It has been estimated that thousands of mixed children were fathered by American and African American GI soldiers throughout Europe and Asia during and shortly after WWII.
In Britain it was a huge taboo as racial prejudice was rife and the majority of the women who were involved were unmarried, or married to British soldiers who were fighting in the war. The mixed children that were fathered by African American soldiers were subject to abandonment and abuse.
My grandma who was a teenager during wartime in a small village in Cornwall, has a first hand account of this. Shortly after the arrival of the US soldiers, a local woman had given birth to a noticeably mixed baby while her husband was away fighting. When he returned, she had painted the baby’s skin white and dyed its hair ginger. It didn’t wash.
At the prospect of all of these ‘illegitimate’ mixed babies, the government was sent into a flurry of panic because they believed that this would damage ‘Anglo-American relations’. A huge influx of mixed babies were given away to be adopted which resulted in shortages of care homes.
Miss Steel the secretary of the Church of England Moral Welfare Council said:
“In rural areas and small towns…(social) workers found it difficult enough to find foster mothers for any children, and impossible to find for the coloured child…I know of an evacuated family where the father was a coloured man and every visitor to that village was shown the child as an object of local interest.”
The prospect of many mixed children was to be shipped off to America, with the claim that they would be closer to their fathers. The Home Office stated that:”the child will have a far better chance if sent at an early age to the US than if it brought up in this country”. The general consensus was that sending them away as far as possible would rid them of their ‘problem’, even though the US was still in the throws of segregation. Interracial marriage was illegal.
In Japan, it is thought that 5000 – 10,000 babies were fathered by American soldiers to Japanese women during the war. Many of them were given away as a lot of the women were very poor and the soldiers went back to the US without a second glance, usually to a wife.
Miki Sawanda, a Japanese humanitarian, opened an orphanage dedicated to the children of GI’s, known as ‘Occupation Babies’. As a relative of the founder of Mitsubishi, Sawanda used her wealth to take in 2000 children with her own resources. The Japanese government didn’t support her efforts as Japanese society viewed the mixed children as shameful and wouldn’t accept them as one of their own
In Germany there was a whole other layer to the reception of GI babies, they were the offspring of the enemy. The Federal Statistics Office says that there were over 66,700 children that were fathered by US soldiers. Mothers of these children were named ‘Ami-lovers’, fired from their jobs, and cut off from their friends and family.
The mixed German and non-white (often African American) children were commonly called ‘Negro half-breeds’, even by the social workers. They were more than twice as likely to be given up for adoption, with less people that were willing to adopt them. German politicians added fuel to the fire by saying that mixed children: “for whom our social climate is not suitable”.
Disturbingly, the US Army shirked all responsibility for the fathers of wartime babies, which is shown in an article in Stars and Stripes titled, ‘Pregnant Frauleins are Warned!’. The US army said that “Claims for child support from unmarried German and Austrian mothers will not be recognized” and that “If the soldier denies paternity, no further action will be undertaken”.
Today many of these children are in their 60’s or 70’s and are searching for the parents that they never got the chance to know.
If you know someone that is a mixed wartime child (doesn’t have to be WWII), or are a relative of one, tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweeting us or Facebook messaging us at @themixupmag