider his “loved ones.” The phrase is repeated in films, lectures, and pamphlets. Army life itself stimulates the thought. Does the soldier have a “loved one”? Marriage might mean a “Yes” to that question. Human beings have a way of wanting what they don’t have.

Plenty of other motives, noble or sordid, may be involved. To marry a soldier is, to many girls, a patriotic thing. A girl may feel herself-and she may in fact be-a source of ‘inspiration to her soldier husband. On the sordid side, the extreme in motives is illustrated by marriage for allotments or insurance. Cases are known of attempts to acquire income from more than one soldier at the same time.

War has indirectly provided a marriage incentive like that of boom times when employers practically stand in line and file applications for a prospective employee. Then the problem of an income sufficient for marriage does not seem quite so difficult as it was in normal times.

A marriage may actually take place after the war period and still be a “war marriage.” John and Jane, for example, may decide to postpone their marriage until after the war, but it has its roots in the war years.

Next session: What Price War Marriages?