Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maj. Gillham's division stays in the Dai Ichi Building after all

Today's letter from Maj. Gillham is basically a follow-up from his previous one, since in the ensuing 24 hours he has found more letters from Frances.  And for you young folks out there, a "combined hand-set" is simply a normal telephone receiver, with talking and listening capabilities all in one, as opposed to the old wall units or candlestick phones of the 1930s.

5 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

When I got back last night I thought I had received only one letter from you while I was away, but today I found that a Sgt. that I didn't see yesterday had been saving my mail and I had four more nice letters from you and also your second package mailed Dec. 11.  That all gave me quite an uplift.  Thanks so much for the box.  It came through in good shape, but they really take a beating.  The main thing to remember is to pack the box tight so it won't crush even if an elephoant steps on it.  That is a very nice padlock.  I won't need another unless you have already sent it, as Capt. Lehman gave me one.  The marshmallows and figs are quite a change from what is available here.  The Virginia calendar is very pretty and brings back pleasant memories.  Thanks for it all.

Thanks for the story you sent.  I haven't read it yet but will tonight.  I am glad that you got the kimono and that you liked it.  I am glad that some of the packages are going through.  I have several things that I have collected that I will send now.

We didn't move out of the Dai Ichi Bldg. after all, only moved across the hall on the same floor.  I have a very nice layout for my division now.  We have some pretty good furniture, too.  I have a nice flat-top desk with a Western Electric combined hand-set telephone on it.  This has turned out to be quite a break for us.

I am glad to hear that Mother Ki is getting along so well.  Her vitality is surprising.  I didn't think she would be able to go upstairs.

Darling, your letters are excellently written and have such sweet thoughts behind them.  You are a dear.  I love you very much.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A quick note about Martha's potty training

Today's letter is a quick one from Frances recounting Martha's potty-training exploits.  The third paragraph is classic Frances, saying how she first reads Maj. Gillham's letters herself and then reads "excerpts" to the children.  I am sure she omitted the mushy stuff seamlessly and never gave the children the impression that anything was missing.  Also, I wonder if the Avery she mentions in the last paragraph is Avery Shearouse, whose brother Frances married after Maj. Gillham died in 1978.

Feb. 5, 1946


Two letters arrived from you this morning.  One was postmarked Jan. 19.  The other was mailed Jan. 24.

In the one written Jan. 19 you wrote about your trip thru the fish market and your visit with the Japanese businessman who gave you sake.

You write such entertaining, interesting letters.  The family can hardly wait for me to read your letters first so I can then read them interesting excerpts from them.

Your second letter told of your trip with Capt. Lehman in the jeep.  I know Bill was delighted to see you.  He needs someone like you to surprise him once in a while.  Goodness me, wouldn't it be just wonderful if you could get in the jeep one morning and drive over to have lunch with me!  I guess if you did, I'd try to keep you.  I know once we get together again, I will be worse than a leech to get rid of!  This separation idea might sound good in print, but it surely goes thin with much use.

This morning Martha was a smart girl.  She performed beautifully upon her potty chair.  Because I clapped for her and made so much over her and the chair, she decided to play with the chair.  Soon, I heard a terrified scream from Martha.  I discovered that she had pushed the pot out, stepped into the hole with both feet and tried to sit down on the floor.  It took me fully five minutes to extricate her.  I couldn't pull it off over her head nor slip her out.  Her hips held her there.  I finally managed to push it down over her hips.

The girls and I are going out to visit Avery and her brood this afternoon.  I will be sure to watch for the coffee table!



Monday, April 26, 2010

Back in Tokyo, Maj. Gillham reviews his options

Today we hear that Maj. Gillham has made it safely back to Tokyo, but the letter awaiting him from Frances has got him thinking.  His response gives some insight into his hopes for the future and what he's willing (and not willing) to do once his tour of duty is over.

4 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

Have just returned from Nikko.  I found only one letter from you that had come during my week's absence.  It was dated 20 Jan and told of meeting Paul Wright.  The mail slow-down must have started.

