Saturday, January 23, 2010

The new Japanese money, and a laundry list

Enclosed in this letter were several other items that I will have to scan at a later date.  They include old Japanese money as well as a laundry list.  Maj. Gillham had written an additional note on the back of the laundry list, and I have appended the text to the main letter below.

Tokyo, Japan
10 Nov 1945

Dearest Darling,

I just wrote a letter to Dan and one to Mother, but a day doesn't seem complete unless I write a line to you.  It is the next best thing to talking to you, for I know you will understand what I write better than anyone else.

It is very interesting to see the inner workings of a big headquarters like this.  It is the first time I was ever around such an organization and it is a valuable experience.

I had Lt. Nichols, who used to work for me at CASA, over for supper tonight.  We ate with a correspondent for Newsweek.  He was very interesting.  They are printing Newsweek here in Tokyo now, and he said not to try to change my subscription out here, so you just let it come to you.  I can buy it at the PX and it will be much newer than if it comes by mail.

I gave them the dope for my pay voucher the other day and took out a $100 bond per month to be sent to you at Atlanta.  It will probably be the 1st of the year before the first two arrive for Oct and Nov, but let me know when they come.  Your allotment should be changed Dec. 1st.  I hope it isn't delayed too much.  I drew a partial pay of $75 and got 1,115 yen.  It makes you feel rich, but it actually doesn't go very far on account of the inflation.  However, we don't have much to spend money for here, but the few souvenirs that are available.

I want to take a trip out away from Tokyo as soon as I get a chance and see what I can find there. 

The Japs all seem very friendly and helpful, and I am convinced that it makes all the difference as to who is on top.

I am glad I have the pictures of you and the children.  I look at them often.  I think I am going to be able to get my films printed here.  I have taken about two rolls so far.  Have you taken any?  I would  like some new ones any time.  Did you get any more movie film?  Go ahead and take up that black and white.  Remember, it is faster than the color, therefore you use a smaller hole, and that means a bigger number on the setting.

We get the newspaper "Stars and Stripes" daily, and once a week we get an overseas edition of the Chicago Tribune.  I see shoe rationing is off.

Lots of love,


P.S.  Just ran into Frisby on the street.  He is passing through, still flying to Korea.  He didn't make any better time than we did, but got to see Honolulu, Guam, and Manila, where they had layovers.  I have asked him to have dinner with me.  He said he saw you and the children 27 Oct. and you were all well.  That was 10 days after I left, so that is news.   WTG

[The laundry list is dated Nov. 10, 1945]

This was my laundry list.

Also, here are a couple pieces of money.  Japanese money is a different size for each denomination; the bigger the amount, the bigger the bill.  A Y1,000 note is about the size of this laundry slip [approx. 6" x 8"].  The enclosed bills are a 10 sen note worth practically nothing, and a one yen note worth about 7 cents.  The verticle column of characters on right of the face of each reads "Nehon Ginko," or Bank of Japan.

We get paid in this stuff and buy all our PX supplies, etc., with it.


Here is a photo of the laundry list he enclosed in the letter.  On it he writes a note to Frances about a the Japanese word for "towel." Frances would help him study his Japanese vocabulary in Chicago, and this is apparently a word that he learned with her.  You can click on the photo to get a larger image.

Below are two currency notes he included in this letter (each shown both front and back).  The top one is a one yen note, and the bottom is a ten sen note, worth 1/10 of a yen.  This was legal currency at the time Maj. Gillham was in Japan.

Here are photos of a 10-centavos note (front and back) that he also included in this letter.  This had no value at all at thet time:  it was left over from when the U.S. Army of the Pacific was based in Manila and they were using old Japanese-Philippine pesos as currency (centavos are 1/100 of a peso).  This money was printed from the time the Japanese had taken control of the Philippines in 1942 until MacArthur returned in 1945.  We will see another example of this currency in one of Maj. Gillham's later letters.

The "Dan" mentioned in the first paragraph is Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck III, a brother-in-law of Maj. Gillham.  Frances had two siblings:  her brother Dan, who died in 1967, and her sister Bryant Holsenbeck Moore, who is still alive and living in Roswell, GA, at the age of 91.

Bryant Holsenbeck and her brother Dan, admiring
their new niece, Emily Gillham, 1935

"Mother" is Maj. Gillham's mother, Effie Tucker Gillham, who at the time was a widow living in Memphis, TN.  His father, George Halsey Gillham, was born and raised in Tennessee and had died in 1936.  Effie had been in poor health for years and would only live a few more months, dying on Sept. 2, 1946.  In my parents' dining room in Crosswicks, NJ, we have two large portraits of Effie's parents, William Augustus Tucker and Helene Montague Tucker.

Bill Gillham (left) with his father, George Halsey Gillham.
His mother, Effie Tucker Gillham, holds newborn Emily,
with Frances to the right, Atlanta, 1935

The CASA was the Civilian Affairs Staging Area, located at the Presidio in Monterey, CA.  It was run jointly by the Army and the Navy, and was located just south of Ft. Ord.  During World War II it was a processing center for new draftees, who were then shipped to San Francisco for active duty in the Pacific.  Presidio is the Spanish word for fort or military settlement, and there were many such presidios built in early California as the Spanish tried to protect their missions.  The most famous presidio is the one in San Francisco, built on a promontory that is now the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Presidio of Monterey

The U.S. Army PX in Tokyo, as I mentioned before, was located in the Ginza in a large department store known as the Ginza Wako.  The PX was restricted to U.S. military personnel and their families, but after a while certain Japanese officials (and the Japanese housekeepers of U.S. soldiers) were allowed to shop there.  In 1952 the store was handed back over to Japanese ownership.

The Ginza Wako today.

The yen (¥) is the basic unit of Japanese currency, and is written 円 (pronounced "en"), meaning "round object."  It was introduced in 1871, replacing the old intricate system of the mon.  The yen was adopted using the Western metric system, with one yen equalling 100 sen, and each sen divided into 10 rin.  Needless to say, the sen and the rin are now long gone, but in 1945 there were still 10 sen notes in circulation, which Maj. Gillham mentions were "worth practically nothing" (or roughly 7/10 of one cent).  I will scan these notes as soon as I can.  Currently a U.S. dollar is worth about 90 yen.

I was somewhat puzzled by a statement made towards the end of the letter:  "The Japs all seem very friendly and helpful, and I am convinced that it makes all the difference as to who is on top."  At first I thought he meant that, were the tables turned and the U.S. were the vanquished nation, the Japanese would not be nearly as friendly.  But a second reading made me think that the difference was that Gen. MacArthur was on top and not some other general or Washington official.  MacArthur's meeting with Hirohito on Sept. 27, 1945, and the general's later exoneration of the royal family did much to endear him to the Japanese.  I will have to do more digging into some social histories of the time.  In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts you might have on the subject.


Russell Caldwell said...

Here is a comment from Martha Gillham Waskey, who was having trouble posting it on her own computer: "I interpreted the statement about who was on top to mean that since the US won the war and were the victors, the Japanese were more friendly than perhaps during the war or if they had won the war. I somehow think my father would have said something like 'who our leader is' if he had meant the other. I would be interested in how others 'hear' that statement."

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