Thursday, January 21, 2010

Meeting Gen. MacArthur, "the old man," while moving into new offices

Wow, I now have seven official Followers of my blog.  Glad you all have made it here, and feel free to leave comments, if you'd like.  The decoder rings should be in the mail soon, as well as instructions for the secret handshake and coupons for a free oil change at Sears.  Talk up the blog with any friends you think might be interested; the more the merrier.  Okay, on to the next letter.

This is Maj. Gillham's first letter written in his permanent digs in Tokyo, the Dai-Ichi Hotel, which is not to be confused with the Dai-Ichi building, where he worked.  Just a quick lexical note:  when a soldier is placed in a private or non-military room, such as at a hotel, he is billeted.  The more general term quartered can be used for any assigned living situation.

Tokyo, Japan
7 Nov 1945

Dearest Darling,

Well, I finally got moved in to Tokyo and will start working tomorrow.  We came in trucks from Zama and it took us most of the day, even though it was only 40 or 50 miles.  We wound around over many little narrow Japanese roads, through little country villages, etc.  We didn't have any lunch, but that didn't bother me.  We had a flat tire in front of a little native shoe shop and I got you and Emily and Monty each a pair of tabe (the big toe sox like you used to have).  They are worn in the house, or with the clogs outdoors.

We arrived at GHQ just as Gen. MacArthur was coming out, so I got a good look at him.  We were all covered with dirt and dust from our trip.  I signed in and am to work in the "Statistics and Reports Section" of SCAP.  A good many of the other staff sections are located in other buildings, but ours is in the GHQ bldg with the old man.  It is the best looking office building in Tokyo, naturally.  I understand it belonged to an insurance company.  It is right across from the Emperor's Palace.

I was fortunate in getting billeted in the Dai-Ichi Hotel, which, next to the Imperial, is about the best place to be quartered in Tokyo.  Only Field Grade officers are quartered here.  The room I have doesn't have a private bath, but it does have hot and cold running water and showers are available just down the hall.  The hotel is about on a par with an average good commercial American hotel, but is one of Japan's best.  The mess here is excellent, and every night we get a beer ration for a quart of Japanese beer, which is excellent.  We also have a bar in the basement, where beer and whiskey can be purchased in limited amounts.

I had dinner tonight with Maj. Raul and another major that used to teach at Charlottesville.

Remember, my address now is:

Maj. W.T. Gillham 0-272207
GHQ-SCAP Adv. Esch.
S. & R. Sect    APO #500
c/o P.M. San Francisco, Calif.

Tokyo is pretty badly bombed and burned.  Worse than I had thought at first.

I got here with all my baggage intact, which is something to be proud of.

Am looking forward to hearing from you before long.

Lots of love,



In September, 1945, Gen. MacArthur's staff, known by its official acronym GHQ-SCAP, began moving into the Dai-Ichi building located on the southeast corner of the Imperial Moat.  The building had been built in 1938 as the new headquarters of the Dai Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company, the oldest mutual insurance company in Japan, founded in 1902.  Dai Ichi Life continues to occupy the building to this day, and in 1993 the company built a skyscraper addition, the DN Tower 21, behind the original building.

Dai-Ichi Insurance Building in 1938, on the Imperial Moat,
later headquarters of SCAP

Aerial view of the Imperial Palace Grounds,
with the blue X signifying the location of the Dai-Ichi building

The Dai Ichi Building as it looks today,
with the new DN Tower 21 behind it

Maj. Gillham was billeted at the similarly-named Dai Ichi Hotel, which, along with the famous Imperial Hotel, was located in the Ginza section of the city.  The Ginza has long been a famous shopping area in Tokyo, similar to Fifth Avenue in New York, with high-end shops, hotels and restaurants.  The area became well-known in the 1870s when, after a sweeping fire, the neighborhood was rebuilt with many European-style buildings designed by the Irish architect Thomas Waters.

The most famous building in the Ginza today, the "Ginza Wako," was built in 1932 for the Hattori company, a watch and jewelry establishment.  During the Allied occupation, this building was used as the PX (or post exchange) for Allied soldiers.

The Ginza during the Occupation, including the Wako building
(with clock tower), which was the Tokyo PX.

Maj. Gillham noted that the city was badly bombed out, much more than he had originally thought.  My guess is that up to this point he had only seen the western sections of Tokyo, as he had been coming to and from Zama, which lies to the southwest of Tokyo.  Most of the damage to the city was in the eastern sections, which were highly industrial and included the port area on Tokyo Bay.  About 50% of Tokyo was totally destroyed during the war.  There were 14 major Allied bombing raids on Tokyo between February and June, 1945, carried out mainly by B-29 bombers.  The worst attack was on March 10, when about 25% of the city was destroyed and over 100,000 civilians were killed.

The bombed-out area of Tokyo near the port, 1945

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