11.04.2010

The Letter

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It reads in English:

Dear Brother Kei,


Brother Kei, I hope you are fine and working well.


We are having holidays now. But our holiday sounds like Showa era. That purpose is to organize personal belongings so that we are able to leave for the battle at any moment. I guess also you can take holidays soon and wish you will relieve our parents during that. Now, it is impossible to meet you. However, please give me your reply. Our unit will go for a sailing ship, in my guess. Wait in the south, please. And, please convey my greeting to Tsuji. “Decisive battle has come this autumn in the empire. I am happy to fight with you.” Because of counterespionage, I am informing it for only you. Make a bonfire of this after your reading.


Please take care,
Junpei

My office-mate is a Japanese post-doc. A professor in the lab, who I think is retired now, remembered that his father had this letter from WWII. The father is 90-something now.

The letter was found on or near a dead soldier. There isn't a date on it and we don't know which battle it came from. We do know it came from the Philippines.

It looks like the Allied recapture of the Philippines began in October 1944, intensified in December, and climaxed at the end of the following January.

The office-mate said that it's written in an old style--old words and characters that aren't used much anymore--that's not easy to read nowadays. It's written down the columns from right to left. The piece of paper is about 90% the size of the "letter" size.

Since yesterday I've been imagining a guy writing this and then figuratively turning around and getting killed. On the surface it isn't that bad since at the time they were the enemy, and quite fanatical, and a grandfather of mine was in the Pacific. But deeper, that too was a person with feelings and loved ones and dreams who had simply been caught up in something big and unfortunate.

There is some sort of envelope with an address. They're going to try to get it back to the family.