A collection of 70 personal letters written between an American serviceman from Southern California and a Japanese woman who fell in love during World War II, had a child, and struggled with immigrations issues trying to reunite their family in the United States. After World War II, as many as 45,000 Japanese women moved with their new husbands, primarily American soldiers, and assimilated into American culture.
After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School (Long Beach, California) in 1947, David Luther Joplin (1927-2001) immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Japan during the post-World War II occupation. During his tour, he became romantically involved with Toshiko Sugata (1920–2013) of Tokyo. At the conclusion of the war, he returned to the U.S. but continued a correspondence with her, learning sometime later that she had given birth to their child.
In a letter in this collection dated April 24, 1951, he responds to the news, which she apparently withheld for a time: “Yes, I am very mad at you. I think you did the wrong thing as to not tell me you had our child. If you think it would have caused any trouble for me you are very mistaken. I love that child as much as you do, but I love the mother more.”
The collection also includes the undated letter Sugata wrote in broken English delivering the news: “I sold that camera its long time go. That time I have big trouble is I was to give birth to a girl baby at 1948 Sept. 5th. Of course, that time I no star Tokyo because you know how much trouble I get borne baby before I get married. But I have been very, very lucky because my baby is very beautiful and very smart girl.”
In letters subsequent to the news about the birth of their daughter Yuko, who was also given the American name Ruth, Joplin writes about working, going to night school, and his struggles to send money to Toshiko and save so that she and the baby can come to the U.S. Toshio wrote about poor conditions in Japan and her house, which she needed to sell before leaving.
A May 21, 1951 letter from David’s mother, Mildred Taylor, to Toshiko urged her to come to the United States so her son can look after her and their child. She reassured her that she and her two daughters would help her adjust: “There are quite a few Japanese girls in Long Beach who married American boys so you wouldn’t be the only one here.”
There is a gap in the letters between July 1951 and October 1952. During this time, Joplin traveled to Japan and the couple married. While in Japan. Joplin received a letter from his mother dated March 29, 1952, in which she urges him to take action: “What I’m trying to say is do something about Toshiko and Yuko (Ruth) while you are there. Make up your minds absolutely or make a clean break. Come home, find someone else. I am not being harsh. It is just life...”
The U.S. government was not in favor of liaisons between servicemen and Japanese women, and the men faced tremendous legal hurdles in bringing home Japanese wives. Although several temporary laws were enacted to assist, the system was designed to make marriage difficult to accomplish, and easy for the young man to change his mind.
This collection includes a letter Joplin received on October 12, 1951 from the U.S. Foreign Service about the paperwork he would need to complete in order to travel to Japan, marry Toshiko “in order that she and your natural daughter may return to the United States.” A copy of the birth certificate for their child is included.
The September 6, 1952 edition of the Long Beach Independent carries a short article about Joplin’s efforts to cut the red tape and bring his family to the United States. Despite getting married, Joplin returned home in October 1952 without his new bride and child. Several of the letters between them following this trip mention correspondence with the consulate and efforts to gather the appropriate documents. “Honey, we are to wait four more months before we can see each other again,” he wrote on October 29, 1952. “I thought it would go fast but it sure isn’t.” Yoshiko’s frustration about the delays is building. On December 27, 1952 she wrote: “Darling I have to wait one more month, so? I don’t like wait more. Never happen. I never wait over one more month. If some body make so I never go to America, and I steal Adame bomb and bomb earth! You too?
In a September 23, 1952 letter to Toshiko, David’s mother addressed her new daughter-in-law’s concerns about potential prejudice apparently raised by the 1952 King Vidor movie “War Brides” about a Korean War veteran who returned home with his new Japanese wife. The couple dealt with the sometimes subtle, sometimes overt racism of his family and the townspeople, especially after the birth of their son. “The same things happened to German girls and others, too. Besides, you know a movie or story always exaggerates.” She added that she doesn’t have any hard feelings from the war. “I know the people like you and I would never kill the mother’s sons. It is terrible that we can’t get along happily with each other and let each country live and enjoy the life its people want to live.”
Despite hopes that she would arrive in the United States by January 1953, the couple had to wait several more months. The collection includes a letter dated February 18, 1953 from the C.F. Sharp & Company steamship line about rebooking passage for Toshiko and Ruth for a date in March. But a final letter in the collection shows they did not leave Japan until May 8, 1953 and sailed on the ship Borgholt from Yokohama to Seattle.
The letters in this collection are housed in plastic sleeves in a three-ring binder and many include their original mailing envelope. They are in very good condition. Item #72717