Servicemen's children to get data on U.S. fathers

November 20, 1990|By Fernando Goncalves | Fernando Goncalves,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. District Court settlement announced yesterday will allow British children of U.S. servicemen from World War II to get information about their fathers from the Defense Department and the National Archives.

The agreement reversed a long-standing federal policy of withholding such information to protect servicemen's privacy.

Up to 100,000 British sons and daughters of U.S. GIs who had been stationed in England during World War II could be affected by the settlement. The action also opens the way for unknown numbers of children fathered by U.S. servicemen in Vietnam and other countries to trace their fathers and possibly be reunited or have their fathers' names included on their birth certificates.

"The settlement begins to redress the wrongs that started during the war [World War II], when the Army encouraged men to have a good time and then . . . whisked them away so they could not be found," said Joan Meier, a lawyer for War Babes, a British-based group of estranged children of U.S. GIs.

The settlement ended a 1988 suit filed by about 300 Britons against the Defense Department and the National Archives after the agencies refused to release the addresses of their American fathers.

War Babes released affidavits by families that had reunited despite the government's refusal to help.

Martienus Van Lith, 67, of Yakima, Wash., wrote that he was located by his daughter, Pauline Wendy Marsden, in 1987 after she spent two years searching for him.

"There is no reason why the government should withhold addresses from children of servicemen," he wrote. "I would be very angry if I knew that the reason my daughter could not find me was because the government would not release my address to her."

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