I drove home in a new Chevrolet sedan with Col. Watson, the one I mentioned to you before.  He is from the 1930 class at West Point.  We also brought one of the Red Cross girls from the hotel with us as she was coming to Tokyo to make a telephone call to the states.  On the way back we stopped (stopt -- stoped -- they all look wrong!) by the Emperor's duck hunting preserve.  Col. Watson had been there before on a duck hunt.  The keepers received us as though we were visiting royalty, and showed us all over the place and gave us beer to drink.  I took a couple of pictures which I hope will be good.  I have never seen so many ducks in my life.  A few were decoys, but most were regular wild varieties.

Paul Wright's remarks have put me to thinking.  The situation which he pictured is just what I have feared for some time.  However, he always had that sort of an attitude and you have to take what he says with a grain of salt.  I was making more than he when we left to go in the army and will have been away much longer when I return.  According to Paul's salary, mine should be adjusted at something over $300.  At one time I would have thought that was pretty good money, but I realize it won't go far now.

There are several courses open to me:  (1) I think I could remain in the army in my present capacity for an indefinite period which might last a year or two longer.  (2) When my time for release comes in May, I think I could get a job here as a civilian, paying from $6,000 to $10,000 per year.  That might last as long as the occupation if I wanted to make a career out of it.  (3) I could probably get appointed in the regular army with a permanent rank of Captain.  The way that works is you are put in a position on the promotion list which is the equivalent of being at the foot of the West Point class which graduated when you were 25 years old.

If I stayed on here you all might be able to come over within a year.  The only way I can get back to the states is by discharge.  However, although these propositions look good financially and have a certain romantic appeal, they are not what I would prefer.  Most of the civilians here are the professional bureaucrat type and I don't enjoy their company much.  Maybe things will have straightened out a little by this summer when I get home.

How was Blanche?  Did Ed get the chevrons I sent him?

When you say you have never seen a housing market as tight as Atlanta, it really must be tough.  We have been in some pretty tight places in our time.  It would certainly be a pleasure to move to a town having a lot of vacant houses, and make the real estate dealers have to sell you.

It is late now, and I must get to bed and get a little sleep.

Lots of love to my sweetheart,


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The children write to Maj. Gillham

In today's post are three short letters that are not from Frances but from the three "big girls" at 992 Washita, Emily, Monty and Margaret.  The envelope is postmarked February 4, and Emily dates her letter the same.  Keep in mind that Martha's first birthday was on February 2.  Also, this seems to be the letter where the girls all enclose their foot tracing for Maj. Gillham, as he had requested in an earlier letter.  For those of you that have forgotten, Margaret is the 5-year-old daughter of Frances' sister Bryant.


Dear Daddy,

I am enclosing my foot print and my dress length.

I do thank you for the stamp dolls.  I have a lot of fun with them.

Martha looks so sweet in her kimono and hat.

I miss you very much.

Lots of love,



Dear Daddy,

Martha is a year old.  Thanks for the dolls.  Flip-Flop gets plenty to eat.


Frances Gillham


Dear Uncle Bill,

Here is my foot print.

I were tol s my White P Plains


Margaret Moore


Monty's full name is Frances Montague Gillham, and so she uses her official name to sign the letter.  As I recall, her teacher at the Highland School on North Avenue made her use the name Frances, so she was probably in the habit of writing "Frances" in cursive.

The second sentence in Margaret's letter is a head-scratcher, but I believe she was trying to say something along the lines of "I went to see my White Plains relatives."  Her father, Carl Moore, was born and raised in White Plains in Greene County, Georgia, about 60 miles east of Atlanta.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Maj. Gillham makes his last ski run in Nikko

In today's letter Maj. Gillham makes his last ski run before he heads home to Tokyo the next day.  He claims this will be his final ski run ever, and I am not sure if that became a reality or not.  For the rest of his life he lived in only Atlanta and New Orleans, two cities not especially known for snow skiing.  The only skiing I ever remember him being involved in was water skiing at Lake Lanier, but he was always driving the boat for the rest of us.

Nikko, Japan
3 Feb 1946

Today I wound up my skiing career.  I don't know when I will ever be able to do that again.  On my last run, I came in with flying colors, making a nice long run under good control and with no mishaps.  I thereupon slid over to the lodge, kicked off my skis as though it were an everyday performance and retired from the sport.

