Occasionally, when working with the seemingly boundless treasure that is the LIFE magazine archive, one comes across series of pictures, or long-forgotten articles, that clearly and undeniably capture something telling about their own time — while casting an unexpected light on our own imperfect era.
Such is the case with Wayne Miller’s marvelous photographs — and, perhaps especially, with the sympathetic text — from an article that ran in LIFE in November 1951. Titled “A War Bride Named ‘Blue’ Comes Home,” the two-page feature captured the scene when a woman LIFE dubbed “the first Korean war bride to arrive in America” and her husband, Sgt. Johnie Morgan, landed in Seattle, where Johnie’s mom and dad were anxiously waiting to see their son and meet their new daughter-in-law.
In LIFE’s words, “As the troop transport General M. M. Patrick pulled into Seattle’s harbor, the band on the dock loudly struck up Here Comes the Bride.”
Crowds cheered excitedly, whistles tooted. Seattle and the U.S. were welcoming the first Korean war bride to arrive in America, Mrs. Johnie Morgan, home with her sergeant husband.
To soldiers in Korea Mrs. Morgan had been known as “Blue” because when she refused to tell them her name (it was Lee Yong Soon) they said, “Okay, you’ve got a blue sweater so your name’s Blue.” She first met Johnie Morgan (he was christened “Johnie,” not “John”) in Seoul in 1949 where Blue worked for the U.S. Army as communications supervisor. By the time Korea was a word on the lips of every American, Johnie and Blue were in love. But love in Korea in 1950 was precious and brief. In late June, with the North Koreans coming in on Seoul, Johnie’s outfit withdrew 200 miles south to Pusan, and Blue was left behind. Three weeks later, her feet bare and bleeding, Blue reached Pusan and Johnie Morgan. She had walked across country to Johnie. “I knew then,” says Johnie, “how much I loved the kid,” and he asked her to marry him. It took five months for marriage permission to clear the Army. Then, after their wedding last Valentine’s Day, which is Blue’s birthday, Johnie passed up innumerable chances to return to the States until Blue’s papers could be cleared.
Before the transport docked in Seattle a little boat pulled alongside and an official greeter climbed aboard to give Blue a $100 savings bond — a homecoming gift from the city of Seattle. When the couple came ashore, Johnie’s mother rushed up to kiss Blue. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said.
Seven decades later, as Americans spend Veterans Day honoring those who served — with parades and with other, quieter remembrances — it’s also fitting that we take a moment and recall a wartime story that, at its heart, is less about warfare than about the simple, indomitable power of love.