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A while back I had a disturbing encounter with someone related to a Jewish survivor from the Auschwitz death camp. This survivor apparently claims that not only Red Army soldiers, but also G.I.'s perpetrated rape during World War II.

While rape perpetrated by Russian soldiers is often discussed (What is the historical evidence behind the claim that the Soviet armies perpetrated mass rapes during their stay in Germany?), rape perpetrated by American soldiers is news to me.

Is their any evidence that rape was perpetrated by American soldiers during WWII? If so, have estimations of the number of victims been made? Among the allies, have other armies been involved? (Numbers per country if available would be most welcome.)

  • This answer mentions rapes in France: history.stackexchange.com/questions/5545/… What are the numbers? What about the other countries? – Erwan Legrand Sep 12 '14 at 15:23
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    @semaphore I was thinking thousands or more. I'll rephrase my last sentence. – Erwan Legrand Sep 12 '14 at 15:24
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    It's actually very talked about, at least it was talked about. At least here in Italy. I heard it from both my grandparents; one was stationed in Sicily the other one was in the north. Not sure if on topic, but ever heard the song 4 marzo 1943 by Lucio Dalla? Very popular among the older generation. – Matthaeus Sep 13 '14 at 18:35
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    The US was involved in the war for almost 4 years and over 16 million men served. Most of them would have been late teens/early twenties. Why would you not assume that there were rapes perpetrated? – gillonba Aug 24 '15 at 15:30
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Yes, there were extensive rapes by American soldiers during the Second World War.

During the Second World War American GIs in Europe raped around 14,000 civilian women, in England, France and Germany. There were around 3,500 rapes by American servicemen in France between June 1944 and the end of the war ... some Allied troops were punished for sexual violence, including the execution of 70 American soldiers.

- Brown, Jennifer M., and Sandra L. Walklate, eds. Handbook on Sexual Violence. Routledge, 2011.

Keep in mind that while high in absolute terms, it did take place during a brutal war involving tens of millions of soldiers. Though rape by American soldiers was not "isolated cases", it certainly was no where near the same scale as the Red Army's atrocities either.


Authorities did try to deal with the problem, especially in France. Raping civilians of allies being less tolerated. Notably however, the Army scapegoated black servicemen for reported crimes:

[T]he public hangings scapegoated black soldiers for the crime of rape in order to save the reputation of the US Army ... [Reports] demonstrate a growing inclination among military authorities to make rape a "negro" not an "American" problem.

(...)

152 American soldiers had been tried for rape; of these 139 were "colored."

- Roberts, Mary Louise. What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France. University of Chicago Press, 2013.

This was not because black GIs were more likely to commit rape (which isn't to say it wasn't more likely, mind you - just that they were disproportionally punished for it). Black soldiers were at risk of being scapegoated on a personal basis for the crimes of their white counterparts.

White soldiers could rape a French white woman with impunity if an African American was in the vicinity and could be plausibly blamed. In several cases, black soldiers were picked up in the vicinity of the rape, and charged on those grounds alone, without any physical evidence or witness identification to prove their presence at the crime.

- Roberts, Mary Louise. What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France. University of Chicago Press, 2013.

John Willoughby's "distressing account of an undisciplined and marauding mob" (according to a review) discuss this in the immediate post war years, citing Morris MacGregor's Integration of the Armed Forces.

Ulysses Grant Lee maintains that the VD rate of black American troops was often lower than that of the black civilian population in the South. Given this historical condition, it is not surprising that African American venereal disease rates were higher than those for white soldiers ... It is important to note that there is no compelling evidence that black’s sexual activity was significantly different than whites’.

(...)

"[An explanation was] commanders' power to define serious offenses." Officers were more likely to interpret black contacts with the female population hostilely, while forgiving white soldiers for their "youthful indiscretions" ... White soldiers were more likely to avoid rape charges even when they were guilty of the crime.

- Willoughby, John. Remaking the Conquering Heroes: The Social and Geopolitical Impact of the Post-War American Occupation of Germany. Macmillan, 2001.