Every time I have been up, the conditions have been different.  Today, the snow was deep and dry.  The ridges and open hills had been swept by a wind and were very fast, but there were many treacherous soft, deep drifts that would throw you if you didn't watch out.  Both my ski trooper friend and a professional Japanese ski instructor were working on me today.  Since I could speak some Japanese, the Jap instructor was greatly relieved to work on me, and I picked up some good points.  The area was beautiful, with the fresh, deep drifts.  When we returned to the hotel, there was a whole bevy of news reporters here that took our pictures and got our names and home towns.  I don't know what will come of it, but I gave Atlanta as my home town this time.

There is an ice carnival in a few minutes, then a moving picture, followed by a dance.  I don't know if I can make it all or not.  Tomorrow I return to Tokyo and am looking forward to getting a little rest -- to recover from this "rest camp."  Really, I feel just fine.  Getting physically tired out was the thing that I needed most.

Tell Emily and Monty that I passed a little Japanese school way back up in the mountains where all the children came to school on skis.  It is the only way they can get there.  Isikawa told me that all through school, Japanese children spend at least half of their school hours just learning to read and write.  I can well believe it.

My darling, I think of you at every turn.  I could enjoy this much more if I had you to share it with me.  It seems like we have already been separated a very long time.  I hope it won't seem like too much longer until we can get together again.

I love you, my sweet.  You are the focal point of everything I live for.

Much love,


Friday, April 23, 2010

Maj. Gillham spends the day trading with Shinto priests

Before we get started today, I want to mention that my mother (Monty) has sent me some photos of the Japanese brass objects she got from her father.  My parents are in the process of moving, so a lot of the brass is packed, but she was able to take a few pictures of items she still has out.  Before you get too involved in today's letter, you may wish to click on the April 19 post in the left column to see the new pictures.  After you're done there, simply click on the April 23 link and you will be returned to this page.  And many thanks to my mother for taking the time and effort to get me these photographs!

Today we hear about Maj. Gillham's day of rest in Nikko and we find out why he's a little tipsy writing this letter.  Frances doesn't write another letter until February 9, so we will be hearing from Maj. Gillham for a few more consecutive days.

Nikko, Japan
2 Feb 1946

My Dear Sweet Darling,

It was just about this time of night a year ago that I got a telephone call telling me Martha had arrived and that you were O.K. Gee, that was a welcome message. She was only eight months old when I left and now she is a year! That makes a big difference in a baby that age. I would certainly like to see her now.

I just went to see a picture show, "Winged Victory," an Air Corps story, but it carried me back to my own training camp days. I guess they have become a part of me now more that I realized. One of the men in the story got the news that he was a daddy while he was overseas. I am glad that I was able to see Martha in, and know her as well as I did before I had to leave. I am now looking forward to my return with great anticipation.

I had hoped to catch up on correspondence while here, but there is so much to do I am not making much headway.

My roommate was a very nice fellow, with a much better than average appreciation of Japanese culture, but there is no bar here and when he ran out of liquor today he went back to Tokyo. Personally, I am enjoying the company of these young fellows. Also, there is a full colonel here that is about my age that is a good egg. He is from West Point.

Today I spent most of the time visiting in the homes of some of the Shinto priests, drinking sake, and trading. I always work on such projects alone, but some of my most interesting experiences are encountered then. I acquired a pretty piece of brocade and an interesting book on the shrines. I also got a set of lacquer sake cups that are used in the marriage ceremony.

Somehow I can't spell at all tonight.

Tomorrow I plan to try skiing once more. I will have to back Monday. The principle thing that I look forward to is that there will probably be some letters from you there on my return.

You were a mighty brave, sweet girl this time last year. You have borne all our children well and been an excellent mother after they arrived. I am very proud of them all, and you, too, my sweet.

Lots of love,



Winged Victory was a 1944 service drama directed by George Cuckor, based on the play by Moss Hart (who was married to Kitty Carlisle). It was a joint effort of Twentieth Century Fox and the U.S. Army Air Corps (later the U.S. Air Force). It had an all-star cast, including Jeanne Craine, Edmond O'Brien, Judy Holliday, Lee J. Cobb, Red Buttons and George Reeves (later TV's Superman).

