Category Archives: America

WWII – Packages from Home


mail1
These Marines were fortunate to have mail call out in the Pacific during WWII. A package from home – with new socks perhaps being the ultimate gift – provided huge emotional uplifts.

During WWII, receiving a package from home was the ultimate morale booster for our boys in uniform.  These packages brought tremendous joy to the men, especially when they were near or at the front, subjected to the brutality and extremes of environments.

Upon experiencing the joy of receiving a parcel, very little could surpass finding the lingering scent of their girl’s perfume on a knitted muffler; candy and gum ranked up there, too.   Socks were also in high demand as socks wore out much more quickly than sweaters or mufflers and dry socks were essential necessities to ward off trench foot.  Indeed, trench foot¹ and frostbite took their toll on our boys in battle more than being wounded by bullets or shrapnel.

While machines produced millions, there were even “knitting parties” where women knitted socks, scarves, vests and “fingerless” mittens.  In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt just months before Pearl Harbor founded a “Knit for Defense” effort in the US.

knit 3

But within today’s capsule of electronic bliss, many of us civilians in all walks of life see no difficulty with a family trying to communicate with their loved one who is not at home because he/she is in uniform.

Cell phones.  GPS.  Email.  “Facetime”.  Skype.

Even packages from home are viewed as no big thing anymore by the general public.  They are taken for granted by many civilians because the packages leaving the front porch seem to be riding on a beacon radiating from a soldier’s open palms now – think FedEx.  Perhaps this could be one possible reason why so many Americans seem to feel gifts from home are “no big deal”.  They see our men in uniform as being as close as a laptop.  That is far from reality as are many TV shows.  They still long for home.

One thing hasn’t changed from World War II: the morale-boosting smile that erupted on a soldier’s face when he received a package from home.

____________________________________

Operation Gratitude

So what got me thinking about these now long-forgotten packages from home that brought so many smiles to GI Joes on a WWII battlefield?

My oldest daughter Robyn spearheaded an effort with family and friends to bring together hundreds of donations to be sent anonymously to our military through the efforts of a non-profit organization called “Operation Gratitude“.  Among many other essentials, there were razors, hand wipes, sunscreen, foot powder, Chapstick and most importantly, letters from students thanking the unknown recipient for their service to our country.  In addition, Robyn purchased thousands of yards of “paracord“.  It had to first be cut in 7.5 foot lengths; then, the open ends have to be sealed with a small flame.  These were then hand braided into survival bracelets – 300 of them.

op grad 004
My oldest daughter applauding her three siblings on their effort to braid survival bracelets after Thanksgiving Dinner. A total of 300 were eventually made.  Survival bracelets can be quickly unraveled then used for many situations while deployed: bundling, strapping down equipment, securing netting… and in the worst scenario as a tourniquet.

 

op grad 006
My youngest son Jack the morning before heading off to volunteer for the day at Operation Gratitude. The items were donated by my oldest daughter, family and friends.

 

op grad 001
Jack and Brooke taping together boxes at Operation Gratitude. Jack kept count of the number of rolls of tape he used. With four rolls used, he taped together about 280 boxes. Photo from http://www.operationgratitude.com.

 

op grad 003
A volunteer is transferring bags of personal items donated by donors. These were then taken to the “assembly” line where volunteers stuffed Priority Mail boxes with them and other items. Photo from http://www.opeationgratitude.com.

 

op grad 002
There were HUNDREDS of volunteers this day. It was Operation Gratitude’s first assembly day at their new location in Chatsworth, CA. Photo from http://www.opeationgratitude.com.

Through their volunteers and generous donations from the public, Operation Gratitude has delivered over 1.4 million parcels so far!

These smiles make it all worth it, yes?

op grad 008

____________________________________

The Journey of a WWII Package

44 christmas pgk

During WWII, a package sent from home took weeks if not months for a soldier to get it…  Or in the worse possible scenario, the young man would never receive their package from home because they were either killed or missing as this photo below graphically shows.  It would exponentially worsen for the family as they would have likely received the infamous telegrams only to have the battered package marked “DECEASED” left at their doorstep many weeks later:

package decease
All of these packages – many for Christmas of 1944 – were returned as they were undeliverable. All are marked “Deceased” or “Missing”, visible if you enlarge the picture. I cannot imagine how the sender felt having the package being returned. National Archives.

