Been an unusual month for me. I’ve been recovering from knee surgery, and have been at home (not working). I figured that after a couple of weeks, I’d have free time before I go back to work, and I could spend time writing, including doing some entries to this blog. Best laid plans . . . . Bill and I lost our mom just recently, and any “free time” I thought I would have went straight out the window as we attend to the almost infinite number of details that revolve around the funeral, estate, etc etc etc.
My mother and father got married the day he was discharged from active duty in the Navy. He left Japan in the first of three waves of Boston sailors going home (from Occupation Duty) – Nov. 6, 1945. More than a month later, he had worked his way across the Pacific, taken a train across the country, and eventually reported to the Navy Station in Baltimore, MD. My mother had done the bold and audacious – unthinkable at the time – left her home in small-town southern Massachusetts, defied her father’s wishes, hopped on a train in nearby Worcester, MA and traveled alone to Baltimore to meet and elope with my father.
Part of the difficult task of dealing with a parent’s death, is all of a sudden you have to deal with her personal effects and plow through all the documents (financial and otherwise) she kept. So, in my mother’s “strongbox” (a fishing tackle box . . . . ) Bill found an age-yellowed envelope marked “Japanese Yens” In it were four paper yens: a 5, a 10, and two 50’s. I have no idea what 10 yens was worth in 1945 Japan – I suspect not much. But they are the only tangible evidence we have of his participation in a little known or talked about aspect of the Pacific War – Occupation Duty.
The Boston was one of a handful of warships that stayed behind after the Signing of the Surrender to demilitarize Japan – to capture and destroy all remaining weapons (most notably the destruction of suicide subs and speedboats – hidden in elaborate caves and tunnels all up and down the coast of Japan.)
I was surprised when Bill turned over the envelope to me. Four pieces of paper from 70 years ago, reminding me of the incredible sacrifice that my dad and all his fellow sailors aboard the USS Boston and ALL the other navy vessels made and endured in their island-by-island conquest. It was a combat journey that led them from Pearl Harbor to the Tokyo Harbor over the course of 1 year and 10 months, with lots of blood, sweat and tears in between.