Maj. Gillham admits to having bad luck spelling this time out, and he is right. I corrected the spelling, as I said I would throughout this blog, but in the course of this letter he misspelled lacquer, marriage, ceremony, principle and borne. He did manage to get brocade right, however. He always said that when he drank, his Japanese was much better, but apparently all that sake he had on this day didn't help his spelling much. To be fair, this is the most misspellings I have encountered in a single letter of his so far.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Maj. Gillham shows the youngsters a thing or two on the slopes

In today's letter Maj. Gillham tells of his sophomore effort on the slopes, where he is beginning to get the hang of things.  He again uses Red Cross stationery, which is most probably placed in the hotel rooms for the GIs.  There must be some sort of station in the area, since in subsequent letters he writes about the presence of "Red Cross girls."

Nikko, Japan
1 Feb 1946

Dearest Darling,

Today I went skiing again.  When we left this morning, it had started snowing.  It snowed constantly all day long -- about a foot in the mountains.  The fresh snow slowed the ski runs down so that they were not so hazardous and better control was possible.  I met an officer who had spent two years in the ski troops and he gave me some good pointers.  Also, my Japanese friend Isikawa was there and he helped me some.  I made several runs of about a mile with plenty of turns and dips, without falling down.  I am not an expert by any means, but I am rather proud of acquiring a new skill at my age.  I could keep up with everyone except the real experts, even those that had done a good deal of skiing in their childhood.  Six or seven of us were trying a rather difficult steep drop off, and nobody in the crowd could come out of it standing up.  I was the first one that was able to do it.  It rather surprised these youngsters.

Much of the snow today is sticking to the trees and I wasn't as tired and sore tonight, although I worked every bit as hard.  Isikawa-san came back with us and invited me to come to see him tonight.  He is an excellent photographer and he gave me several nice pictures of the country around here.  I will send them to you when I return to Tokyo.

We had a Japanese style dinner tonight -- sat on the floor, ate with chopsticks, and had geisha girls to entertain us.  It was very nice.

Tonight, walking down through the little Japanese village with everything covered with snow and the dim lights casting a weird glow over it all was an experience to be long remembered.

Tomorrow I will stay here and just putter around.  If it is clear I may be able to get some good pictures.  There is an ice-skating show tomorrow afternoon.

A vacation of this kind would cost plenty ordinarily.  I only wish that you were here to enjoy it with me.

Lots and lots of love,


P.S.  The enclosed charm from one of the temples is guaranteed to drive away evil spirits.


I am in possession of the charm he speaks about in the postscript.  It is a thin piece of pine wood, about 1" x 1/2", wrapped tightly in a small piece of paper.  There is red Japanese writing on the paper and charm, and on one side of the charm is printed a red figure seated in the lotus position.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A trip to a Japanese spa in Nikko

In this and the following letters, Maj. Gillham uses American Red Cross stationery, perhaps something he found while in Nikko.  It's a rather odd size, 8-1/2" x 7", with the long side as the top, sort of like a truncated standard sheet of paper.  Across the top in red is a large cross with "American Red Cross" printed just below it.

Nikko, Japan
31 Jan. 1946

Dearest Lovely,

This time last year we were certainly sweating it out, weren't we?  It looked pretty gloomy then, but everything came out fine in the end.  You were a very sweet, brave girl, and now we have a fine young daughter nearly a year old.

Today I was rather stiff and sore, especially in the shoulders from using the poles, but I went to a spa about ten miles from here and took a hot mineral bath and now I feel much better.  In fact, I am planning to try the skiing again tomorrow.

About 20 of us went in one of the hotel buses over to this place, a fine Japanese-style hotel which is owned by Mr. Kanaya, the owner of this one.  We were ushered into a nice Japanese room, sat on the floor and were served tea.  Then we undressed and streaked through the cold halls down to the bathing room.  A big tiled pool there was big enough to hold us all.  It is very refreshing and you don't feel the outside cold for a long time afterwards.  This hotel was located on the brink of a beautiful gorge.

This afternoon I took a tour through the temples.  Having seen them once before made them even more interesting, and I saw many details that I didn't take in before.  Also, I am now better able to appreciate my brass collection that I have sent home.  I saw how each vessel was used and I think I have at least one of nearly everything used in the temples.

I saw a skating rink filled with Japanese skaters (children).  Their skates are generally a block of wood with a runner mounted underneath.  This they tie to their foot (frequently bare) with a long rag.  How they manage I don't know, but they all skate well.  I saw a little girl not over 6 or 7 skillfully tying a skate on her sister.  She was as self-confident and doing as well as an adult could have done.

