The U.S. government has agreed to release thousands of pages of information on the whereabouts of former American GIs stationed in England during World War II to a group of British subjects who believe the men may be their long-lost biological fathers.

The settlement, announced in federal court yesterday, marks the end of a four-year-old lawsuit filed by War Babes, a 500-member British organization made up of the offspring of wartime liaisons between American soldiers and English women.

Until now, the U.S. government had withheld the information on the grounds that releasing it might invade the privacy of U.S. citizens.

"I'm thrilled to bits that we've done it," said Shirley McGlade, the Birmingham, England, woman who founded War Babes and is the lead plaintiff in the case. McGlade, 45, succeeded in locating her own father, Jack Crowley of Elk Grove, Calif., in 1984 after a 12-year search.

Of the 500 members of her organization, she said, "I'm almost sure that 50 percent of them at least will be helped by this."

Under terms of the settlement, announced in a court hearing and signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Archives and Records Administration will release the last known home city and state for each former serviceman, as well as the date of that address.

The information would go to any War Babes member or other child of a former U.S. serviceman.

"We wanted street addresses," said Joan Meier, an attorney for War Babes. "This is everything but the street address itself."

The settlement states that if the serviceman is dead and that fact is known to the government, it will release his last known address, including street address. The government has also agreed to forward letters from the offspring to the ex-servicemen.

"It's great," Meier said. "The city and state {information} is crucial. They can go look at phone books once they have that. They can also use computerized genealogy indexes."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office here could not be reached for comment on the case.

The agreement marked the latest chapter in what has become an international story of belated wartime reunions.

Many plaintiffs in the case were born to unmarried mothers and were ostracized in postwar England because of a widespread prejudice against liaisons between British women and American GIs.

Other plaintiffs were the offspring of married parents separated after the war by families who disapproved of the matches, according to affidavits filed in court here.

When War Babes began trying to get the information it sought from the British and U.S. governments in the early 1980s, said McGlade, the group encountered rigid rules barring release of information about private citizens.

In a memorandum filed earlier in connection with the case, U.S. government lawyers argued that the Freedom of Information Act's "privacy exemption" would hold sway if the issue involved a wartime love affair the participants might want to forget.

"Fatherhood of an illegitimate child during youth is at worst embarrassing and at a minimum highly personal," said a government memorandum filed in connection with the case. "Contact by any individual, particularly a long-lost illegitimate child, is clearly intrusive, whether welcome or not."

But McGlade said that her experience more often showed the opposite.

Many of the veterans, now in their sixties and seventies, were as eager to find their offspring as their children were to find them, she said.

"What surprised me was that I've been receiving letters from fathers and wives and brothers and sisters in America who want to trace English children," she said.

"The government was telling me we were an embarrassment, yet these people were writing, saying, 'Will you help me trace my brother, I'm desperate.' . . . The American people have been marvelous," she said. "It's just the governments that have been cold and indifferent."

Both generations in the trans-Atlantic search have been driven by a sense that time was running out, she said.

She acknowledges feeling anger and frustration that her own search took as long as it did. When she finally located her father in 1984, she said, he and his family welcomed her.

"They {the U.S. government} robbed me of 14 years with my dad," she said.

Today, she said, she rarely talks to her father on the telephone because he is nearly deaf, but they write to each other often.

"I heard from him three or four weeks ago," she said. "We're so much alike it's unbelievable."