In addition to war time rapes, there were also quite a large number of rapes during the occupation. The situation was relatively better for Japan (after an initial frenzy): the Japanese government organised "comfort women" to pleasure American soldiers on a large scale.

Many GIs held the Okinawans in open contempt ... Rape became so common place in the wake of battle that the Army decreed the death panelty for offenders in an attempt to curb its incidence.

(...)

When US paratroopers landed in Sapporo, an orgy of looting, sexual violence and druken brawling ensued. Gang rapes and other sex atrocities were no infrequent ... In the first 10 days of occupation, there were 1,336 reported rapes by US soldiers in Kanagawa Prefecture alone.

- Takemae, Eiji. Allied Occupation of Japan. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003.

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    of course 14000 is nothing if you compare it to the size of the American force in Europe at the time which numbered a million or more... – jwenting Sep 13 '14 at 15:31
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    About 1.9 million men by war's end. Not including forces in Italy and North Africa. – Oldcat Dec 18 '14 at 22:09
  • It would be useful to have side by side the number of rapes by the red army. – Joze May 28 '15 at 11:48
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    It's worth noting that 14,000 rapes does not equal 14,000 rapists (or whatever the number was). Rapists are often serial criminals. See, for example, Jon Krakauer's book Missoula (which I mention with caution, because it is disturbingly graphic). – Literalman Aug 29 '18 at 13:31
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Semaphore's answer is excellent, as usual. Let me add just an anecdotal perspective.

Is their any evidence that rape was perpetrated by American soldiers during WWII?

My grand-mother, a teenager at the time, was part of a fairly active resistance network interacting with the British military. On the wake of the liberation of her area of France, her contact officer was dropped one last time behind enemy lines for no other reason than to warn them that heir area would be liberated the following day and that an American unit was in charge. He advised for everyone, but especially young women, to stay home for a couple of days if they could. As far as she knows, no sexual violence was reported in her area in the ensuing days (all jewelries were robbed the very night of the liberation however).

This story suggests that sexual violences were common enough to be considered a real and well-known threat but it is incompatible with the claim that it was systematic.

Among the allies, have other armies been involved?

In French historiography, it is well-known that one of the first French large military victory against the Germans, the battle of Monte-Cassino, was accompanied by massive rapes of the local population. See here for instance but, if you read French, compare with here which is much better documented and casts severe doubts on some of the most horrendous stories. Similar stories are reported in the aftermath of the battle of Freudenstadt. Though an exact or even approximate number will never be known, an interpolation based on reported cases yields a plausible number of 5 to 15 thousands sexual aggressions committed by the French military. Using a similar methodology, J.Robert Lilly apparently estimated the number of sexual aggressions committed by the American military to be between 10,000 and 20,000 (but I don't know how accurate is his work).

Interestingly, I have never read allegations of sexual violence on the part of British soldiers.

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    I'm certain there were bad apples among the British too, but indeed, it was with some small measure of pride that Sir Alexander Cairncross reported hearing "the conduct of the British soldier contrasted favourably with that of the American GI in dealings with women and property". Also, +1 for the fascinating anecdote. – Semaphore Sep 13 '14 at 15:19
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+50

I just watched a report on TV in Germany about a book recently published Als die Soldaten kamen (When the soldiers came). The author researched the subject and interviewed numerous survivors all around Germany. She conservatively estimates some 860.000 women and children were being raped by the allies, the dark figure perhaps twice to three times as much so she says. According to her, 190.000 were raped by the GIs alone.

My family from my fathers side were ethnic Germans living in Bohemia for centuries before the war. They were expelled by the Czechs and taken to a concetration camp. My father was around 7 years old by then and told my he had seen how Germans were killed on the streets by their Czech neighbours. All her life long my grandmother talked about the camp and I remember her in her last days before she died at 96, she was heavily halluzinating and thought she was being deported again.

