Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wondering about the family's status, and plans for after the Army

After the hoopla of Christmas, Maj. Gillham comes down with a cold (from watching the football game, I'm guessing) and he begins some introspection on the future of the Gillham family.  What's more, he's still not even aware of the fate of his family on its trek eastward.  From our current perspective it is hard to imagine such primitive communications, and I can only imagine what sort of a nagging worry it was for him not knowing whether the family made it home safely to Atlanta.

28 Dec 1945

Dearest Lovely,

I have an old cold -- the first I have had in a long time.  So I am staying in and trying to get rid of it.

The worst thing that has happened to me lately is that I haven't had a letter from you in a long time.  I know you were busy during the last days at Robles, but just a line would help a great deal.  Now that you are (or were) traveling, it is the time that I am the most anxious about you.  I feel so hopeless and helpless when I can't hear from you.  The last letter I got was sent 10 Dec.  Since then I have received one from Dan from Cambridge, Mass., dated 15 Dec. and one from Clark Gillham from Knoxville dated 17 Dec.  So the mails seem to coming through O.K.

It takes us so long to exchange an idea that I guess we had best start talking now about what to do when I get out of the Army.  It looks now like I will get away from here about May 1st.  That should give me time to get back to the states and get discharged by June 1st.  If the children are out of school then, I would like for us to go somewhere and take a two or three week vacation and then go back to work.  I guess I will go back with Southern Bell unless something turns up to change my mind.  I don't know yet what separation center I would go through, but normally you go directly to the one nearest your home and start terminal leave from there.  If you would like to work it some other way, such as meeting me in California, let me know and I will see if I can work it.  I don't imagine it would be wise to get the furniture out at this stage of the game.  It would only be for a few months before we would have it all to do over again.  I think the goverment will ship it for me when I am discharged, and it is all crated now.

As it is now I don't even know if Father got out to drive back with you.

We got an issue today of a tooth brush, tooth paste, Barbasol, razor blades, and soap, but no cigarettes.  I am always short of cigarettes, so if you could send me about four cartons and some film No. 120 it would help out.  The Christmas packages coming in here now are terribly beat up, so pack them well.  That is about all I can think of that I need.  If it isn't too heavy, 1st class mail is a good idea.

I love you, my darling and certainly hope you are all right,

Love to all,


[Note for the post office on separate sheet]

28 Dec 1945

Dear Frances,

Please send me those heavy socks, some film, some food and some reading matter.  You know what I would like in that line.




Frances' brother, Dan Holsenbeck, was attending Harvard at the time, which explains the reference to a letter from Cambridge.  Clark Gillham was a distant relative of our Gillhams that Maj. Gillham found listed in the phone book while they were living in Knoxville in 1934-36.  Clark and his wife, Tot, had by now become good friends of the Gillhams, and they remained so throughout Maj. Gillham's life.

Maj. Gillham mentions his government-issue toiletries, including Barbasol, which is a well-known shaving cream.  Barbasol was developed by an MIT professor who was trying to come up with a shaving cream that didn't require lathering.  The product was first produced and marketed in Indianapolis in 1920, and soon it was selling nationwide.  The original Barbasol (and most likely the product that Maj. Gillham was issued) came in a tube, unlike the common aerosol cans we know today.

The "No. 120" film that Maj. Gillham requests was the standard size film for the old Brownie cameras developed by Kodak for amateur use in 1901.  The 120 film was 6cm wide (or 60mm, nearly twice as wide as the later 35mm standard) and contained roughly 16-18 exposures.  This was replaced in 1965 by the 220, which doubled the number of exposures.

I haven't been able to find anything definitive regarding the necessity of request letters from soldiers for shipping items overseas, but I am assuming it was a practice like many others during wartime designed to make sure that all actions were necessary and that no resources were being used frivolously.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Christmas Day in Japan, and details about working with Gen. MacArthur

Today we welcome two more followers, all the way from Dubai, which brings our total now to eighteen.

In this letter we find out how Maj. Gillham spends his Christmas Day in Tokyo, and we also get to hear a little bit more about his work for MacArthur.  There is a family story about my grandfather's work which I had always assumed was somewhat apocryphal, but today's letter confirms the story's veracity to some extent.  The story went that Maj. Gillham had written a report of some kind that, as it worked its way up the chain of command, was corrected, edited and rewritten and was finally covered with red pencil by the time it reached Gen. MacArthur.  After reading the report, MacArthur apparently wrote at the top, "Release report as originally written."  As you will read, this practice was actually fairly commonplace.  We also find out that Maj. Gillham has nothing but praise for the general, despite the inadequacies of some of the brass surrounding him.

Christmas 1945

Dearest Love,

It is now 10 PM here and I imagine that about now you all are getting up and opening your presents.  About noon today I could imagine you hanging up your stockings on Christmas Eve.  This time change is something to keep up with.  You are now almost on the opposite side of the world from me.

This morning I got up and put on my blouse and pinks for the first time since I have been here.  I went over to the Dai-Ichi Auditorium to hear Kagawa, but he wasn't able to be there, so the chaplain carried on.  There was a choir composed of GI's and Japanese girls.

Last Christmas I sang "Silent Night" in Japanese in Chicago.  This Christmas the Japanese sang it to me in English in Tokyo.

It was a beautiful cold, crisp, clear day.  I walked around the Imperial Palace grounds and took some pictures.  After lunch I had a jeep come and got Wright, and then went over and picked up Johnson and we drove out to the football game at the Meiji Stadium.  The game was between the 1st Cavalry and the 11th Airborne.  There was a huge crowd of GI's, two good bands, and a splendid game.  The Airborne won.

We came home and opened up that bottle of whiskey that Lozier gave me in Chicago last Christmas.  If you see him tell him it was fine.  We had a sumptuous Christmas dinner and then went to a big public auditorium to hear Handel's Messiah.  The chorus was composed of 200 or 300, about half the men being GI's.  It was a wonderful performance and the very fact that it was accomplished seemed a miracle.

I am beginning to realize that I am seeing important history in the making and at first hand, and to feel that I am a part, if even a very small part, of the era in which I live.

My job is working out a little better, and although I wouldn't have chosen the work, it is a wonderful spot from which to observe.  I am head of the division that does the editing on all economic subjects.  That covers quite a field in a nation this size.  Among the subjects covered are agriculture, food, fisheries, forestry, mining, transportation, public utilities, communications, industry, exports and imports, money and banking, and the Zaibatsu.  I have access to all available information on these subjects and should be the best informed person around from the broad viewpoint.  When I get through with a document, it becomes MacArthur's report on the subject.  Things are checked by the high brass for policy matters, etc., but very little change is ever made.  I surely wish I could read faster and spell better.  The Col. told me yesterday that they were very pleased with my work.

