Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Chamorro ladies with American military men at a social gathering right after the war

A "war bride" was, in its most general meaning, a woman who married a man while he was still in active service in wartime.

The term is more often applied specifically to foreign women who married American servicemen during or right after a war.

To the extent that Chamorro women were not American citizens right after the American return to Guam in 1944, it might be argued that these Chamorro ladies were "foreign" to the American men, just as much as the American men were "foreign" to the Chamorro ladies!

In any case, I'll use the term "war bride" in its broadest meaning.

One American missionary, writing about life right after the war, said that so many Chamorro ladies were marrying American soldiers and, were so in a hurry to do it, that they didn't bother to see the priest. They went straight to a civil official and, ten minutes later, they were married. No mamaisen saina (the old ritual of asking for the lady's hand), no fandånggo or komplimento, no religious observance at all, not even the belo or wedding veil covering both bride and groom. In particularly devout families, these civil weddings were often attended by the bare minimum of family members, since in very Catholic families marriage outside of church was a source of family shame.

Even among the not-so devout, the absence of all the usual wedding customs was a cause for sadness, or at least disappointment. Someone remarked how these quick weddings with American servicemen lacked the usual and drawn-out festivities and joy. The Chamorro brides were often shipped off-island with their military husbands as quickly as they were married, as soon as the groom received new marching orders in many cases. Many of these brides never came back to Guam.

One American missionary said that, if the first Chamorro-American couple who married civilly right after the war took off after the ceremony in a jeep and crashed and got injured or died, that would have put a complete halt on all future civil weddings involving a Chamorro bride. It's not that the missionary wished this would happen. He meant that some people in those days saw random events as evidence of cause-and-effect. The other Chamorro brides would have been too afraid to follow in the footsteps of the couple who crashed.

I can just hear the dialogue :

~ Un hungok håfa ma susede annai umasaguan kotte si Maria yan eyi Amerikåno?
~ Did you hear what happened when Maria and that American married in court?

~ Aksidente i karetan-ñiha ya måtai i dos.
~ Their car got into an accident and they both died.

To this day I hear some people think this way. They almost drowned on a Tuesday so from then on they never get near a beach on a Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. I remember being told stories of Chamorro women who were forced to be "comfort" women during the Japanese occupation. These women felt much shame being brought upon their families and themselves.

    Immediately after the war, many sought U.S. husbands as a way to escape their predicament on Guam. I remember one manhamko mentioning this as the exodus of those in pain.