A change like this is quite a break.  I think I can now go back and see my share of the occupation through.

I am still reading Pastures of Heaven, but I can't figure what he is driving at.  It is a series of character studies, which are well done but a little morbid.  There has been very little raw stuff so far.  Much of it hinges on the school.  I judge he has the Tularcitos school in mind.

How are my two sweet, smart, big girls getting along?  I haven't heard from them lately.

Lots and lots of love,



There are three main shrines in the Nikko area:  Futarasan, Tosho-gu and Rinno-ji.  They were built in the 17th century during the Edo shogunate, or pre-modern period (1603-1868).  The first two are Shinto shrines and the Rinno-ji is a Buddhist shrine.  There are 103 buildings in the three complexes, nine of which are registered as National Treasures of Japan.  The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The main building of the Rinno-ji shrine in Nikko

The school that Steinbeck used as a model for his book was not the Tularcitos school (which is where Emily and Monty went to school when the family lived in Robles del Rio), but rather a school that was part of the Salinas school district which is apparently still being used as a school.  The Tularcitos school is part of the Carmel school district.

It is interesting to note Maj. Gillham's use of the the word streak when describing his naked run down the hall at the bathhouse.  According to Webster's Dictionary, the term was first used in print in 1973, so there was clearly an oral tradition of the term dating back much earlier.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Frances' "crisis" letter, and a real follow-up letter

Today there are two letters, both sent in the same envelope and dated the same.  The first is the letter that Maj. Gillham will use to hopefully convince the Army that he and Frances should talk on the telephone.  The second is a "real" follow-up letter.  She almost overplays her hand, and, frankly, if I were the one making the decision, the second letter would be the one to cinch it for me.

Jan. 30, 1946


I hate to bother you with all my problems.  I have tried to solve them all myself, but I have encountered one now that has me stumped.  I just have to get your advice on it.  In fact, I have two.

The first one is about your Mother's finances.  You had me appointed power of attorney.  I sent a copy to her bank, but the bank hasn't acknowledged it nor sent me any check blanks.  I have written to them repeatedly.  I have to pay her taxes before February 15 and the only money available is in her bank account.  What shall I do?  Should I see a lawyer?  I can't get away to go up there as we've had so much sickness here at home.

Is there any way you can advise me quickly so I can get things working before the taxes become delinquent?

The second one is about the landlady we had in Monterey.  She has sent me a threatening letter that I owe her over $40.00.  She says that she will send your C.O. a letter if I don't pay it immediately.  I know I don't owe it to her, but I don't know what to do about it.  Should I send the letter on to you to handle or should I go to a lawyer?

Please let me hear from you as soon as possible.  All this trouble is real and pressing.  I wish I could just talk to you.  You always explain things so well to me, darling.



Jan. 30, 1946


How does that sound?  I hope it will do, for I'd surely love to hear your voice again.  It will be next best to seeing you, dearest.  I am beginning to look ahead to the end of our separation with increasing interest.  Life without you is no life at all.  It is a day's work and a night's sleep now.  Twenty four hours less to wait for your return.  With you here, a day's work is pleasure, because at the end is your return and a delightful night's sleep.

Enclosed are some pictures I took.  I don't know what caused the blurriness, because objects around the children are in focus.

I bought some more film and will take some Saturday on Martha's birthday.  Just think, one year ago!

I love you, dearest,


Monday, April 19, 2010

The first box of brass arrives in Atlanta

In this letter Frances tells of the first package of brass arriving at 992 Washita.  In the letter she refers to "tara leaf" ornamentation on some of the brass objects.  There is such a thing as a tara plant, a native of South America, but I wonder if she meant the leaf of the taro plant, which is very common in the Pacific Rim area.  The taro leaf looks like a solid green calladium leaf and grows very large (it is sometimes referred to as elephant ear).  Since I have no example of the brass objects with me, I can't say for sure.

If anyone reading this has any brass objects sent over from Japan by Maj. Gillham, or knows of their whereabouts, please leave a comment.  I know my mother (Monty) has several pieces, and I am posting several photos of them following the letter below.

