Friday, July 6, 2018

Love the One You're With

c. 1952. Okinawa(?) A young U.S. Army private poses with a charming companion.  Thousands of liaisons were forged between U.S. servicemen and young women in Japan and its territories during the Korean War.  The quality of such relationships varied greatly:  at one extreme were prostitutes (i.e., panpan sanctioned by the host government in Japan); at the other were life-long marriages, a few of which endure to this day for couples now in their nineties.  During the Korean War, the fidelity of most relationships was similar to the example of modern campus co-eds who might endure for a semester.  Most soldiers serving in Korea managed to pass through Japan, where it didn't take long at all to "hook up" with a willing female companion. Many young men, like Pvt. Philip Hughes, requested (and paid for) a girlfriend photo, which he carried off to war, carefully tucked in a wallet or a helmet liner.  Those servicemen opting for marriage faced hurdles. At the time, U.S. State Department policies (not to mention social customs of the day) discouraged marriages of disparate ethnicities.  Nonetheless, perseverance fueled by love won the day.  A stroll through Arlington National Cemetery reveals countless headstones of deceased servicemen buried along with wives bearing given names that are unmistakably Japanese.    

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