I guess it is this broad picture that makes me feel so deeply about things over here.  I see too many little men handling jobs that are too big for them.  The fact that they wear an eagle doesn't enhance their stature or ability.  However, some are doing a fine job, and foremost in this category is MacArthur himself.  He has done a masterful job of handling a very delicate situation.  He has tremendous prestige with the Japanese.

The last letter I had from you was written about four days before you were to leave Robles.  I think a spell of bad weather shlowed up the air mail.  I am anxious to hear of your trip and hope you made it without trouble.  I want all of you to stay healthy in Atlanta this time.  I will send you some more money the 1st.

Darling, you are my greatest inspiration.  I love you more than pen can record.




The term "blouse and pinks" refers to the Army dress uniform, which included a nice shirt and pinkish-tan trousers with a stripe running down the side of each leg.  These uniforms were worn only during celebrations or official ceremonies, and this would have certainly been the first time Maj. Gillham would have been called on to wear a dress uniform.

Meiji Stadium, where Maj. Gillham saw the football game, was a sports stadium that was built in 1926 as part of the Meiji Shrine in a neighborhood in western Tokyo.  The shrine is a 175-acre park which was started in 1920 to commemorate the Emperor Meiji, who had died in 1912 and who had done quite a lot to pull Japan from its feudalist roots and into the modern world.  The stadium is now a popular baseball stadium, home of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

The Zaibatsu was the clique of monolithic, family-owned Japanese financial-industrial corporations that ruled the country's economy from the end of the Meiji period until after the Second World War.  These were true monopolies, similar to those of the robber barons in the U.S.  These companies included holding companies, banks and loan associations and industrial branches that all served to corner several specific markets.  After the Japanese surrender, there was a somewhat successful Allied attempt to dismantle the Zaibatsu (since such restrictive business practices were seen as ultimately undemocratic), but total dissolution was never achieved, primarily because the U.S. was intent on shoring up the Japanese economy as a buttress against the growing Asian communist movements.  Some of these corporations still exist today, such as Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Nissan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A few days off for Christmas, to straighten up the room and explore Japan

Christmas is coming and Maj. Gillham is finally getting some time off after working for nearly 20 days straight.  Now he is finally going to have some time to clean up his hotel room, which has suffered from neglect.  It reminds me of my college days when I was working on an important paper:  all my energy was devoted to producing the paper, and after I handed it in, I would then survey the catastrophe that had become my dorm room.

22 Dec 45

My Own Sweet Darling,

The letter that I received from you yesterday is the nicest you ever wrote, I do believe.  It contained beautiful thoughts and they were so well expressed.  It certainly does me a lot of good to know that someone as sweet as you loves me.  You can just imagine how much I miss you over here where the whole world is strange and new and wonderful.  I long to consult with you on each strange new thing I see; I try to write you about them, but it is not the same.  I find that I am happiest when I am packing a gadget or taking a picture to send to you.  It seems that then I am a little closer to you, since at least the article will reach you.  I think you should try your hand at writing.  You did all right in that last letter.

I am off today for the first time in three weeks.  I will only work 1/2 day during the next four, so I should get rested up.  I already feel fine.  I slept late, got up an took a Japanese bath, and ate breakfast in my room  It consisted of Nescafe, crackers, and "Bruce's Juices." My room is a mess.  I have too much junk and get more all the time.  I have brass, papers, books, food, shoes, clothes, duffle bags, etc. scattered everywhere.  The room boy does his best, but it is too much for him.

So, this morning I have been trying to classify the stuff and find a place for it all.  I can't throw any of it away.  I even have a temple gong -- I must try to get that home.  It has a wonderful tone and is about 1-1/2 feet in diameter.  I have the box of brass I am sending you all ready to ship today.  That will help some.

Last night I opened my 1-lb. can of Edgeworth Junior tobacco that I bought in Charlottesville over a year and a half ago.  It was in fine condition and quite an improvement on the dried out stuff we get here.

I was able to buy a nice pair of low quartered shoes at the quartermasters for $3.60.

Joe Atwood just called up.  He is coming over and have lunch with me.  He is just passing through Tokyo.  Says he is going to move to Osaka soon.

Do you remember Grant from Camp Callan?  He has just moved in down the hall, on the same floor.

I have been reading about the cold wave in the states and worrying about you all.  I hope you don't get cold or have any trouble.  The price for fixing the car sounds very reasonable.  I thought it would be much more.

Christmas I plan to cultivate the cultural side a little.  I will go hear Kagawa, the famous Japanese Christian, in the morning;  and hear a choir from the Imperial University give Handel's Messiah in the evening.

Tomorrow night I am going to the play "Kiss and Tell."

I met a newly arrived "civilian expert" from Washington the other day named Harry Wright.  Six months ago, he was a sergeant in Europe.  Now he has a $10,000 job here.  He is 31 years old.  He is from Memphis -- used to have a boat on the Mississippi.  In fact, he once went to Helena on a raft made of oil drums.  He has done a lot of jug fishing.  You can imagine that we hit it off pretty good.  We are planning to get a car Sunday and do a little exploring.

The neighbors at Robles were mighty nice to you before you left.  We have some good friends there.

I love you,



The famous Japanese Christian Kagawa that Maj. Gillham refers to in this letter is in fact Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960), who was also well known as a pacifist and labor activist.  He fell into disfavor with the Japanese government in 1920 and was arrested as a labor agitator.  After the WWII, he was part of the Japanese goverment that offered to surrender to the Allies.  He wrote over 150 books, many of which were composed during his long prison sentence in the 1920s.  He is one of the few people to be nominated for the Nobel Prizes for both Literature and Peace, although he never won either.  As you will find out later in these letters, Maj. Gillham was not able to see Kagawa in person, as he cancelled his lecture.

Edgeworth Junior Ready-Rubbed tobacco was a product of the Larus & Brother company in Richmond, Virginia, and the brand still exists today.  Here is a photo of an old tin, most likely exactly or very similar to the one-pound tin mentioned in today's letter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Update on the brass "looting," and a health report

Today we hear about George Bull, who comes through Tokyo for a visit, and Maj. Gillham makes another visit at "his" junk pile with another major.

Maj. Gillham brings up the idea of having another baby, but, as we now know, that idea didn't get very far.

18 Dec 1945

My Dearest,

There is so much that I want to write you that I never get caught up.  I sent the kimono for your birthday off today by first class mail.  It should get there within a month it seems to me.  It is well wrapped and should go in good condition.  Getting the kimono was an interesting transaction that I must tell you about sometime.  These fellows that have a lot of spare time and official contacts with the Japanese have a chance to get a lot of things, but it is difficult for me because nothing is available in the open except at exhorbitant prices.  However, I will get my share of junk before I leave.  For instance, although I had to work Sunday, I slipped off for a while and got Maj. Marr, who used to be an instructor at Charlottesville, and we went out to my scrap metal pile again.  We spent a couple of interesting hours digging through great piles of junk.  I think I learned more about oriental culture there than at Chicago.  I have some interesting things which I will send you and the children before long.  I am still polishing on them now.  The pressure for metal got pretty hard here at the last and they collected some nice things.  Also they must have stripped some Chinese temples and sent the metal over here.  I know we are burdened with an oversupply of vases, but I liked these.  Also there are a pair of brass dogs for each of the children and other things.  You can give any of it away that you wish and if you want more, let me know what and I will send you a trunk full of it.

