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Western FrontAugust 1942

GI Bride from London

Doris Kite
Having been married by telephone, she traveled to America at the end of the war to make a new life with her US Airforce husband.

Doris Kite's words are read by Poppy Gillespie

Testimony Transcript

Laurence Rees: Doris Kite was 18 years old and working in a munitions factory in London when the Americans arrived in Britain during the war.

Words of Doris Kite: Well, they were always very nicely dressed and everything. They were quite different because they were very outgoing and friendly, not reserved at all. Sometimes they were not as reserved as I’d have liked them to have been, like the British boys.

Laurence Rees: Doris and her friends met a group of American air force officers in London who offered to take them for a meal – an encounter which turned into her first date with an American airman called Marvin. And the experience seemed to confirm her view that these Americans were a little too forward for British tastes.

Words of Doris Kite: I got kind of matched up with Marvin and we ate together and then he saw me home, took a taxi, took me home and you know, we didn’t say a lot, and he tried to peck me goodnight, that’s what he did, and I wouldn’t do it, you know, I didn’t believe in kissing on the first night, I didn’t know him well enough or anything anyway. I kind of thought he was a little bit fast, you know, but really he’s so different from that. When I went into work the next day my friend had arranged to meet them. There was a dinner dance at the Regent Palace Hotel in London and, so we met them there the next night. I was a bit reluctant to go, but she said, oh, come on girl. And when we met that night it was completely different, he was a Southern gentleman. We just had the best time.

We had so much in common. He saw me home again and we made another date, but from then on he wrote to me and came to see me when he came to London. He was just so genuine and friendly and such a Southern gentleman, and nice. He brought eggs for my family, and he brought canned fruit and some candy for the children and everything. He was just generous. They never did talk about what they had gone through with the missions or anything. I guess they didn’t want to talk about it. Marvin was in the 44th Bomb Group.

Laurence Rees: Marvin asked Doris to marry him, but she was uncertain it was the right thing to do. But after he’d left for America at the end of the war and having already been turned down once, he asked her to marry him once again.

Words of Doris Kite: But it was really seemed to be daunting to get all the paperwork done and get a reservation on the ship and things like that, coz I had to come privately since we weren’t married already. So he suddenly got the idea that he was afraid I was getting cold feet or something, and that maybe we could get married by telephone and that would speed up my passage over here. And I was at work one day and the boss came to tell me I needed to go home, my mother had called that reporters were there, that he had tried to contact me to marry me by phone. I had no idea. And of course it didn’t work because I didn’t have a phone, and so I had to telegram him back and told him that it wouldn’t work that way, that I’d have to reset a date and we didn’t have a phone at home.

So my uncle said I could use his telephone, and he had a pub in Richmond and I mailed him that I’d just go to the apartment and head upstairs and Marvin would call me and I’d get married to him that way. And when the day came when I got there the pub was open, all my family was there and everybody was in the pub. I had no idea it was going to happen like that. But I’m so happy we did that because it made my parents feel better that I was married. He went to his pastor’s study, he belonged to a church there and the whole church was behind him. His parents and his friends were all in the pastor’s study and that’s where they were speaking from, and he had a picture of me and I had a picture of him.

Laurence Rees: With the security of having been married by phone, Doris then left for America.

Words of Doris Kite: Well, it was early in the morning when I left and I’d told all the family goodbye the night before. Two of my sisters were asleep but my mother, of course, was up, and I remember hugging her and kissing her goodbye and then we got in the cab and I turned round and looked and she was looking out of the window, and I’m crying now, looking out of the window and I suddenly saw her go down, you know, and she kind of sat down, I guess, crying, and that just broke my heart, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I came on the Queen Elizabeth and he met me in New York. We both stayed at the same hotel but we had separate rooms, coz I was going to have a church wedding and I was going to be married in white. We didn’t count ourselves married until we had the church wedding.

Laurence Rees: Doris travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, to get married - officially. This time with the bridegroom present personally.

Words of Doris Kite: And instead of a huge bouquet, I had a little New Testament Bible that he carried with him, his aunt had sent it to him when he was in the service and he carried it with him on all of his missions, 35 missions, he always had that little bible in his pocket, and so I decided I wanted to carry that bible down the aisle with me. And we decided to cover it in white satin and then we had white satin streamers coming down from it, and it was just real pretty and I had orchids on the top, and that’s what I carried down the aisle with me instead of a huge bouquet. That little bible with orchids on the top.

Laurence Rees: And, after the marriage in church, Doris did what she could to adapt to American culture.

Words of Doris Kite: Everywhere in America’s different, the Southern food and Southern way of speaking, oh, that’s something else too. In England back then, I don’t know how it is now, but people didn’t throw compliments around. They didn’t keep complimenting and things and, and if they did we wouldn’t have dreamed of saying thank you because that would be like being conceited, and I would never do that. All of his friends, his family and friends, were trying to make me feel good, I guess, and they would compliment me on my hat or something, you know, my English skin and things like my complexion. And I couldn’t get the word thank you out, it would stick in my throat, because it was like I was being really conceited. Marvin would buy me a pin, buy me a pretty pin to wear and we went shopping once and, this is one of the little things that I still remember, and one of the ladies at the store complimented me on my pin, and I didn’t know what to say. And Marvin, he said, “What about saying thank you?” And, boy, that really upset me. Then I started saying thank you. But that’s something I had to really get used to, to say, thank you,