Growing up in the dreary English coal-mining town of Grimethorpe, Pamela Silver Tallant never fantasized about the American GI who had fathered her and then disappeared from her life.
She contented herself with images of the homely U.S. soldier with the kindly smile in the yellowed photographs her mother had stored away. She enjoyed the rare occasions her mother would speak of this stranger she had once yearned to marry. He was "a lovely person, really," her mother would tell Pamela. "Well-liked by everyone."
Those tidbits were all Pamela knew of her father, all she ever expected to know, even as she mounted a search for him when she reached the age of 35.
Seven years later she found herself in Baltimore tearfully embracing this long-lost ghost, clinging tightly to a paunchy, balding old man, who, she soon discovered, had a bad heart, a taste for custom-made clothes and a past that was as tumultuous as hers was uneventful.
In that 10-day visit, she filled in a lifetime of blanks. She learned that her father had for years been the manager of a burlesque theater called The Gayety in a risque section of Baltimore known as The Block. He had numbered Blaze Starr among his friends. He had been married once and had a host of lovers, including a stripper named Flash O'Ferrall who had borne him a son.
He had served time in prison for tax evasion and for several years had been a regular fixture in Baltimore courtrooms, where he was invariably fined for allowing his girls to remove one veil too many. He had no idea they were going to take off so much, he'd tell the judge.
In her 42nd year, Pamela Tallant, who had lived her whole life without a father, finally found hers, and it was Sam Horowitz.
And she was thrilled.
"He was wonderful, really wonderful," she said by telephone recently from Grimethorpe. "He was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill, small-town person. He was the type of person who you normally only see in movies. I was delighted with him."
Mrs. Tallant's reunion with her father, who died in June at the age of 77, was one of more than a hundred to occur in the past six years as British citizens banded together to help each other find the U.S. soldiers who had fathered them and then vanished. Now, those meetings promise to become even more frequent in the wake of a recent legal settlement.
For the first time, the Pentagon has agreed to help foreign-born children find their GI fathers. The Defense Department will now release the last known cities of residence of the fathers. It will also forward the children's letters directly to their fathers, but only if they were World War II-era babies.
The Pentagon still refuses to forward letters from children born to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, saying it couldn't handle the volume of requests.
It is estimated that tens of thousands of children were fathered by U.S. soldiers stationed in England during the war. Soldiers were not discouraged from taking lovers and even received condoms from the military. Their sexual activity became part of the folklore in the English countryside. According to one account, signs were sometimes posted warning the U.S. soldiers, "Please drive carefully. That child might be yours."
Many of those children were born out of wedlock -- one of the prime reasons the Pentagon refused for so long to help in the search for the fathers.
"Fatherhood of an illegitimate child during youth is at worst embarrassing and at a minimum highly personal," lawyers for the Defense Department and its co-defendant, the National Archives and Records Administration, argued in a legal brief. "Contact by any individual, particularly a long-lost illegitimate child, is clearly intrusive," they added.
Joan S. Meier, the Washington attorney for the British citizens, who have been dubbed "warbabes" by the English press, said the Pentagon's policy was consistent with practices dating back to the war. "I think there was an ideology that these girls weren't good enough for our boys and that these children were an embarrassment to the men and to the U.S. Army," Ms. Meier said.
Ms. Meier charged that the military often discouraged marriages and made no efforts to keep families together when children were born. As evidence, she presented a letter from one "warbabe" whose mother said she had been paid 100 pounds to end all contact with the soldier who had fathered her daughter.
In the lawsuit, the Pentagon denied the existence of any such policies.
Nevertheless, when Shirley McGlade first began her search for her GI father in 1972, she quickly sensed the U.S. military's antipathy toward people in her situation. The Pentagon, the U.S. Embassy in London and a variety of other agencies all curtly rebuffed her requests for help. Later letters to Ronald Reagan, George Bush and a number of U.S. senators also produced no results.
"I was just disgusted," she said. "I just got the feeling that they feel we're an embarrassment to their country and they've tried to cover up about us for 40 years."
It took her 14 years, but she finally found her father, Jack Crowley, in California in 1986. Mr. Crowley didn't remember her mother and knew nothing about having a British daughter, but when presented with overwhelming evidence of her relationship to him, he was overjoyed and welcomed her into his family.
"Although I felt quite guilty about Shirley at first, I now feel comfortable about her place in my life," Mr. Crowley said in an affidavit. "I have always wanted a daughter, and I am very happy to now have one."
Mrs. McGlade's search generated widespread publicity and hundreds of phone calls from other British and European citizens who wanted to know how to find their fathers. Mrs. McGlade decided to form an organization that would pool information and direct people to public records that would help in searches. The organization, called Warbabes, claims more than 500 members and has located 102 U.S. fathers.
In all but a handful of those cases, she said, the fathers have been pleased to meet their children. Many of them submitted letters into evidence decrying the military's policy of refusing to help their children find them.