George Bull came in and spent he night Saturday night with me.  A place to stay in Tokyo is very difficult for visitors to find, but we solved it very nicely by just rolling out my bedding roll on the floor.  With the air mattress and sheets it is as good as one could ask for.

The enclosed "Christmas card" is very novel, don't you think?  It was Japanese occupation currency and is now worthless.  He probably got a bale of it.

You asked about my health.  It is as good as it has been in a long time.  No ulcers, no heartburn, no foot trouble and very little arthritis.  The latter is always with me, but doesn't disable me for any of my present duties.  I have noticed it most in a couple of spells of depression, but they didn't last long and I know about what to expect now.  The only trouble is that I am afraid that I am putting on a little weight.  The cooking here is superior and everything is easily digested.  They also make a lot of desserts like custard, etc.  The dining room service certainly beats any I got in the states during the past two or three years.  As you take the last mouthful from one course, a little Jap girl picks up the plate and puts down the next course and you never even have to miss a lick.

I have an abacus and am learnig to use it.  It is a right clever gadget.  It uses the same type of mental process that I always used in mathematics, for instance, to add 8 you add 10 and subtract 2.

I wonder where you are tonight.  Probably La Jolla, or somewhere in Arizona.  I am glad you got the car fixed.  We will probably have to keep it a couple more years, and if any major repairs are needed they should be done now so we will get the benefit of them.  I hope they did a good job.  I think that is a reliable place where you took it.

I am sorry you have to work out all these weighty financial problems alone.  I hope your allotment isn't delayed.  I sent you $50 for Christmas which should be in Atlanta by the time you get there.

I will try to send you some more Jan 1st to apply on Father's ticket if he came or to use otherwise if not.

How is Atlanta and how are all the folks?  What do they think of Martha?  You surely are having a fine family reunion.  With Dan in the running now, the clan really should increase.  Yes, I would like one more baby, if we can afford it.  Think it over.  It seems to be the most successful project that we ever undertake.

Tell Emily and Monty I appreciate their letters very much.  I know Monty is a good girl.  She told me so herself.  I am very proud of them both.

Tell Father there is a great demand for shoe polish here now that the troops are getting settled down and none is available at the PX yet.  They should be sold some.

Give my love to all and remember that I love you most of all.



The novelty Christmas card that Maj. Gillham mentions in this letter was an old 100 peso bill that had a Christmas greeting superimposed on the face by Capt. Samuel Wrightson, an army friend from California who was now also in Japan.  The peso currency was printed in the Philippines by the Japanese during their occupation of the country after MacArthur left in 1941.  When the U.S. recaptured Manila in 1944, the armed forces used this currency throughout the Pacific.  When the base of army operations in the Pacific moved from Manila to Tokyo in 1945, the Filipino-Japanese peso became worthless in Japan and the army began using the local Japanese currency. 

The entire text on the face of the bill reads "Captain Samuel H. Wrightson and The Japanese Government wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Wakayama Honshu Japan Christmas 1945."  Wakayama is a large steel-producing city and prefecture just south of Osaka, on the main island of Honshu. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Early birthday wishes for Frances

A short letter is on tap for today, and it was written specifically to wish Frances a happy birthday.  Frances was born on January 1, 1913, on DeKalb Avenue in Atlanta, not too far from 992 Washita.  This was her 33rd birthday coming up.

18 Dec 1945

My Dearest Sweetheart,

For over a week, I didn't get a single letter, and then yesterday and this morning I received three long sweet letters from you and two from the children.  Also the pictures of you and Martha are like being a little with you.  Martha's laugh in that picture is so contagious that I laugh out loud whenever I look at it.  Those little proofs go nicely into the transparent pages in my bill fold and I can always have them with me and look at them often.

This will probably arrive shortly before your birthday so I want to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy one and to say that I am very glad that you were born, and that I met and married you.  I have a kimono that I am sending to you, but it will probably arrive late.

I also sent a little box to Martha.  It was the present that was given to me at Atami.

I have some things for Emily and Monty and will send them a little later.

We have been working pretty hard lately.  I haven't had any time off in 17 days now and have worked some at night.

I want to write you a nice long letter in a day or two when we finish this project and I can collect my thoughts.

I am sending this one principally to wish you a very happy birthday and to tell you that I love you.

How was the trip?  I am anxious to hear.

Lots of love,



I now have an idea of what sort of work Maj. Gillham was doing at the Dai Ichi Building on MacArthur's staff, and why he had to work 17 days at a clip, as he mentions above. In a trunk in our attic in Crosswicks, NJ, I found six of the reports that his office created.  Below is the cover page from the second report, published in November 1945.

This particular report is 206 pages, not including 23 pages of fold-out maps and charts.  It was typewritten on 8" x 13" sheets, i.e., just a bit smaller than legal size.  The report is broken into five basic sections:  General, Political, Economic, Social, and a section on Korea, and in the political section, the idea of a new constitution is discussed.  This would later become one of MacArthur's primary goals, and the new constitution that he and his staff ultimately create is one of the most important parts of the Occupation legacy.

Bill and Frances Gillham had many passions in common, one of which was flora; or more specifically, the study of trees, flowers, shrubs and other plant life that they encountered in the various climes they lived in.  Maj. Gillham found a particular type of Japanese maple leaf in a bonsai garden in Nikko, which he visited in November 1945.  He saved Frances some leaves from the tree and sent it home to her.  The leaves are still intact:

A message written on a postcard bag, in which he put the leaves

Two of the leaves as they appear today

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Early Christmas greetings for the family

Today's letter was addressed to the Gillhams' new "home," 992 Washita Avenue in Atlanta, which was actually the home of Frances' parents, Lucile Dixon Kiser Holsenbeck and Daniel Marshall Holsenbeck, Jr. (known throughout the family as Mother Cile and Pop).  It is located in the Inman Park section of Atlanta, about 2 miles east of downtown, and is still standing today.

The house at 992 Washita had become the family homestead of the Holsenbecks, with various children and grandchildren living there with Mother Cile and Pop over the years, especially during the War.  Frances, Emily and Monty had lived there while Maj. Gillham was at officer training in Ft. Monroe, VA, in 1940-41.  Pop's youngest brother, Gartrell, lived there for a long time after the First World War, and the Holsenbecks' daughter Bryant and son-in-law Carl lived there at various points during and after the Second World War.  Mother Cile's mother, Mary Emma Dixon Kiser (Mother Ki), also lived in the house, so by the time Frances and the girls arrived in December, 1945, the only place for Emily and Monty to sleep was in a little alcove in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  Frances, of course, introduced the idea as an exciting adventure, so the girls took to it right away and felt very special in their new digs.

