The U.S. government has agreed to release thousands of pages of information on the whereabouts of former American GIs stationed in England during World War II to a group of British subjects who believe the men may be their long-lost biological fathers.
The settlement, announced in federal court Friday, marks the end of a 4-year-old lawsuit filed by War Babes, a 500-member British organization made up of the offspring of wartime liaisons between American soldiers and English women.Until now, the U.S. government had withheld the information on the grounds that releasing it might invade the privacy of U.S. citizens.
"I'm thrilled to bits that we've done it," said Shirley McGlade, a Birmingham, England, woman who founded War Babes and is the lead plaintiff in the case. McGlade, 45, succeeded in locating her own father, Jack Crowley of Elk Grove, Calif., in 1984 after a 12-year search.
Of the 500 members of her organization, she said, "I'm almost sure that 50 percent of them at least will be helped by this."
Under terms of the settlement, announced in a court hearing and signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Archives and Records Administration will release the last known home city and state for each former serviceman, as well as the date of that address.
The information would go to any War Babes member or other child of a former U.S. serviceman.
"We wanted street addresses," said Joan Meier, an attorney for War Babes. "This is everything but the street address itself."
The settlement states that if the serviceman is dead and that fact is known to the government, it will release his last known address, including street address. The government has also agreed to forward letters from the offspring to the ex-servicemen.
"It's great," Meier said. "The city and state (information) is crucial. They can go look at phone books once they have that. They can also use computerized genealogy indexes."
Many plaintiffs in the case were born to unmarried mothers and were ostracized in postwar England because of a widespread prejudice against liaisons between British women and American GIs.
Other plaintiffs were the offspring of married parents separated after the war by families who disapproved of the matches, according to affidavits filed in court.