Jan. 30, 1946

Dearest Angel,

I have had a perfectly wonderful time today all because you found a junk pile in Tokyo.  The first box of brass arrived and we are simply delighted with your treasures.  From the way you wrote, I expected some monstrosities, but these are lovely.

Mother 'Cile, Pop, the three girls and I have polished brass all day!  Father was so interested that he went out and bought two different kinds of brass polish and a jar of silver polish, just for good measure.  He was supposed to leave to go out of town, but he kept diddling around helping me try various methods of cleaning the brass.

By far the loveliest piece is the slender vase with the tara leaf and handles.  Next I like the little dish that matches it with the tara leaf, root and flower engraved on it.  They are the only two that have a chop or hallmark on the bottom.  A real craftsman designed them, I know.  When polished it looks simply beautiful.  The lines seem too fragile to be designed for brass.  Crystal or china seems the most logical mediums for the design.  I selected it as the best piece when I was unwrapping them.  Mother Ki, Bryant, Elizabeth, and Emily each in turn and separately selected it as the loveliest piece.  It and the little dish were the first two pieces cleaned.

The mirror is darling.  I never have seen anything like it before.  It made me feel as if I'd just discovered it in the excavated ruins of Pompeii or some other ancient buried city.  It is the most personal piece you sent.  I can't help wondering whether it was made for someone's wife or his concubine.  It and the other two pieces seem Chinese in character.  Every time I look at it I wonder and marvel that women are the same the world over, in spite of their cultures.  They enjoy admiring themselves and they use whatever mediums are at hand to see their reflections:  metal, water, glass.  The design on the reverse is lovely.

Monty likes the Buddha and the soldier best.  Emily went for the turtle and wanted it.  She started polishing it immediately.  We found that if we submerged the coins in the brass polish and just left them in it fifteen or twenty minutes, they'd come clean but would have the same reddish cast copper has when it is given an acid bath.

Martha and Monty take turns playing with the bells.  One was smashed when I unpacked it, but I can put it back together nicely.  The little lantern, the pen holder, and the door hinges are unique.  I can hardly wait to have a house where we can use the hinges.  Let's put them on the door to your den.  We'll have the laughing Buddha sitting on your desk and the lovely fluted ashtray on the other side.  Monty polished it up.  Emily did the other cylindrical one.  They are made of such fine quality brass and have a deep luster when polished.

I haven't done anything with the two large vases on tripods, but I just can't believe they are brass -- they are so black now!  We have started on the two jardiniere-type bowls (one has medallions of animals soldered on).

Take another trip to the pile.  I am afraid you'll have to send me lots more before I can begin to want to part with any.

I am glad you found all this.  It is so interesting.  The brass can be used by all members of your family.  We can have it in the living room to show off and use at the same time.  There is a fascination in my soul for metals anyway, and this brass has quite taken my fancy.

Tonight Elizabeth Brandon, our cousin, asked me to go to the Grand with her to see "Spellbound" with Ingrid Bergman.  While we were waiting in the lobby to get a seat, I saw Bill Bradley.  He got out Dec. 19 and is down here "reluctantly" interviewing the Southern Bell people.  He said that he was looking around elsewhere, too.  He also wants to go into the electrical sales promotion business for himself.  His wife and 3-1/2 yr old son are in Nashville, where they have been since he went overseas two years ago.  He was stationed just out of London with the ground forces of the 8th Air Force.  His job seemed to be similar to Crenshaw's.  He visited France, Belgium, Holland and outer fringes of Germany and wasn't in combat.  His place was attacked by the buzz bombs, though.  He said that when they buzzed overhead, the men would duck and reach for another scotch and soda.

Bill said that the housing situation was one drawback to Southern Bell in Atlanta.  I imagine the salary difference has something to do with it, too.

Would it be possible to get Bryant a strand of pearls?  She wants some very much.  When she saw Emily's, she asked me to see if you could get her a strand and she'd pay you.

Thanks a million for the brass.  I have already had a full day's pleasure from it and know I can count on a lifetime's pleasure in store for us using it every day.

All my love, darling,



Below are some photos of the brass collection my mother (Monty) inherited from her parents.  Remember, you can always click on any photo for a larger view.

According to a Japanese friend who has read the inscription,
this is an urn to carry ashes of the deceased.