We also learn about Maj. Gillham's discovery of a brass and metal dump, which is where he finds much of the brass items that we now have around the house.

14 Dec 1945

Dear Love,

I haven't heard from you in several days, in fact it was before I wrote you the letter to Memphis.  It seems that the mail comes in bunches.

It is getting so close to Christmas that I want to get this off in time to wish you and the children and all the family a very Merry Christmas.  I am glad that you are all together and only wish that I could be there too.

I hope that your trip was not too hard on you and that you are not too tired to enjoy Christmas.

I saw a Life magazine last night about Oct 20th.  It had a series in it on "The Californian Way of Life," which made me very homesick for California  There were several shots of the Lek's house in La Jolla.

If Life ever uses the Carmel Art Gallery subject, let me know.

I have been working pretty hard for the past two weeks with no time off and some night work.  It makes the time go faster and I am glad to have something useful to do.

However, I haven't been able to get out and see and do things much lately.  The only time is when I had to go across town to see a Navy captain about some information on Japanese shipping.  My jeep driver and I found a great pile (about 5 acres) of scrap metal that the Japs had collected, apparently much of it from China, as there were many Chinese brass coins lying around.  There was everything imaginable in this pile.  I found an excellent brass statue of the laughing Buddha about two feet high which I would like to have, but I am afraid it is a little big and heavy to send home.  I didn't have as much time to "dig" as I needed and want to go back the first chance I get.

We should be through with this rush in a few days and I will have time to get out some.

The weather here is gradually becoming cooler, but so far it is very pleasant.  We have had very little rain and no freezing weather.  It is about like October at home.

This will be the first Christmas I haven't been at home for at least a part of the day.  The war broke into some of them but I always got to see you and the children for a little while.  I will be missing you and thinking of you and loving you and looking forward to our reunion.

Take full advantage of this visit and enjoy yourself.

Just by virtue of coming over here, and some recent changes in regulations, I have become entitled to several ribbons.  You can't get them here, so will you send me a set please:  (1) American Defense, (2) American Theatre, (3) Asiatic Pacific Theatre, (4) World War II Victory.  They should be mounted on a bar in that order.  The type that fastens on with the same kind of catch as used on branch insignia is better than a pin.  Also, if they are covered with some sort of transparent plastic they don't get dirty so quickly.  A small package can be sent air mail at not too great a cost.  It seems that the air mail is the only dependable means of communication here at the moment.  Cables are now available for general use, voice telephone is expected in January, but for emergency use only.  We will surely have to get up some emergency!

Give each member of the family my especial love and all of your have a very merry Christmas.




This past week I found four medals of Maj. Gillham's, two of which he mentioned in the above letter.  Three of them were issued by the Army, and one was presented by the UDC for its members who fought in WWII.  I also found an "A" artillery patch that he no doubt got while assigned at the Coastal Artillery base of Camp Callan in the early 1940s.  As with all the photos in this blog, you can click on them to get a larger image.

The American Defense medal, front and back

The World War II medal, front and back

Army of Occupation (Japan) medal, front and back

The United Daughters of the Confederacy WWII medal

Artillery patch from Camp Callan, CA, ca. 1942

The two other medals he mentions in the letter, those for service in the American Theatre and Asia-Pacific Theatre, have not been located.  It is assumed he didn't mention the Army of Occupation medal since he had not been awarded it yet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The last letter written to Robles del Rio, California

Today I noticed I have 15 followers, which is great, and I welcome the four new followers, whoever they may be.  For some reason, only 13 are identified on my dashboard, so I am assuming I have two additional stealth followers.  Maybe one of you veteran bloggers can explain the discrepancy to me.  In any event, everyone is welcome, and don't forget our big Followers Reunion in Bermuda this spring.

Yesterday I made several amazing discoveries in an old green army trunk in our attic:  I found bound copies of six of the reports that Maj. Gillham had been working on for Gen. MacArthur and the GHQ SCAP.  They are veritable works of art, with charts, graphs, maps, and the typing job is masterful, considering this was way before the advent of word processing or even electric typewriters.  There is no way I can include these in my blog, but if anyone is interested in them, I would be happy to go into greater detail about them.

My other discoveries were several personal items of Maj. Gillham, including his dog tags, his military ID, and several medals that he was awarded for service in WWII and during the Occupation.  I am trying to find a way to scan these, or photograph them, to include on this blog.  I also found a pile of old photos, some of which are pertinent to us here, and I will post some of them below, after today's letter.

This letter is a short one, the last one addressed to the Gillhams in Robles del Rio, since the family is now most probably underway on their trip east.  Maj. Gillham also comments on the growing influx of private citizens in Japan, usually sent over by private companies.  This is a fairly common phenomenon with all wars, most recently seen in our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9 Dec 45

Dearest Love,

I don't know if you will get this before you leave Robles or not, but I said I would write you there until the 10th.  I am also writing to La Jolla and El Paso (Gen. Del.) and will write to Memphis.

I certainly hope you will have a nice trip and enjoy the reunion with your family.  It is nice to have a family to go to see.

Today is Sunday and it is a beautiful day -- but I have to work, so I can't take it all in.

The American civilians are coming in here in ever-increasing numbers.  They all have some sort of official job so far, in order to get in.  We call them the "carpetbaggers."  I guess they will gradually take things over here -- and at a very good salary for themselves.  Most of them get from $6,000 to $10,000 a year plus expenses.  They rate as experts, but I think that most of them were previously government clerks or small-time politicians.  Some of the WACS are taking their discharges and staying on as civilians.

I got a good box and I am gradually collecting a few more things for you and the children.  When I get it full I will send it on.  I sent one box to Atlanta.

I guess this will be my last letter to Robles, unless I hear from you to the contrary.

Good luck and have a good time.  I will be writing to you wherever you are as long as I know where it is.

Lots of love,



This may be as good a point as any to offer a small biographical sketch of Maj. Gillham prior to his joining the Army.  He was born William Tucker Gillham on October 6, 1908, at the home of his parents, George Halsey Gillham and Effie Young Tucker Gillham in Memphis, TN.  He was an only child, although he did have an older brother who died in infancy.  His parents were married in 1898 and were by all accounts a fun-loving couple who were the life of all the parties they attended.  His father had many careers during his life, but the one he is remembered for most is that of a writer of stories for boys and young men.  His most famous work was The Adventures of William Tucker, the protagonist of which he named after his son.  The work was serialized in The Youth's Companion magazine in 1926 and published as a book in 1927. 

Pages 4 and 1 of a four-page circular touting George Gillham's book.