The packages from home would make their way via ship.  For the European Theater of War and before D-Day, a number of supply ships were likely attacked or sunk by U-Boats.  After surviving the voyage and unloading at a European port (permanent or man-made like at Normandy), the packages, along with sacks of mail, would be transferred to trucks.

Europe did have mapped roads making delivery somewhat more certain but the trucks were subject to destruction via enemy air attacks, shelling or road mines.  I understand mail pieces were primarily sorted at battalion headquarters then filtered down to a company or OP level which could be moving in the course of battle.

op grad 014 wire
These soldiers were lucky to be able to use a jeep to reel off phone line. My thought would be the area was pretty secure. Otherwise, foot soldiers would have to work through the combat zone and quietly lay down then cover up the phone lines. Signal Corps photo.

Making it to the individual soldier was not a sure thing.  The package would have to make its way to the platoon then to the individual soldier’s last known position.  Perhaps there was a makeshift “post office” but if the front was fluid, their location would be a question mark.  Communication with a unit on the move was by field radio with an average range of five miles or so until actual phone lines could be reeled off (above).

op grad field phone
Wire reel can be seen next to field radio. Signal Corps photo.
op grad 009 phone
A corporal receives firing orders via a field phone for a mortar crew. National Archives.
w t
When close to or in a combat zone, walkie-talkies with a maximum range of about a mile (under ideal conditions) were used to communicate with units. Signal Corps photo.

It was MUCH less certain for Marines serving on those islands scattered about in the Pacific.  For example, the package may never get there as a ship would be sunk or damaged, would rot in humid cargo holds exceeding 130F, or the Marine just couldn’t be located because they kept moving, especially if in combat.  Communication was a wild card and without it, finding the Marine’s location was difficult.

Op grad Guadalcanal Lunga_River
Marines ford a river, laying down phone wire on Guadalcanal, 1943. Imagine the luxury of cell phones in combat today. USMC photo.

On these sweltering Pacific islands and unlike Europe, few or no roads were the norm until the engineers came ashore to build them.  Mud greeted the Marines.  Any dirt road became mud rivers and muddy hills made it worse.  When mail did reach their island, the mail drops on many an occasion were truly drops – they were pushed out of cargo planes with parachutes at low altitude:

iwo mail 2

In some Pacific battles, mail would be delayed as there were no “front lines” on these islands for some time.  Iwo Jima was a typical one as the enemy for the most part were hidden underground and would pop up out of holes and caves to kill.

op grad iwo
A Marine tries to communicate with HQ using a field phone while hunkering down for dear life in a foxhole. Communication woes made for difficulty in mail delivery.  USMC photo.

 

USMC 5th Tin
A long awaited mail call for Marines on Tinian, 1944. USMC photo.

_______________________________

“CARE” Packages

Today, we frequently call packages sent either from home or from efforts like Operation Gratitude “CARE packages”.

red c
A sample WWII Red Cross package, sent to POW’s in German POW camps. Source unknown.

During WWII, the American Red Cross spearheaded monumental efforts (below) to produce Prisoner of War packages.  They were not called “CARE” packages as of yet.

red cr 1
National Archives

More than 27 million parcels were prepared by over 13,000 volunteers and shipped by the American Red Cross to the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, for distribution in the POW camps.

These packages may have included:

op grad 015 package 10
The sample contents of a Red Cross Prisoner of War Package No. 10. Source unknown.

Prisoners held by the Germans did better than those in the Pacific.  While many packages were intercepted by Nazis and used for their own use, the Japanese provided almost no cooperation to the International Red Cross efforts.  In some cases, the prisoners in German POW camps would keep only the cigarettes and chocolate then “volunteer” the rest of the food articles to the Nazi camp cooks.

