I met Mom and her new husband at the Top of the Mark. We looked out on the city and drank fifteen dollar cocktails while she went over her plan. She had brought maps, guidebooks, old photographs. The husband said nothing, but I could tell from his Rolex that he was the one paying for it.
“Why?” I asked her when she was finished.
“You remember how I came to be in the United States.” she said. “I was visiting my uncle when Japan attacked Hawaii. We spent three years in the internment camp. I wasn’t able to return to my country for almost ten years, and by that time everything had changed. By then I was mostly American, and my surviving Japanese relatives had never heard of me. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become important that I see where my father died. That’s why I’m going. Why I must go.”
Note: during the brutal war in the Pacific, the Japanese almost never surrendered. Their cultural and military training forbid it, so most of them either died fighting or committed suicide to avoid capture. Where Americans back home would get telegrams informing them of their sons’ or husbands’ deaths, the Japanese soldiers and sailors simply disappeared into thin air. No bodies were identified or returned home for burial. To their families back home, these 1.3 million men simply ceased to exist.
The Battle of Peleliu took place in September and October, 1944 and was one of the most brutal and violent campaigns of the war. Survivor Eugene Sledge, a mortarman with the First Marine Division, said that it was “like two scorpions in a bottle. One was annihilated, the other nearly so.”