Pages 2 and 3 of the circular, with reviews of the book

William T. Gillham (who was known as Bill to his friends, but was William to his family) grew up in the small town of Kerrville, Tennessee, about 20 miles north of Memphis.  The town was named after the family of his paternal grandmother, Maria Henderson Kerr Gillham.  The family name is pronounced just like the name of the movie star Deborah Kerr, yet the town's name is pronounced like the words "curve ill."  William attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga and graduated in 1926, and that fall he enrolled at the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology), or Georgia Tech, in Atlanta.  He majored in electrical engineering and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.  He graduated in 1930, having witnessed the Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck win the national football championship in 1928 and attended the very first night game at Grant Field in 1929.

One of the earliest photos of William Gillham (right), astride a burrow
with his cousin Edward Lang in El Paso, TX, ca. 1910

Young William in an undated photo

William as a teen in the 1920s

William with an unnamed college sweetheart at Tech, 1920s

He met his future bride at the North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta while at Tech and while Frances was at Girls High.  After graduation, he got a job with Southern Bell Telephone Company in Atlanta, and Frances attended the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville.  As a result of the stock market crash, however, he and most of his colleagues lost their jobs and he was forced to return to his home in Kerrville where, as he put it, he got a job with Standard Oil, i.e., pumping gas at a local filling station.  The couple finally married in 1933 in Atlanta, and they lived at his family home, called "the little brown house," in Kerrville.

He was ultimately hired back by Southern Bell and was sent to Knoxville, TN, where Emily was born in 1935.  By 1938 they were back in Memphis, where my mother, Monty, was born.  After a short stay in Jackson, MS, he and several other Southern Bell colleagues joined the Army and began officer training in Ft. Monroe, VA, in 1941.  The rest of his Army life should by now be very familiar to you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two letters sent to the family on their way east, and a stroll down memory lane

Today I finally made a substantial number of scans and retrofitted them into my previous posts.  You are encouraged to go back to those posts and take a look at them.  I have also added some text regarding the new images.  Here is a list of the affected posts:

January 9, 13, 14, 17, 23, 25 and 31
February 11, 12 and 13

Today's first letter is one of my favorites, and one of the family's as well.  In it he takes a stream-of-consciousness walk down memory lane, recounting several incidents that were dear to them both.  I hope I have given you enough background so that you can recognize most of the places he mentions.  If not, just let me know in a comment.

He wrote two letters today:  the first one he wrote to General Delivery in El Paso, TX, for the family to pick up on their trip east.  The second one he wrote to 992 Washita Avenue, Atlanta, GA, the home of Frances' parents and their ultimate destination.

8 Dec 1945

Dearest Lovely,

I am sending this letter on now so it will get to El Pase before you do.  There is not much that I can write in the way of news, but I can say again that I think you are mighty sweet.

I wonder how the trip has been so far.  How you been able to get good places to stay at night?  Is the car running all right?  Be sure to keep the tire pressure right;  about 32 lbs. should be O.K.

It has been nearly five years since you and I were in El Paso before.  We had just been to Carlsbad Caverns and were heading west on a big adventure.  It has been fun, hasn't it?  I think we made the most of it.  When I think back over the past five years, it is interesting to see the scenes that come to mind -- A pane of glass broken out at the foot of my bed in a dirty old barracks at Ft. Monroe -- You in a slick black dress in our room at the Chamberlain -- Washington in the snow -- A patch of green grass by the side of the road in Texas where we ate lunch -- Water running through the streets of San Bernardino -- Red geraniums -- "Our" beach at La Jolla with the breakers coming over the green, green sea grass on the rock -- Sleeping in our sleeping bags in the rain in the mountains east of San Diego -- Riding a troop train across the country -- Climbing the bluff at Callan all out of wind -- Looking at battlefields in Virginia with Glore -- Swimming in a warm lake at Orlando -- Sailing on Buzzards Bay -- Bringing in a Christmas tree, getting holly in the heavy snow -- Walking up a blacked-out street in Boston not knowing where we could spend the night -- selecting wine at the Waldorf-Astoria -- A night at Browns Court before getting to Charlottesville -- The people coming out of church at Charlottesville -- Camping in the misty clouds in the Shenandoah -- Winning at the races in Chicago -- Looking at the zoo -- Putting you and Grandmother on the train -- 63rd Street in the snow and slush -- The keen bite of the zero wind on the Midway -- Searching for Flip-Flop down the alley -- Giving the guard your entrance slip at Gardner General -- the lights of Chicago from aboard the aircraft carrier -- The bright stars in Oklahoma -- The first green valley in California -- Martha in her pretty basket -- A chuck roast cooking on the charcoal -- Going up the hill at the Presidio through the everlasting fog with everything drippy -- Kissing you good-bye in the car at CASA -- Watching men come up the gang plank with their duffle bags on their backs -- The spray of a big wave breaking over the bow of the ship -- Fuji Yama looking just like it was supposed to -- And many, many others.  All in all I think it has been a good five years, don't you?  It has certainly broadened our lives and given us some wonderful memories.

Edward Lang's mother, Cousin Helen, lives at Yesleta, about 12 miles east of El Paso.  I think you go right by there so stop and see her.  I am sure you will enjoy it.  Pass the word conveying my love to all the El Paso relatives.  If you go by Dallas look up cousin Herbert.

I also have many childhood memories connected with El Paso.  I used to climb all over Mt. Franklin, and I frequently went down to Yesleta to spend the week-end with Edward.

The next place that you may be able to pick up a note from me will be Memphis.  I am still writing to Mother's old address there -- 1042 E. McLemore.

Tell Emily and Monty I am looking at their pictures every time I write a letter.  I love them very much.

Take good care of yourself and hold our family together until I get home.

All the love in the world,




8 Dec 1945

Dearest Love,

It is 10 P.M. and I am at the office.  I had to catch up on some work and then went to a picture show here in the building.  Charles Lawton in Capt. Kidd.  It was very good.

After getting my boxes of brass all banded and ready to ship, one of them was a few pounds too heavy to go by parcel post, so I will have to undo it when I get a chance and take something out.

I got a letter this afternoon which exasperated me.  It was from that Transportation Officer at the Presidio.  He thought I hadn't signed those forms on the right line and is holding your things in Monterey until he hears from me in Japan.  In the first place, he is wrong, in the second stupid.  I will sign him some more forms just like I did before and send them in the morning.  I hope you won't be too muchly inconvenienced by the delay.

I will have to work pretty hard for a few days now.  I hope I get another letter from you tomorrow.

My cold is improving.

I surely do miss you, my little sweetie pie.  It would be so nice to have you around.  You are a part of my being now and I feel very bob-tailed without you.  Time is passing and we will be together again before long.

Lots of love,



I will have to do a little more digging into the Montagues of Texas that Maj. Gillham speaks of here, but I can pretty much guess that the little boy Monte Lang pictured in a previous post is somehow related to Helen and her son Edward mentioned in today's first letter.

Ysleta, Texas (which Maj. Gillham erroneously refers to as Yesleta in the letter), is a small border town east of El Paso along the Rio Grande.  There is a very old mission there, and the town itself was settled in 1680 and is one of the first European settlements in the state of Texas.

