Reconciliation, Part Two
In late 1951, my mom left Japan via Yokohama on the USNS General W. H. Gordon (T-AP-117) bound for the western US. While I was doing my genealogy research, I found the list of passengers -- my mom's shipmates. I didn't know the name of the ship prior to finding the passenger list, nor did I realize that she was traveling with many other Japanese nationals - women with Japanese first names and American last names. This was one of the ships bringing Japanese wives stateside with their husbands - American servicemen. Some of the women were pregnant (this was noted in the list -- my mom was four months pregnant as well) and two of the women had already had children. The youngest wives were 19 years old, with the average age being 22. There was one Chinese woman and one Korean woman on the ship as well.
My mom doesn't like to talk about the journey from Japan to the US -- she hated traveling by ship and it was a long, unpleasant trip -- she left Yokohama before the end of December and arrived in San Francisco in the second week of January, 1952.
Over the years, I've pieced together some details that she's shared with us and although hers is the only story I know, I imagine that almost all the other Japanese women aboard the ship were disowned by their families and had to face the same degree of background investigation, medical exams and probably their share of humiliation and racism in order have permission to marry an American. The "reconciliation" I'm referring to in the title of these posts, refers to my reconciling the historical facts with the feelings and observations my mom has shared. Once in the states, she felt she had to stop "being" Japanese. She even had to have an American first name, which confused me; she was "Sandy" and her friends were sometimes "Kim" or "Sue." I was so curious about my Japanese heritage and wanted to know more, but I was often shushed and left with my own curiosity; I would have to be content with reading and imagining until I went to Japan with my mom in 1985.
I've been working on this post for a few months now and for some reason, working on it has made me feel rather blue. It's been difficult coming to terms with the war and its aftermath and also the racism -- not just towards Japanese women, but toward other cultures as well. It's hard to reconcile the pride and privilege I feel with the suffering and disgrace we inflict on others.