Tokyo - 1935-1948 -- can you help me??

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by janel90, May 6, 2012.

  1. janel90

    janel90 Banned

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    Hi all -

    I'm a new kid on the block and this is all about my mom, a German in WWII Tokyo --


    Short version -

    I'm hoping someone here can help me. I'm looking for any information about the Tokyo Dai Ichi Hotel when it was used for GHQ/SCAP Field Grade Officer housing for the US occupation forces in Tokyo. My family history has it that my mother was hired by a US Army Col. Joseph Muldoon to manage the basement snack bar in that hotel sometime during 1946. (and to distribute the rationed liquor!) She was 21 years old at the time, and spoke German, English and Japanese (that’s why she was hired, I suppose).

    Long version -

    Our oral family history suggests an extraordinary life for my mother, Helga Hofmeier Kiderlen. Born in 1925 in Germany, her father was a published pediatrician (the family story is that he was a doctor to the Goebbels children in Berlin at one time). Her parents divorced when she was 3. Her new stepfather and mother sailed for Japan in late 1931, leaving her for several years with relatives in Munich when she was only 6. Her stepfather was eventually asked to work in the German Embassy’s Naval Attache office as Paymaster/Purchasing Agent by Admiral Paul Wenneker and he started work there in the mid-30s.

    Mom followed, at age 10, on a steamship from Hamburg to Tokyo in 1935 - strangers hired to accompany her. She lived. a German in Japan, from 1935 to 1948. Little food, terrible times and, as a "gaijin", always on the wrong side. She was on the train to her best friend Ulla Ott's (daughter of the German Ambassador to Japan) birthday party when the train was stopped for Doolittle’s Raid, and everyone was told to take shelter. As she was only a very naive 17 years old, she tells me that she and her friends went to a nearby ice cream shop for a snack until the bombing was over (!!!). Geez!!

    She survived her family home being burned to the ground during the March 10, 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo, and was again on the train when the Emperor spoke to his public after Hiroshima. Her family had their summer house in Hakone, near where she met her first American GIs staying at the Myanoshita Hotel. She met my Dad, a Cajun from Louisiana, on a blind date in Tokyo very soon after his arrival in Japan as part of the USAF occupation troops.

    Mom's parents were repatriated to Germany in 1947, and Mom accepted sponsorship by an American Army officer, Lt Col John Watson, and family to come to the US on their dime, but work out that payment as their nanny. I still have the original "contract" they all signed in January 1948. She sailed alone into San Francisco in February 1948, surprised to find nothing bombed. She spent 1948 as a nanny for the Army family. In December of that year, Dad finished his tour of duty in Japan, arrived in San Diego, paid off her indenture and married Mom three days later.....and then took her to his home in the bayous of Louisiana to "meet the parents", then to Omaha, to his next PCS assignment. After one year at Offutt AFB, she then returned to the bayous for one year, alone with me, an infant, while Dad went on an unaccompanied tour for one year to the nuclear testing site of Eniwetok Island. She became a naturalized US citizen while in LA. I still have the original newspaper articles from the local paper.

    I continue to be amazed at her life - first as the child of an affluent and intellectual family, then as a German in Japan during the war, then working as a nanny, then living as "one of those bad Germans" in very conservative small bayou town in Louisiana on her own with an infant. Although I've heard many, many of her stories, I still am surprised at the resilience, poise, and lady-like class she retained throughout her life.

    Because of all the above, I'd like to compose a bit of written family history, but need to verify the Dai Ichi story. Can you point me in a direction that might help me with some specifics/photos/info re US military history/Dai Ichi Hotel/officer housing/basement snack bar during 1946 Tokyo?

    The Holy Grail would be to find someone who actually remembers the young blonde German girl who worked at the Dai Ichi Hotel basement snack bar. Attached is her photo taken around 1947.

    I know it's a very long shot, but I'm trying anyway!