The "Mt. Franklin" he refers to in the first letter is actually a small chain called the Franklin Mountains, and there are two major peaks, North Franklin and South Franklin.  North Franklin Mountain is the highest, at 7,192 feet.

From left to right, North and South Franklin Mountains,
near El Paso, TX

The film Captain Kidd was released in 1945, so it was a relatively new film for a foreign Army outpost.  It starred Charles Laughton ("Lawton" in the letter) in the title role, and also Randolph Scott.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fourth Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Today's letter marked the fourth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, and on the letter itself Maj. Gillham double-underscored the date.  I tried to replicate that, but apparently there is no underscore, much less double-underscore, on this blog editor.

Maj. Gillham is still in a fog about the family's trip back to Atlanta, and we get the impression that Frances is not helping matters by being vague in her letters.  He comes pretty close to an outright scolding of Frances for this transgression, but he makes a nice save in the closing paragraph.

7 Dec 45
Tokyo, Japan

Dearest Love,

Well, just four years after they started it, here I am in Tokyo.  It was a long way off four years ago.

Received two nice letters from you today, one mailed the 26th and one the 29th of Nov.  Also got a clipping from Mr. Hay telling about his retirement, which was mailed from Jackson on 29 Nov.  The mail seems to bunch up a little, but I am well pleased with the way it comes through.  It seems definite that air mail is by far the best.  I had heard that before.

I am glad you got the Montague family together.  It was a fine thing to do, and one that couldn't be rushed.  You worked it just right.

I am very much in doubt as to what your plans are and I don't know if this will reach you before you leave Robles or not.  You said Father couldn't come, so I gave that up.  Now you talk like he might.  If he can that is fine.  I will have to get you to advance the money for the ticket as I have no funds to draw from now.  I sent $50 to you to Atlanta by F.O. check which you should get by Christmas, but that is for your Christmas.  I imagine a one-way plane ticket will be something over $100.

Darling, please remember the time element in our correspondence and try to think ahead.  Please don't make me have to pull answers out of you about vital questions.  It takes too long.

I know the children have had a fine time with their raft on the river.  I hate for them to leave there -- it is such a fine place for children of their ages.  Thanks for the other picture.  From the looks of your discarded proofs, your selected proofs must be excellent.  The proofs are a nice size to put in my wallet.

We are starting our busy period again now and will have to work straight through for about 10 days.

They are having a dance here tonight, the first one they have had.  I went down and looked on for a while.  There is an assortment of WACS, nurses, Red Cross workers, and a few Jap girls.  I don't think they would do so well in a normal competitive market.

I will try to write a note to Cousin John.

Thanks for the Coronet clipping.  It was a pretty picture and a well-written article.

My dearest darling, you are the one for me.  I love you more and more all the time.  The best thing here is being able to look forward to going home to you.

Much love,



I am not sure who all came to the Montague reunion, but there were quite a few in California at the time.  Just this weekend I have been doing some research into the Montague line, and I have determined that my grandfather and Cousin Ellen were second cousins.  This means they shared a common set of great-grandparents, the male half of whom was Young Montague, born near Durham, NC, and later settling in western Tennessee near the town of Ripley.  Young Montague (who got his first name from a family last name) had a son named Adolphus Wiley Montague and a daughter Henrietta Helen Montague (among 12 total children).  Henrietta, who was known as Helen (pronounced HEEL-en) was my grandfather's maternal grandmother, and Adolphus (known as A.W.) was Ellen's paternal grandfather.  And yes, you will need to know all this for the test.

Ellen had two brothers, Donald and John (known as Jack, the owner of the Gillhams' house in Robles del Rio), and she had two children at the time, a daughter Terry Jean and a son Montague, who is known as Monte.  Any and all of these could have been at the Montague gathering, including Ellen's father, who Maj. Gillham refers to in this letter as Cousin John.

The Gillhams' youngest child, Martha, was born February 2, 1945, in Chicago, but Maj. Gillham received his orders to report to Fort Ord in California before Frances was allowed home from the hospital.  Therefore, he, Emily, Monty and their English springer spaniel Flip Flop motored west, and Frances and Martha stayed with friends in Chicago for a while before taking the train out to California.  Before they moved into Jack Montague's vacant vacation house in Robles del Rio, Maj. Gillham and the girls stayed for a few weeks at the home of Jack's sister, Ellen Montague Upshaw, and her family in Piedmont, CA, adjacent to Oakland.

Ernest and Ellen Upshaw, on the lawn of the Gillham's house
on Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 1941

Top to bottom, left to right:  Ellen and Ernest Upshaw, Emily Gillham,
Terry Jean Upshaw, Monte Upshaw, and Monty Gillham,
at the Upshaw's house on Arbor Way, Piedmont, CA, 1945

Three children with names derived from Montague:
Monte Lang, Monty Gillham and Monte Upshaw,
Piedmont, CA, June 1945

Our family has stayed fairly close to the Ellen Montague Upshaw family over the years.  In fact, Monte Upshaw was in New Jersey for a business trip in 1974 and was at our home the night Hank Aaron hit his 715th homerun, as we all watched on an old black-and-white TV set.

 I have traced our lineage back to a Peter Montague who was born in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England, about three miles from Windsor Castle and Eton College.  He sailed to America on the Charles in 1621 at the age of 18, having to work on board to pay his passage.  He settled in Virginia near what is now the town of Suffolk, and he eventually married the daughter of Samuel Mathews, the Royal Governor of Virginia.  This makes us part of the exclusive First Families of Virginia, that include the names Mathews and Digges (Samuel's wife's maiden name) on their list.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Remembrances of La Jolla, California

This is one of two letters sent by Maj. Gillham to General Delivery for Frances and the girls to pick up on their trip back east.  There is no telling when they actually received the letters, but since we have the letters now it is clear that they did receive them.  This letter was sent to La Jolla, CA, where the Gillhams first lived in California in 1941-42.  The second letter was sent to El Paso, TX, where Maj. Gillham spent summers during his youth with relatives.

6 Dec 1945

Dearest Darling,

So you are in La Jolla!!  Now, isn't that nice, and don't I wish I was with you!  How does it seem to be back there?  I will always remember our two years there as among the best.  I'll bet Emily and Monty are thrilled.  Does it seem like they thought it would?  Does Martha approve?

I can remember every foot of ground around La Jolla and Camp Callan.  I don't think there was a passable path within ten miles that I didn't walk (or climb) over many times.  That is really the way to learn to know and love a piece of country.  My biggest objection to my life here now, besides your absence, is that it is too soft and easy.  I am afraid I will get fat.  I only eat fruit and coffee for breakfast, and I walk to work as often as possible, but that isn't like a good old 15 mile hike up and down the bluffs.

Ask Emily and Monty if they remember that Sunday morning in the spring of 1941 that I took them up on the Scripps grade.  It was the day I took that cute picture of Monty, but it had a stalk of grass across her face.  Do you remember?  I told them that day that they would never see a more beautiful scene or a more perfect day.  I wonder if they remember it or if they were too young.