However, the actual term of “CARE Package” did not pertain to these life-saving parcels.  Instead, “an organization called CARE was founded in 1945, when 22 American organizations came together to rush lifesaving CARE Packages to survivors of World War II. Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, contributed to the effort. On May 11, 1946, the first 20,000 packages reached the battered port of Le Havre, France.”²

_______________________________

All in all, Operation Gratitude fulfills both roles: the precious package from home combined with the CARE package concept.  With the economy the way it is and coupled with the unacceptably low budget for our military, I feel these packages do bring smiles to our men and women in uniform.  It tells them that in spite of how the media chooses to report on mostly negative incidents involving them, it shows millions of us support them 100%.

A crisp salute to Operation Gratitude, my daughter Robyn and of course, our men and women wearing our country’s uniforms so proudly and valiantly.

op grad 020
The GI in the driver’s seat shares his cherished Christmas package from home. National Archives.

 

NOTES:

  1. During WWII, there were about 60,000 trench foot casualties requiring removal from the battlefield.  85% of these casualties were from rifle companies.  Only about 15% made it back to the field.
  2. Source: CARE

A 100 Year Then and Now Photo Project


c-10-326
Grandfather Hisakichi and Grandmother Kono posing in Seattle with their first child, my Uncle Yutaka, in 1910.

My grandfather, Hisakichi Kanemoto, immigrated from Hiroshima in 1898 with my grandmother Kono coming in 1908 to become his picture bride.  They had seven children of which my dad is the last surviving sibling at 96 years of age.  Five of those children called “Hotel Fujii” their home at King and Maynard in Seattle, WA.  Sadly, Hotel Fujii is no longer standing.

_________________________________

My two littlest kids and I took a short vacation trip to Seattle the week of June 22, 2015.  One project I tasked myself was to attempt putting together “then and now” recreations of family photos taken about 100 years ago. Well, mostly 90 years ago but 100 sounded better.  Yet, I was only partially successful; it was luck for the most part:

c-10-322
(Clockwise) Grandmother Kono, Uncle Suetaro, an unknown girl and dad on tricycle.  Dad says the corner brick building had a butcher shop at street level.  Circa 1925.  Color image taken at King and Maynard, June 25, 2015.
c-10-319
Looking east up King Street. You can see the “Hotel Fujii” signage extending out from the hotel above my Grandmother. Year unknown but post 1917.
c-10-317
At King and Maynard. Clockwise from Grandmother: Aunt Shiz, Uncle Suetaro, Dad and baby Mieko. Based on baby Mieko, likely 1925.
c-10-343
Grandfather Hisakichi at far right, taken at Mt. Rainier August 1919. Finding a similar location on Mt. Rainier was a long shot but I had hoped this location in 1919 would not be far from current road stops as they were traveling in a 1913 Chevrolet Classic Six (Note 1). The 2015 color shot was a few hundred yards from the Rainier Inn.
c-10-320
Aunt Shiz dancing on left, looking east up King Street. The bottom of the Hotel Fujii signage is above the girls. My guess is circa 1923.
c-10-312
Grandmother Kono holding baby Mieko. Uncle Suetaro is peeking over the chair looking at his sister. Dad is standing in the middle with Aunt Shiz to his right. The lady is unknown as is the child but we suspect it is Mrs. Fujii. King and Maynard, circa 1923.
c-10-324
Dad and Uncle Suetaro in front of Grandfather’s barbershop. Circa 1922, King and Maynard.
c-10-325
Although a poor recreation, Grandfather is standing at right with his hand on an unnamed male buddy. He is in other photos. Taken at the entrance to Grandfather’s barbershop (best guess as to location). Circa 1917.

