Thursday, June 08, 2006

Letters from Pat

Just after World War II, there was an American soldier named Pat who was stationed in Sapporo for 5 months. He was in the Headquarters and Service Company of the 302 Combat Engineer Battalion, 77th Infantry Division (although I'm not completely sure what all that means). The headquarters building happened to be in Nakajima Park, near where I live.

Pat found my photos of Nakajima Park on my website and sent a photo of the headquarters building, asking if I knew what had happened to it. The building no longer exists, so I didn't know, but I took it to my advanced private English conversation class, in which 2 of the men are close to Pat's age (in their 70s). One of the recognized the building, said it had been torn down and replaced by a baseball stadium, and then that had been replaced by what is now a cultural museum.

Pat and I began corresponding fairly regularly, and he began sending more and more photos of Sapporo in the winter of 1945-46. My students were naturally interested, and two of them, Kaori and Haru, began to write to Pat as well. In fact, Pat and his photos were often the topic of our discussions in class. One of the most interesting was the Thanksgiving menu which, in addition to the traditional fare, included cigarettes!

Eventually, one of the students in the class, Noriko, who used to be an announcer with NHK and has connections with the broadcasting world contacted a TV station about Pat. They were very interested in the story and want to do an interview with Pat, coinciding with the end of World War II on August 15th. Of course, that would mean flying Pat (and his wife, I would hope) to Sapporo. When I emailed Pat about this, he said it had been a dream of his to return to Sapporo to visit some day.

What's more, there's a publishing company very interested in putting out a book of Pat's photos. It seems that there are numbers of photos of Sapporo during the "Frontier Era," over 100 years ago, when Japanese were moving into the area to settle. However, photos of Sapporo immediately after WWII are rare. The format of the book is not yet clear, but it would most likely have commentary by Pat and/or Haru, who was 15 years old at the time.

What was one email sent to my website has turned into a class project, and may result in a book and a TV program, as well as our meeting an American veteran from Connecticut in person! Keep tuned in!

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