Be sure and send the Adams and the Mabeys, and Tripps, cards while you are there.

I know you will enjoy your visit in La Jolla.  Give any of our friends that you see my regards.  I hope you have a good trip the rest of the way.  Do be careful; and don't drive on when you get too tired.  That is when accidents happen.  Stop early and then get off early the next day if you must make time.

Remember all the way that I am right beside you in spirit and that I love you very much and am hoping to be beside you in person before too long.

Call at the P.O. again in El Paso.

Bon Voyage,



Camp Callan was a rather short-lived Coast Artillery Corps post that was built in 1940 and dismantled in 1946, at war's end.  It was a replacement training center which processed a total of 15,000 new inductees during the war.  Capt. Gillham was stationed here from 1941-43 after his officer training in Ft. Monroe, VA. 

Capt. Gillham after a march with his troops through the hills,
Camp Callan, 1941.

The picture of Monty with the stalk of grass across her face,
which Maj. Gillham mentions in the letter above

Monty and Emily Gillham in Capt. Gillham's jeep,
Camp Callan, 1941

Maj. Gillham standing proudly in front of his jeep,
Camp Callan, 1941

Emily and Monty at their daddy's office in Camp Callan, 1941

Undated postcard showing anti-aircraft artillery at Camp Callan.

While Capt. Gillham was stationed at Camp Callan, the family lived in La Jolla, first in a house on Torrey Pines Road.  In 1942 they moved to a house on Virginia Way, not far from scenic Scripps Park.

Frances Gillham on the patio at the house on Virginia Way, 1943

Capt. Gillham, in full cowboy outfit, on the patio of the house
on Virginia Way, with rubber tree, 1943.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Black market prices, and plans for Frances' trip back east

This afternoon I had lunch in snowy Princeton with Georgia Upshaw, the daughter of Ellen and Ernest, who I mentioned in the last post.  She lives in Oakland, CA, and was in Princeton for a conference, so my parents and I joined her for lunch before putting her on the train to New York.  We didn't talk much about Ellen or my blog, because she was born just after Maj. Gillham returned home from Japan.  As the story goes, Ellen, who had two children around 10 and 11 years old, visited Frances and the girls in Robles del Rio and was so enamored with baby Martha that she decided she wanted to have more children.  The next year Georgia was born, and shortly thereafter a boy, who is now known affectionately as Doc.

In this letter there's not much new, but Maj. Gillham continues to show a slight frustration with his inability to get a handle on the family's plan to head east. 

5 Dec 1945

Dearest Darling,

Just received yours mailed 27 Nov. saying you were making preparations to leave, but you gave no specific data on your plans, other than the route.  When do you plan to leave?  When do you expect to be in Memphis?  What is Mother's new address there, if you know it?  When do you expect to get to Atlanta?  Do you intend to return or stay there?  This may get to you before you leave Robles, and it may not.

It sounds like a very interesting trip and I certainly wish I was making it with you.  Is anyone going with you?  It sounds like you have the car in pretty good shape.  Get it greased before you leave and once about half way across.  Don't drive too fast on those tires -- 50 MPH is tops -- and watch the oil , and I don't think you will have any trouble.

Many thanks for the needles.  I will see what I can do with them.  Money is not worth much here and on our 15 to 1 exchange, it doesn't go far.  Black market prices run Y20 for a pack of American cigarettes, Y10 to 15 per candy bar, Y15 to 25 for a bar of soap.  Kimonos are about Y1,000 and dime store articles are about Y10 to 50.  When you convert these prices into $ it is pretty steep if you pay money, but trading is illegal.  We get all our necessities either issued or through the PX at reasonable prices.

The Army has no whiskey available, but the Navy gets some.  A Navy officer cut me in on a case of Old Overholt bottled in band that he got recently and I got a fifth for Y19, or about 1/3 the price in the states -- it is tax free.  So far I have used only one pint of what I brought with me and I have given most of that away.  Everyone admires my pretty bottle.

The Japanese are making good progress in cleaning up the city.  I can see a marked difference since I got here.  They are certainly not lazy.

We have an interesting civilian working for us here in the offices.  He is a native Indian and talks with considerable accent.  He was the Tokyo representative for an English newspaper for a number of years.  He has a wonderful mastery of the English language and is our chief grammarian.

Call at General Delivery in the Post Office at La Jolla and El Paso.  I will try to have a note at those two places for you and also in care of Mother at Memphis.  It is nice to get a letter now and then when you are out on a long trip.

I hope Ellen comes through O.K.  I know she really wants one.

Get a box of Mothersill's Sea Sick pills and take them with you for the children.  I feel sure they will prevent car sickness, if you think there is any danger.

I am not too much concerned over what happens to me while over here.  It won't be much longer one way or the other. I have no indigestion, so you know I am not worrying over my job.  The main thing is that I have you to come back to, my darling.

Much love,



In this letter, Maj. Gillham states that he hopes Ellen comes through okay and that "I know she really wants one."  We can only assume that this refers to Ellen Upshaw and her new baby, as mentioned above, and that she was pregnant with Georgia at the time.

In this letter, Maj. Gillham mentions two products, one of which is still around.  Old Overholt Rye Whiskey is one of the few national brands of rye still available.  However, most Americans are probably more familiar with a famous spoof on the brand made in a 40s-era Warner Brothers cartoon, where a bottle is shown with the label "Old Overcoat."

An Old Overholt label, presumably from the 1960s.

There aren't any Mothersill's pills around any more, though.  The product first appeared in 1926 and was manufactured in New York and Montreal.  It was originally marketed as a seasick pill, but after the wane of steamer travel and the advent of international flights, sales fell off and the brand was pulled for good in 1966.

An undated Mothersill's label touting relief from
"travel sickness" instead of merely seasickness.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A trip down the coast to the resort town of Atami

I believe this will mark the end of my unreliable posting habits, at least for another two weeks.  I am now at my parents' home in Crosswicks, NJ, snowed in under about 2 feet of the white stuff.  My mother dragged out all of her old photo albums and I will be scanning some pertinent photos by the weekend.  Also, I will be scanning the stash of Maj. Gillham's Japanese photos and materials that I got from my Aunt Emily, so be prepared for a flood of new pictures (some of which may be inserted in previous posts -- I will keep you informed).

This next letter is especially entertaining and informative, and it gets us away from the hometown-news format of the last few letters.  Maj. Gillham visits the resort town of Atami with an Army buddy of his and gets an on-site tutorial in Japanese culture.

Tokyo, Japan
3 Dec 1945

Dearest Love,

Your two letters dated 19 & 21 Nov and postmarked 21 & 23 Nov received today.  In one you said you had received my letter saying I had received my first batch of mail.  That makes four crossings of the Pacific for our mail in about 40 days.  That is pretty consistent mail service, isn't it?