    Sincere thanks for any help or direction you might be able to offer me ---

    Jane Lang
     

    Attached Files:

  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Heck of a story!
     
  3. javlin

    javlin Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking the same think my mother would of been 20 herself in 44 and my father was in England with the 8th.The thing is how many are still living?Spinachi(sp) may of be some assistance but not sure of his age?

    and yes girls looked like girls back then.
     
  4. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    You mean Shinpachi. He is an excellent source of info for all things in Japan.
     
  5. janel90

    janel90 Banned

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    Thanks for the direction, gentlemen! I've sent Shinpachi a message.

    Jane
     
  6. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Jane for your kind email and your mother's great story!
    The Dai Ichi Hotel you referred was located in front of Shinbashi station. I will check more details in a few days soon.
    As my private memory, I have stayed there once about 30 years ago though the building was closed to be destroyed five years later.
     
  7. janel90

    janel90 Banned

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    Thank you so much, Shinpachi!

    Jane
     
  8. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Wow, incredible story! Welcome to the forum and I hope you find all the missing pieces.
     
  9. muscogeemike

    muscogeemike Member

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    Great story, I was stationed in Yokohama in the late ‘60’s and had dealing with some of the guys in the Stars and Stripes print shop at that hotel - but that doesn’t help you, I know.
    There was a web site I used to monitor where people who had been stationed in Japan or had interest in others in Japan - “Yokohama Navy Exchange” - you may try there.
     
  10. janel90

    janel90 Banned

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    Thanks, muscogeemike! I'll check them out!

    Jane
     
  11. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Cool story, best of luck to you!
     
  12. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    OK Jane. I've found out some more data about the hotel.


    Ref: Dai Ichi Hotel in Shinbashi, Tokyo

    Anticipating Tokyo Olympics(12th) in 1940, Dai Ichi Hotel was constructed by Kazumi Kobayashi, a founder of Hankyu Railway, at
    Shinbashi in the central part of Tokyo in 1938. It had 626 rooms and was one of the most modernized hotels equipped with air-
    conditioners and lifts in Japan at the time.

    In the same year of 1938, Dai Ichi Life Insurance building was also constructed in Yurakucho nearby but the former Dai Ichi Hotel
    had no management relationships with Dai Ichi Life Insurance. The name 'Dai Ichi' simply means 'the first' or 'No. 1' in Japanese.
    Common fact beside the period of construction and name, was both buildings were requisitioned by the Allied soon after ww2.

    Dai Ichi Hotel was used as a house for US officers and Dai Ichi Life Insurance building was as the well known 'GHQ'.
    Judges for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East also stayed at the hotel from 1946 to 1948.

    Become too old for use, the building was closed once in 1989 and reconstructed as Dai Ichi Hotel Tokyo in 1993.

    Reference web sites:
    Dai-ichi Hotel Tokyo
    第一ホテル - Wikipedia
    Anne Marie Doering Collection

    Wishing above may help,
    Shinpachi

    Dai-ichi hotel history.JPG TokyoMap.jpg
     
  13. janel90

    janel90 Banned

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    Absolute perfection, Shinpachi! Thank you so, so much!

    I'd like to copy those old photos of the hotel room and the staff, but cannot seem to find them on the links you provided. Can you provide the link to those photos? (I found the link with the map)

    This is terrific information and I can hardly wait to enlarge the photos to show my mother -- and see if she recognizes anyone!!

    Thank you again!

    Jane
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    If your mom has any stories, let her know she has a willing audience here!
     
  15. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    Here are a couple of additional photos which I've got in a library today.

    "Dai Ichi Hotel on Nov.15 1946"(above) and "View from Dai Ichi Hotel in July 1950"(below).
    Photo source: "Japan that Americans saw 50 years ago" published by Mainichi Press in 1995

    Dai Ichi Hotel Nov15 1946.JPG View from Dai Ichi Hotel July 1950.JPG
     
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