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    Welcome to History Stack Exchange. +1 for that information. If the book is available, a link would help- at least for German literates. Also I'm taking the liberty of editing the answer by splitting it into two paragraphs. – Rajib Mar 2 '15 at 3:14
  • It's available via amazon and other venues... are we supposed to link to a commercial source of a source? – CGCampbell Mar 2 '15 at 14:54
  • Thanks! Here is a link I've found, in German: daserste.de/information/wissen-kultur/ttt/sendung/hr/… – Erwan Legrand Mar 3 '15 at 11:11
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After the liberation of Normandy, US soldiers felt like it was time for a 'reward' and French women soon started complaining about the behavior of the US soldiers in Normandy. Fear spread among the people in France and that fear is best explained in this joke:

"Our men had to disguise themselves under the Germans. But when the Americans came, we had to hide the women."

Mary Louise Roberts, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in her book "What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France." stated that American propaganda didn't sell the war as desire and fight for freedom but as 'sexual adventure for soldiers'.

Life magazine, one of the prominent publications of the day, stated:

"France was a tremendous brothel inhabited by 40,000,000 hedonists who spent all their time eating, drinking and making love."

According to Wikipedia, U.S. troops committed 208 rapes and about 30 murders in the department of Manche.

In the book Taken by force, J. Robert Lilly estimates that there were around 3,500 rapes in the France committed by US soldiers from June 1944 till the end of the war.

So yes, there were "massive" rapes committed by US soldiers, and they were committed in France after the liberation of Normandy.

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    massive? In relation to the number of people involved that's hardly a blip... – jwenting Sep 13 '14 at 15:35
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    I hardly believe there were just this few rapes. – Matthaeus Sep 13 '14 at 18:32
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As the previous answers document, rape was common among American soldiers. Negro soldiers were disproportionately punished, however, this was partially a side effect of their role in the war since they were service troops in the back lines they had a much greater opportunity to commit rape than men who were fighting in forward areas from which civilians had fled.

Its important to realize that the vast majority of sex was "consensual", if you consider a woman prostituting herself for food consensual. Virtually everyone in France, Italy, Austria and Germany was starving by the time the Americans arrived so a woman could be bought with half a tin of food or any kind of currency (cigarette/chocolate) which the woman could convert to food later.

To give you a sense of what it was like, if you were an army soldier on a public road, young boys would run up to you constantly and offer their sister for some pittance amount of money. If you accepted, you would be led to a house or shack nearby where she would be waiting, often a very young girl. The money you paid would be used to feed the whole family, but when you came you would only see the young boy and the girl.

Americans also had a penchant for setting up large "warehouse" style brothels that Italians and French found extremely offensive, although the Germans and Japanese were ok with them. One of the reasons we have relatively poor relations with France and Italy, even today, 70 years later, was the way we treated them during the war.

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    Did Negro [sic] troops commit more rape, or were they more likely to be prosecuted for rape? This is a subject where I would really prefer sources. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 12 '14 at 19:25
  • Obviously it would be difficult to answer the first question. Semaphore has already listed a source showing that they were much more heavily prosecuted. As far as the point about greater opportunity, you can read Semaphore's sources or practically any of the major soldier diaries of the war. The complaint about service troops having fun while front line troops fought was universal. Also, if you have any knowledge of the logistics of the Western front, it would be obvious to you the situation. Its hard to "rape" somebody when you are pinned down in a foxhole with explosions going off around you – Tyler Durden Sep 12 '14 at 19:32
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    @MarkC.Wallace Probably both. Most black soldiers served in units with weak leadership, units which were more prone to transgressions. But we also know they were more likely to be punished, and the punishment was likely to be harsher (25/29 executed for rape). While TylerDurden is correct in that it is difficult to answer precisely, the evidence suggests both were a factor. – Semaphore Sep 13 '14 at 2:01
  • @TylerDurden If you have any knowledge of the logistics of the Western front, it would be obvious that the percentage of soldiers "in the foxholes" compared to those "in the rear" (with concurrent time/availability to commit rape) is very low. – CGCampbell Mar 4 '15 at 4:18
  • I would guess that sexual relations between white GI's and European women would /could conveniently be assumed to be consensual, whilst such relations with black soldiers would be almost de facto rape. – TheHonRose May 9 '18 at 11:49

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