This “then and now” project was only partially successful as I did not consider many things:

  1. Other very successful “then and now” recreations by professionals primarily had one thing in their backgrounds that I did not: a building.  I overlooked that fact.  The Fujii Hotel was torn down with only a park left in its place, e.g., there were no windows or doors to line up the old photos with.  For the most part, that made for difficulty in guessing/placing from where the photos from the mid-1910s to the 1920s were taken.
  2. I did not consider the fact that the buildings on this street 100 years ago were built on a hill, i.e., all were built upon a concrete base that was taller at the west end compared to the east end.
  3. Because of the number of cars parked curbside, I had to resort to wide angle shots.  By doing so, perspective in comparison to the original would not be correct.
  4. There were a few homeless at the park who clearly did not want their picture taken.  As my two kids were with me, that became a hurdle.
  5. I did not take into account the time of day (shade).
  6. I did not anticipate the construction nor the large trucks, garbage cans and trees blocking the view.
  7. I misjudged the position from where I took the photographs, affecting perspective and angle.  I should have been ten more yards east for a few of the images.  Too late now.

I also realized that there were no pictures of Uncle Yutaka nor Aunt Michie at the Hotel Fujii.  Uncle Yutaka had likely already been in Japan (1913) by the time these old family photos were taken.  Aunt Michie, of course, was the only sibling not born in Seattle but rather in Hiroshima.

c-10-327
Uncle Yutaka and Aunt Michie, taken circa 1918 in Hiroshima.

A lot was learned.

I only wish I had gained the experience before undertaking this family project.  I do hope my cousins and children will still find these images interesting if not to merely appreciate our family photos from “100 years ago”.

_____________________________

NOTES:

1.  Grandfather (back to camera in center) camping on Mt. Rainier and Mr. Fujii’s 1913 Chevrolet Six:

1913 Chevrolet Classic Six - Retouched

2. King and Maynard today:

18602648003_4b41a9b559_k
The current store “Gossip” behind my kids was a butcher shop in the 1910s/1920s per my father.

3. The northeast corner of King and Maynard, taken June 25, 2015.  The building still stands as it was 100 years ago.

https://www.flickr.com/gp/p47koji/NcY4S9

4. Hing Hay Park where Hotel Fujii once stood; taken from across the street.  My guess is the barbershop entrance was behind the green car.

hing hay
At the corner was a small grocery store. To its left was Hotel Fujii. Taken June 25, 2015.

Thievery in Seattle


image

My two littlest and I are wrapping up a four night visit to Seattle, my dad’s hometown. We head back tomorrow.

I had hoped to take a number of photos during the trip… but thievery occurred on the first day. While Jack had brought along my backup Canon DSLR to use, a thief absconded with my primary Canon camera on the first day.

Fortunately, with my last resort – my cameraphone – I snapped a photo of the thief, caught red-handed with the goods in her hands:

image

Yes, it was my Little Cake Boss Diva. I felt so bad turning her over to my good friend Trooper Gar of the Washington State Patrol… but he was kind enough to allow her to be released back into the custody of her old man.

But indeed, she took control of my camera over the four days. Of course, just like when I escort her to the mall, I end up merely being her porter, lugging around her camera when there is nothing for her to shoot.

image

image

But I had one personal goal: to visit my dad’s old Seattle neighborhood for the first time, children be willing.  I wanted to put together a “100 Year Family Photo Anniversary and Recreation” of sorts.

Dad and all his siblings (except Aunt Michie) were born in Seattle between 1910 and 1925 then raised in the Hotel Fujii at 620 S. King Street.  The hotel is no longer standing, having been replaced with the Hing Hay Park on the very corner Dad frequently mentioned: King and Maynard.

11050683_1667370940145421_6357704840049594108_n
Circa 1925 on the corner of King and Maynard in Seattle. Dad second from left, then Uncle Suetaro standing in front of Grandmother Kono.
1658372_1667371050145410_427184670763728117_o
Taken June 25, 2015 at same corner. The brick building behind them had a butcher shop 100 years ago according to my father.

While this will be my very first try at recreating, the final images will hopefully be superimposed upon one another to show the then and now.  I can’t do the superimposing here at the hotel as my tablet doesn’t have the necessary editing software; the two stand alone images above will have to do for now . The color photograph of my two kids above are straight out of the  camera.

Coincidentally, at the end of our “Underground Seattle Tour” and in the gift shop, we came across “Lost Seattle”, the book in which my grandfather’s barbershop photo was featured.

11224773_1667407330141782_7408692515649901936_n

We thought that was pretty cool.