Scotty's outfit is at Fukuoka on Kyushu, the place where Dick Johnson is.  However, if he is with the Artillery Group, as I think he is, he is in the vicinity of Oita, on the NE shore of Kyushu, destroying Japanese war material.  Mail service may be a little slow from down there, compared to what it is here, but it should get through in time.  We have one officer here that came on the Mayo with me and he has never yet received any mail.  He is very worried and I feel sorry for him.  Surely am glad that I am getting your letters.  They are the main thing that I look forward to every day.

8 PM -- After writing the above at the office, I got another nice letter from you mailed 24 Nov. and teling about your swell Thanksgiving dinner.  That was really some spread, and lots of good fellowship makes it really worthwhile.  You are certainly sweet to write me after such a strenuous day.  I hope you enjoy Ellen's visit.

Darling, there is so much that I want to write you about that I never get it all done now.  All day long when I see interesting things, I am composing in my mind sentences that I want to put into letters to you, and then I just don't get the time to write them down.  I never did get through telling you about my trip to Nikko and now there is so much else I can't get back to it.  Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took there.  It was very cloudy that day and I knew the pictures wouldn't be good, but I took one or two time exposures that came out fairly well.

I got a reply today from Wrightson.  He is at Wakayama, on the peninsula north of Osaka, and seems to be having a fine time and getting much loot, which is something that is difficult here.  However, from all I can hear and see, I don't think that many are as well situated as I am here.  We now have a lot of big new GM buses, just like the latest city buses in the states.  They make regular runs between all our offices and billets.

This last week-end I went to Atami, a popular resort about 75 miles south of Tokyo.  I went with Lt. Cmdr. Reese from Dublin, Ga.

When we got there, about 8 PM, we couldn't get a place to stay anywhere, so we got the Japanese police, and one of them went all around with us.  He finally secured lodging for us in a very nice Japanese home that had some spare rooms that they let out at times.  They gave us the entire second floor consisting of three large rooms, and waited on us hand and foot.  The lady of the house was much embarrassed that one of the rooms did not have the single picture that hangs in most Japanese rooms.  She ran and got one and put it up at once.  It and a vase of "chrysanthemum-mum-mums" were the only decorations and yet nothing else was called for.  I like the Japanese method of living in a house and think it is not such a bad solution, and you must remember it is an entirely independent solution, or evolution, from our own culture.  We had K rations, but they gave us tea and hot water for bullion and coffee, and mikans (tangerines), and at one meal we ate with the family.  They had rice and other things.  We gave them some soap and candy and a few such things during the course of the visit.  The son was a college student and was the only man present.  I think from some pictures he showed me in an album that the others were in the army in China.  The lady of the house had her sister living with her who had a little girl about five.  Her name was Musume and she was very cute.  We struck up quite a friendship and she cried when I left.  I took a couple of pictures of her which I hope turn out well.  Atami is famous for its hot springs and most of the houses have this hot water piped directly to them, as this one did.  The bath was a beautiful tile job with a tub about the size of a bed and three feet deep.  The top of it was flush with the floor and it was filled to the brim with this very hot spring water.  It might seem strange to you, but my hostess casually walked in while I was standing there stark naked soaping, and showed me how to regulate the water.  Oddly enough I felt no embarrassment and the whole thing was as matter-of-fact as though we had met on the street and said "good morning." The covers on our futons (sleeping pads) were of beautiful silk.  The son acted as our guide the next day, and Atami is a very picturesque little town.  It is a sort of Japanese version of La Jolla or Carmel.  The scenery along the coast there is as fine as I have seen anywhere -- somewhat like Point Lobos or the 11 Mile Drive.  There are many nice spots along there like our rock near Carmel.  I will never forget our last trip around the drive.  It was a nice interlude to remember, wasn't it?

When we went to leave Atami, we were a little afraid we would be stuck for our lodging as we hadn't asked the price, but they wouldn't take a sen and invited us to come back anytime and made each of us a present of a little plaster doll in a box.  I will send it to the children with my next shipment.

You haven't said much lately about your plans.  I am afraid we will temporarily get out of touch with each other when you start to travel.  I understand that regular cables of your own composition will be available to the army in a few days in the Tokyo area to & from San Francisco.  It is just a good thing to know in case it is needed.

Lots of love to my very sweet family.  I certainly love you all a great deal.


P.S.  The streets of Tokyo are lined with ginkgo trees.  They are bright yellow now and very pretty.  Enclosed are a couple of leaves, just for old times' sake.


Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, and is best known to Americans as the location of the city of Nagasaki.  Just off the southern coast of Kyushu begins the Ryukyu archipelago, which extends all the way south to Taiwan and includes the island of Okinawa.

The island of Kyushu, in orange.

Just as a refresher:  the Ellen referred to in this letter is Ellen Montague Upshaw, the sister of Jack Montague who owned the vacation house in Robles del Rio that the Gillhams were living in.  Ellen and her husband Ernest lived in Piedmont, which is a neighborhood of Oakland that backs up to the hills and offers spectacular views of the Bay Area.  Maj. Gillham's maternal grandmother was a Montague, and therein lies the connection.

From what I've been able to discern from reading about the Occupation, gathering "loot" was a popular pastime among U.S. soldiers in Japan -- so much so, in fact, that now there are published catalogs of such loot along with price lists and valuations, as well as collectors clubs and websites.  As you will see in later letters, Maj. Gillham stumbles upon his "own" pile of loot while driving around Tokyo and begins to send a lot of it home.  My mother remembers vividly receiving package upon package from Japan filled with brass ornaments and trinkets.

Atami is a sea resort town on the Pacific coast of Japan about 100 miles south of Tokyo.  It is famous for its hot springs and curative waters, and it is situated on a coastline that is very similar to that of Monterey or Carmel, as Maj. Gillham mentioned in the letter.  Also, as you recall, in Atami there is a high concentration of authentic geishas that continue to flourish.

View of Atami, looking south

Map showing the relative distance of Atami to Tokyo and Yokohama

K-rations were originally designed to be a compact, portable, three-meal ration for active-duty soldiers during World War II.  The concept was designed by a Prof. Keys at the University of Minnesota, and comprised of three meals (designated, interestingly, as "breakfast, dinner and supper") totalling 2,900 calories.  Each three-meal ration was packaged in a cardboard container about the size of a Cracker Jack box -- which is not surprising, since the Cracker Jack company was contracted to manufacture and distribute the K-rations.  The rations usually included a canned meat entree, powdered drinks and coffee, hard biscuits, and a dessert, as well as, amazingly, four cigarettes per meal.

Futons were practically unknown to Americans in 1945, which is probably why Maj. Gillham felt compelled to add an English descriptor ("sleeping pads").  Japanese futons are laid down on simple tatami flooring made of woven rice straw, unlike our Western futons which are almost always placed on a wooden frame that can also be converted into a couch.

Incidentally, one of the ginkgo leaves did survive the years intact and is in surprisingly good condition.  Here is a photo: