Patriotutes and V-Girls  (Victory Girls)

author's note:
Patriotutes** was a name initially coined by Dr. Otis Anderson of the National Advisory Policy Committee on Social Protection in 1943

Summary

       In the middle of fathers and boyfriends leaving home, mothers going to work to replace the dwindling manpower, teenage girls were left to their own devices.        

        Largely ignored because they were female and deemed unable to work in industry (work laws had been relaxed for boys) delinquency went up by eight percent for boys and an incredible thirty-one percent for girls in 1942.

       This delinquency was mostly sexual misconduct and titled ‘Khaki-wacky’. Victory Girls, V-girls or Patriotutes, simply contributed what they could to the war effort by giving themselves to the men in uniform.

       The more aggressive V-girls lived in cities while towns were more vigil to the goings on in their communities. 

LEFT: A youthful Army major plies his charm on an accommodating teenager.

                   (Office of Social Hygiene, from pamphlet OSH 43-03-2102c printed for the US Army)

Love Sex and War: Changing Values, 1939-45

by John Costello 

Harper Collins Publishers

From Chapter 13: The Girls They Left Behind

Female Financial Independence

That war jobs and long periods of separation gave many wartime wives a new sense of independence was indisputable. 'The more money, the less family life, is an established pattern in the United States which war psychology has merely emphasized,' wrote an American sociologist of the new mood of the sixteen million working women - six million of whom were married, worked, and continued to rear children under fourteen years of age. Fired by this new sense of financial independence, some women abandoned their husbands and families without even the formality of a divorce. (p. 274)

 

(In the novel, The Other Side of Courage, the underlying desire of Claire Schuster to escape Seguin)

Wartime Illegitimacy

        Of the 5.3 million British infants delivered between 1939 and 1945, over a third were illegitimate - and this wartime phenomenon was not confined to any one section of society. The babies that were born out of wedlock belonged to every age group of mother, concluded one social researcher:

        Some were adolescent girls who had drifted away from homes which offered neither guidance nor warmth and security. Still others were women with husbands on war service, who had been unable to bear the loneliness of separation. There were decent and serious, superficial and flighty, irresponsible and incorrigible girls among them. There were some who had formed serious attachments and hoped to marry.   

        There were others who had a solitary lapse, often under the influence of drink. There were, too, the 'good-time girls' who thrived on the presence of well-paid servicemen from overseas, and semi-prostitutes with little moral restraint.

        *But for the war many of these girls and women, whatever their type, would never have had illegitimate children. (pp. 276-277)

(*regarding Molly’s pregnancy in Chapter Twelve)

High-School Good-Time Girls

         "Good-time girls of high-school age are the army's biggest problem today as a potential source of disease," announced a 1943 report from the base surgeon of large mid-western army airfield.

         The report concluded, "While mothers are winning the war in the factories, their daughters are losing it on the streets."

         Well over half of all the women arrested for sexual offences in the United States by the end of the war were under twenty-one. FBI statistics show that there had been a seventy per cent increase in teenage prostitutes, and in cities like San Diego, with a large transient service population, the number of girls arrested had increased threefold.

         According to US Army records, nearly half of the soldiers who contracted VD blamed girls under nineteen years of age. 

(excerpts from pp. 279-282)

(         Basis of Claire's accusation against Mary in Chapter Thirty-one

Wartime Delinquency and the 'Patriotutes'

        The impact of World War II was to effect quite dramatic shifts in the behavior and attitude of society. 'Total war is the most catastrophic instigator of social change the world has ever seen, with the possible exception of violent revolution,' was how a leading American sociologist put it. Francis E. Merrill, a professor at Dartmouth College observed in his 1946 study how wartime duty had transformed the American nation into a 'people doing new things - grimly, protestingly, gladly, semi-hysterically - but all changing the pattern of their lives to some extent under the vast impersonality of total war.'

        Millions of families work out new adjustments, as the wife and mother plays the roles of the absent husband and father. Millions of women go to work for the first time in their lives, often at hard and exacting manual labor in shipyard and aircraft factories. Millions of their children somehow learn to fend for themselves and come home from school to an empty and motherless house. Millions of wives, sweethearts, mothers, and fathers are under constant nervous tension with their loved ones in active theatres of operations. Millions of wives learn to live without their husbands, mothers without their sons, children without their fathers, girls without their beaux.

      The universal wartime disruption of family life would have its most profound effect on adolescents, who by the final years of World War II were creating a major juvenile delinquency problem in every warring nation. Arrests of teenagers were up, no matter whether it was Munich, Manchester or Milwaukee. 

NOT JUST A PROBLEM

FOR THE ALLIED FORCES 

 

       The files of the German SD security police, British probation officers, and juvenile courts across the United States attest that juvenile sex delinquency was one of the most widespread social problems of the war. 

        Britain was the first nation to be afflicted with high wartime arrest rates for teenage girls. There was a one hundred percent increase in the first three years after 1939 and large numbers of them were judged in 'need of care and attention' - indicating that they were morally 'at risk'. 

US Army Pamphlet

         An East London magistrate stated that the 'earlier maturity' and the 'jungle rhythms' heard by juveniles from morning unto bedtime, and slushy movies are in part responsible for an increase in sex delinquency among youths'.

         Other factors were the unsettling experience for city schoolchildren of the 1940 evacuation to the country, and the government's mobilization of women, which included the mothers of adolescents aged fourteen years or more.

         So many fathers were absent from home in military service that wartime adolescents were deprived of parental supervision and discipline at a critical stage in their emotional and sexual development. Girls could leave school at fourteen, and there were plenty of servicemen to provide excitement as an escape from wartime deprivations. By 1943, London and the other large cities were crowded with GIs, Canadians, and other foreign troops. In one London borough the number of teenage girls judged 'in need of care and attention' had multiplied six-fold in the year before the invasion of France. 

 

         Americans had a special fascination for such girls, according to a probation officer from London's dockland area:

         "All that seems to be necessary is for the girl to have a desire to please... Those girls who are misfits at home or at work, or who feel inferior for some reason or another, have been very easy victims. Their lives were brightened by the attention... and they found that they had an outlet which was not only a contrast, but was a definite compensation for the dullness, poverty, and, sometimes, unhappiness of their home life."

 

         An emergency Home Office study commissioned that year left no doubt that the GIs were a major stimulus of this wave of sexual delinquency:

         "To girls brought up on the cinema, who copied the dress, hairstyles, and Americans, speaking like the films, who actually lived in the magic country and who had plenty of money, at once went to the girl's heads. The American attitude to women, their proneness to spoil a girl, to build up, exaggerate, talk big, and to act with generosity and flamboyance, helped to make them the most attractive boyfriends. In addition, they 'picked-up' girls easily, and even a comparatively plain and unattractive girl stood a chance."

 

         If it was the glamour of the GIs' Hollywood image which aroused the erotic passions of British teenage girls, their counterparts across the Atlantic were stirred by a misguided adolescent patriotism. While their brothers participated in the national war fervor by joining up, thereby assuming the trappings of manhood, adolescent American girls had no such outlet.

        Psychologists surmised that the 'Victory Girls' or 'cuddle bunnies', as they were called, saw 'uniform-hunting' at railway stations and bus terminals as their way of sharing in the wartime adventure. When detained by the police they would often claim that they were sexually promiscuous 'Because it's my patriotic duty to comfort the poor boys who may go overseas and get killed.'

         An army flyer at a base-training camp in rural Illinois recalled that the adolescent prostitutes in the nearby town would 'pick up guys at a soda fountain or in movie theatres and take them out in daddy's car and go at it. Some of them took on four or five guys a night'.

         Most of the young servicemen preyed upon by these girls were lonely and naturally not averse to accepting the sexual invitations they were offered. The 'patriotutes'** as they were dubbed in the American press often dispensed their favors for a Coca-Cola, a meal, or the price of a movie.