Despite the happy endings for some, the court records and interviews reflect some of the heartache caused by the wartime romances, particularly for the mothers and children left behind. Two days after one mother bought her wedding gown, her American lover was shipped off to Europe, only to lose touch with her and his child forever.
Marilyn Dickinson, who still hasn't found her father, said her mother never recovered from the disappearance of her soldier lover. "I always felt there was a sadness in her life because of her lost love," Mrs. Dickinson said.
Some of the mothers were pressured into putting their children into orphanages. Many of the children, such as Mrs. McGlade, lived under the stigma of illegitimacy.
"Some of the neighbors would say my 'Yank' father should have taken his leftovers with him," she said. The man her mother eventually married refused to adopt her or support her financially. "He never even wanted me to touch my half-brother or sister," she said.
Although the military may not have helped to keep the families together, there were often other complications that prevented weddings: prior marriages, family objections and, quite simply, broken promises and deceptions.
Phillip Kilcoyne, for example, never told his English lover that he was married and had three children at home, even as he was promising for 10 years to marry her.
"I feel bad about that," said Mr. Kilcoyne, 66, a retired machinist in Wisconsin. "I didn't mean to string her along. I just couldn't get my wife to give me a divorce."
In 1987, he was found by Vina Upton, his English daughter, who lifted his 40 years of guilt. "I hold nothing against him at all," Mrs. Upton said. "I believe what is to be is to be, and I'm just glad I have him now.
When she finally found her father, Pamela Tallant didn't have him for long. He died three years after their only meeting. Still, of all the "warbabes," she may have unearthed the most colorful father.
In 1942, Samuel Horowitz, a sergeant in the U.S. military police, met Eileen Silver at a recreation hall in the steel town of Sheffield. He was the poor son of Jewish immigrants in Baltimore. She was a coal-miner's daughter working in a munitions factory.
In between the repeated bombardments of Sheffield by German planes, they snatched time together at movies, pubs and dances. He gave her U.S. cigarettes and chocolates, delicacies otherwise unavailable to British citizens. They talked about getting married.
Pamela was born near the end of the war, and shortly afterward, Mr. Horowitz shipped out.
"I attempted to keep in touch with Pamela's mother, whom I loved very much, but due in part to her family's intervention, we eventually lost touch," he later said in an affidavit.
Mrs. Tallant said her English grandmother believed that "Sam had deserted my mum and felt she should forget about him." Her grandmother sent Pamela's mother away to live with relatives, so that Mr. Horowitz wouldn't be able to find her. It would be 10 years before she married someone else.
The grandmother also destroyed Mr. Horowitz's letters, although one survived from his sister to Ms. Silver. "Sam's been here tonight and he was crying," his sister wrote. "He loves you both so much but he doesn't know how to get back to you." It was the last communication from America.
Pamela grew up quite happily, never feeling for the lack of a father. She married, had three children and worked at an elementary school. When she reached 35, however, she became curious about her father. After securing the permission of her mother, who also wondered about what had happened to her one-time lover, Mrs. Tallant decided to try to find him.
Like others, she received no help from the U.S. Defense Department, and her search was fruitless for several years. Then she contacted Warbabes. Soon after, in 1986, Mrs. McGlade called Mrs. Tallant to tell her that she had found Mr. Horowitz at the Horizon House, an apartment house on North Calvert Street, where he had lived for 25 years.
"When I rung him," Mrs. Tallant said, "I asked him if he was the tTC Mr. Horowitz stationed in Sheffield during the war. When he said he was, I told him there were some people he knew during the war who wanted to make contact with him. All of a sudden, he asked if Eileen Silver was one of them. I thought, 'Well, I might as well go full steam now,' and I said, 'My mother is Eileen Silver.
"There was a short pause, and he said, 'I guess that makes you my daughter.' "
Mrs. Tallant told him she had no desire to interfere with his life. He put her at ease. "He was delighted. He was just over the moon," Mrs. Tallant said. "He told me that my mother was the love of his life."
A year later, Mr. Horowitz paid her fare for a reunion in Baltimore. "It was as though it was the most natural thing in the world. It was instant love and affection," she said.
She noticed that she had the same double chin as he did and that they both had the habit of twiddling their thumbs. He introduced her to her half-brother -- the son of Flash O'Ferrall -- and also took her to The Block to meet his old cronies, including Pam Gail, the one-time stripper and owner of The Oasis.
She was bowled over. "His life was quite sparkling, quite exciting," she said. "I found him an absolutely fascinating man. He lived through so much and really enjoyed his life. There's not an awful lot of people who can say that."
She never got to see Sam Horowitz again after that trip, never got the chance to introduce him to his grandchildren. Still, she said, she did find what she'd set out to discover 10 years ago.
"I always had this feeling that there was something missing from my life, something about my past that I just knew nothing about," she said. "When you find the answer, everything's suddenly all right. That happened to me when I found my dad."