Iwo Jima mementos bring closure to Japanese family

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Thorlifter, Oct 28, 2010.

  1. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Iwo Jima mementos bring closure to Japanese family - Yahoo! News

    TOKYO – For decades, the faded photograph of a baby Japanese girl and a child's colorful drawing hung on a wall in the home of Franklin Hobbs III in America.

    As a 21-year-old U.S. soldier fighting on Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, Hobbs found them in the pocket of a fallen Japanese soldier and took them as a souvenir.

    Until recently, he tried not to think too much about the battle or the photo and drawing. Then, a few years ago, at his wife's suggestion, he decided to try to give them back.

    For the girl in the photo and her sister, they meant the world.

    Hobbs, now 86, returned to Japan this week for the first time since the war and met with one of the daughters whose life he changed by returning the items. Chie Takekawa had drawn the picture of an air raid drill that Hobbs found on her father — a man she barely knew and whose remains have never been found.

    "As a child, I had always wondered when my father would come home from the war," Takekawa, 74, said Thursday with a beaming Hobbs by her side. "I feel like he has actually come back after all these years. I am very grateful."

    The story of the mementos very nearly ended on Hobbs' wall.

    Hobbs — himself an orphan from an early age — said he first found them in an envelope on a Japanese soldier lying dead outside a large cave. A corporal in the Army Signal Corps, Hobbs had just survived an intense battle on the beach, dug in deep with a buddy and eating raw bacon for three days.

    When the fighting had calmed enough, he was assigned to drive a truck to help set up lines of communication for the U.S. troops. He was steering up a hill when he came upon several other Americans searching the bodies of three dead Japanese.

    One of them was 36-year-old Matsuji Takekawa.

    "I saw the letter sticking out and I said, 'I don't want any swords or anything, but I think I'll take this letter.' I just picked it up, I suppose out of curiosity. But I felt a little bad about it at the time."

    Hobbs took it with him when Japan's surrender that August meant he could leave the island after eight months.

    He considered himself lucky.

    The battle, which began on Feb. 19, 1945, and lasted more than a month, claimed 6,821 American and 21,570 Japanese lives.

    Closure for the Japanese families is rare. About 12,000 Japanese are still classified as missing in action and presumed killed on the island, along with 218 Americans.

    Japan's government announced last week it is investigating two sites believed to be mass graves that may contain as many as 2,000 of the dead. Officials say it could take months to collect the remains, and identification is expected to be extremely difficult.

    The battle for the tiny volcanic island became a symbol and rallying point for the United States after the U.S. flag was raised on its highest ground, Mount Suribachi.

    For Hobbs, it was simply a killing field.

    "It was just death everywhere, and I hated it," he said.

    Hobbs graduated from Harvard Business School, married and raised a family. His wife framed the mementos and put them up in one of their sons' rooms. Hobbs never discussed his memories of the war.

    "My kids didn't know what the drawing was; they thought maybe their mother had drawn it," he said. "I never really told my kids because there wasn't that much to tell."

    He later divorced, and when his new wife, Marge, was going through his things at their home in Brookline, Massachusetts, she noticed the mementos and suggested Hobbs try to return them. They contacted a family friend, Reiko Wada, who could read the address on the envelope.

    Though the address was outdated, Wada contacted the Japanese health ministry — which keeps records for pensions — and was able to find the family in the northern Japan city of Sanjo, where it owns a liquor store. To Wada's surprise, the baby in the photo — Yoko Takekawa — was living in New Jersey, where she had moved to do missionary work.

    On a trip to Japan two years ago, Wada turned the photo and drawing over to Japanese officials, who had them delivered to the older sister, Chie, who still lives in Japan.

    Chie Takekawa said they are now on the family altar, where she makes daily offerings of water — in her father's letters home, he often spoke of his constant thirst and how there was never enough water for the soldiers to drink.

    "It's hard to bring back the emotions that I felt when I first saw the letter," she said. "We were all amazed that this could happen. I was just so happy."

    Like Hobbs, Takekawa had tried to put the war and her loss behind her, but the return of the photo and drawing rekindled her feeling of a connection with her father and inspired her and her sister to join a government-sponsored trip to Iwo Jima for an annual memorial last March.

    "When I got off the airplane I was shocked by how small an island it is," she said. "All my sister and I could do was cry. I felt I was walking on the soil where he is buried. I wanted to dig in my hands and try to find him."

    Takekawa now intends to go to Iwo Jima every year. "I feel that somehow my father made this all happen," she said.
     
  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Good to see. :salute:
     
  3. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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  4. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    That's cool.
     
  5. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    Very cool story, Thor....Thanks!
     
  6. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    A nice thread, Thor, but was too heavy for me to comment so soon.

    I would like to dedicate

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av9gyn0Cxt0, Watarase-bashi(Watarase Bridge) to the kindness of Mr. Franklin Hobbs III.
    A girl recalls her old boyfriend who has gone far away...
     
  7. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Active Member

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    Interesting song, S....Is there an on-line translation for those of us who don't speak Japanese?
     
  8. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks diddyriddick if you like this song:)

    Watarasebashi
    (Watarase Bridge)
    Song by Aya Matsu-ura
    Originally sung by Chisato Moritaka


    Seeing you watch the sunset on Watarase Bridge
    I fell in love with you
    Haven't I grown up in a pretty place?
    You said you wanted to live here

    You came all the way to this town
    Riding the train, just to see me
    Even now, I live
    Without forgetting those days

    Even now, when I go to the Yagumo Shrine
    I pray about you
    If one wish would just come true
    I want to go back to those days

    All alone by the barber shop
    Do you remember that public payphone?
    I wanted to call you, forgetting about yesterday
    I picked up the receiver so many times

    Recently, I went down to Watarase River's river bed
    I watched the river flow for a long time
    The north wind was freezing
    I ended up with a cold

    It's not anyone's fault
    I knew that you couldn't live in this town
    I worried over it for so long
    But I can't live anywhere else

    The street that you said you liked
    It darkens in the sunset today too
    The wide sky and the faraway mountains
    This is the town where we walked together
    The town with a pretty sunset

    * Above translation quoted from
    it's so easy to love you: Watarase Bridge ♡
     
  9. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    She certainly paints a vivid picture with the lyrics. Thanks Shinpachi for the translation.
     
  10. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    You are welcome, Thor:)
     
  11. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Great ending to a very long story! :salute:
     
  12. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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  13. Pong

    Pong Active Member

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    Very nice conclusion to a mystery that is nearly 70 years old. :thumbleft:
     
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