WAR AND LOVE IN A PACIFIC PARADISE
In his wartime letters to Aunt Della, Bob sent occasional photos. After Juanita’s 2005 death, I retrieved some of those letters and photos, including these four snapshots which I had never seen. He’d written these inscriptions on the back.
The Saipan Island photo, taken the month after the Allied victory there, shows Bob holding a captured Japanese flag. He brought it home as a war souvenir and gave it to Arley. We had it for years and I’m not sure what happened to it. Harriett may have passed it on to Bob’s daughter Emily. Bob wrote heartbreaking letters about the horrors of the fighting on Saipan, especially about encountering the large civilian population there. Many of the Japanese families jumped into the sea from cliffs rather than surrender. Over 10,000 Allied soldiers were wounded during the battle and medics like Bob remained on the island for weeks stabilizing the wounded to be transported to army hospitals.
Honolulu was a totally different environment and Bob found brief respites from the war there. The Japanese American population welcomed the U.S. soldiers and showed them hospitality. He sometimes was there working at the General Hospital and also had time for relaxation in this tropical paradise. He loved the beaches, the wild orchids, banana trees—so different from his Tennessee home! Here he made friends including a young woman named Kay who later introduced him to Ellen Onuma. Ellen lived with her widowed mother and her young son (whose father was another American soldier). When Bob returned home, he said he loved Ellen and that he was going to send for her as soon as he saved the money for her trip to America. She sent photos, letters and gifts to us—but at the end of a year, her mother returned the money Bob sent for her ticket to America. Her mother wrote Bob that she could not bear for her daughter to leave Hawaii and was breaking off all communication with him. Devastated, he considered moving to Honolulu to marry her but was finally persuaded by family (primarily Harriett who totally opposed his marrying a “foreigner”) that it would be a mistake. Two mothers thousands of miles apart were both working toward the same goal—stopping their adult children from marrying each other. Maybe that was the real mistake.