The Homecoming: Bittersweet Reunions Between WW2 Soldiers and Their Families

By | August 7, 2016

These images of soldiers returning home from World War II capture a range of emotions that a reunion of such great magnitude is bound to ignite — from sadness to relief, from awkwardness to joy.

Victory Day Celebration
On May 8, 1945, celebration began throughout the United States and the world when news came of the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender. Families who had been separated by war anticipated being reunited again in the coming months.
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20th Armored Division Returning Home, August 6, 1945
As spring turned to summer in 1945, men slowly made their way back to the United States. Below, troops of the 20th Armored Division and units of the 9th Army cheer in the rain, as the SS John Ericsson approaches North River, New York.
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Photo: Library of Congress

Army Wives Waiting To Catch A Glimpse Of Their Husbands, 1945
Anxious wives waited for information on their husbands' return. In some cases, soldiers would be returning home to babies they had never met, who were born while they were serving overseas.
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Photo: NPS

Sailor Surprise, 1945
Many families were often surprised by the return of their husband, father, or son because of last-minute changes and slow moving mail services.
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Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

Women's Army Corp Member Kissing Her Husband, Upon Discharge January 1, 1945
Women who had served in the war also returned home to husbands, children, and parents in similarly dramatic scenes.
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Photo: Keystone-france/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

86th Infantry Division Returns Home, June 17, 1945
The cheering from the deck of returning transport of servicemen could be heard long before it landed, as men called out to their wives and sweethearts.
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Thanksgiving Reunion, 1942
Some reunions did not occur at the end of the war, but rather in the middle of it.
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Photo: Library of Congress

Homecoming At Christmas, 1942
A Christmas time reunion was a rare but always a wonderful occurrence during World War II. Here a soldier surprises his sweetheart with a visit home for the holidays in 1942.
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Photo: Blogspot/1940s Christmas

A Woman Leans Over To Kiss Her Husband, London, 1940
That first kiss after months or years of not seeing each other.
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Photo: Adaptation Magazine

Actress Marlene Dietrich Kisses A Returning Soldier, 1945
Even celebrities joined in the homecoming festivities.
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Photo: Blogspot/Historic Photographs

British Sailor Greets His Dog
A homecoming from the war often included a joyous reunion with the family dog, as seen in this photo.
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Photo: The Guardian

Woman From Army Corps Helping A Wounded Soldier, 1945
Unfortunately, there were bittersweet reunions. Nearly 700,000 men and women were wounded during battle and the experience of returning to their families with injuries — some of them requiring lifelong care — changed the experience for the husbands and wives.
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Photo: Keystone-france/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

Soldier Hugging His Mother, October 5, 1945
A soldier hugs his mother, while his sisters wait their turn.
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U.S. Service Men Arrive At Fort Mason, 1945
"Hundreds of thousands of service men came home from the Pacific on huge military transport ships. Once they landed at Fort Mason, they were escorted to the Staging Area, where they were fed an American meal, their papers were processed and they were reunited with their families."
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A Return To Normalcy
In the years directly following WW2, there was a time of confusion, as men and women learned what pre-war lifestyle choices they could do again — and which ones they could permanently do without. The process of returning to normalcy, both for the family and the soldiers,was a long and difficult road.
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H/T Allday