Below are the front and reverse details of the above vase

Front detail

Reverse detail

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Maj. Gillham goes skiing for the first time

In today's letter, Maj. Gillham recounts his first-ever skiing experience, and this is something that he talked about a lot later in his life as well.  In this letter he claims to have been skiing at a rate of about 60 mph, but by the time I heard the story as a child, the speed was up to 90 mph.  I mentioned this to Martha later on, and she said, "Everything with Granddaddy was 90 mph."

Nikko, Japan
30 Jan 1946

Dearest Love,

Today has been a very strenuous but enjoyable day.  I went skiing for the first time in my life.  We left here on a bus at 0900 and drove to the cable car and then up it.  At the top the snow was heavy, making it difficult for an ordinary vehicle to operate.  There were 12 of us and we mounted two weasels which were waiting for us there.  Now a weasel is the most versatile of all the Army's versatile vehicles.  It is a sort of amphibious jeep with caterpillar tracks.  It will go anywhere -- in the water, through mud bogs, on a highway or in deep, impassable snow drifts.  The latter was our problem, but we made them in fine style and went about ten miles above the top of the cable car, beyond Lake Chuzenji and Lake Yamoto to what is reputed to be some of the best skiing grounds in Japan.  The hotel maintains a ski lodge there, and the snow was really all you could ask for.

When I signed up for this I didn't know who was going, but this morning I found myself in the company of a group of 20-year-old lieutenants.  However, there were only a couple of them that really knew how to ski, and I think I did as well or better than most of the novices.  I took several good spills, but also made a number of fast long runs of at least 1/4 mie.  One time when I spilled I believe I must have been going 60 m.p.h., but I didn't get hurt or break any equipment, as some did.

Once when I was about a mile up the mountain above the lodge, I had quite an experience.  Due to the exciting situation I got an urgent call from nature.  I couldn't imagine performing on skis, so I took them off.  I took one step and sunk up to my waist in snow.  It was getting to be a very urgent and desperate situation until I located a high stump nearby and got up on top of it.  Afterwards it was a difficult job to get back to my skis and especially to get them on, but I made it.

At the ski lodge I ran into my Japanese friend that I stayed with before up here.  He is the official photographer and a ski instructor up there.

Tomorrow I am going to take a hot mineral bath, which I will probably need as I expect to be sore.

On the way up here I noticed two women get off the train at a certain stop.  One was a strong young woman and the other a feeble old lady.  They stood together on the platform a moment and then the young woman turned around and backed up to the old one, who immediately jumped on her back and rode away piggy-back.

I expect to sleep well tonight.  It is pleasant to be physically tired again.

Lots of love,



The official title of the weasel is the M29 Weasel, which was designed by the Studebaker car company during World War II specifically for use in deep snow.  The vehicle was first designed to battle the Nazis in occupied Norway, where snow would clearly be a factor.  There was also an M29C Water Weasel which was amphibious, and this may be the model that Maj. Gillham wrote about.

A modern photo of an M29 Weasel

Lake Chuzenji is a relatively young lake, formed 20,000 years ago when lava flow from Mt.Nantai dammed the Yukawa River.  The lake reaches depths of over 500 feet, and its main drainage point is the 300-foot Kegon Falls.

Lake Chuzenji

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frances wrangles with several household issues

I apologize for the delay in posting.  I was at a Braves game last night that went until midnight and then caught some stomach upset this morning, so I'm just getting around to the letters now.

In this letter Frances lays the groundwork for the letter that the two had planned in order to convince the Army to let Maj. Gillham talk to Frances on the phone.  The idea was for Frances to come up with a crisis (or two) at home that couldn't possibly be solved without immediately advice from her husband and then to put same in a letter.  The crisis she has picked seems to be a real one, dealing with the harridan that bought the house they were using in Robles del Rio.

Jan. 29, 1946

Dearest, My Angel,

It is so nice to receive letters from you when you are on top of the hump.  They are delightful and full of encouragement.  I like all of your letters, but especially the last ones I received.

Aren't you an angel -- I just adore the kimono and now the stockings.  Really, it is more fun to received so many nice, interesting packages.  It is Christmas, birthdays, bank holidays all spread out thru the weeks and you know I just love every one of the things you send.

Martha's box was most interesting.  We call the little tiger Black Sambo's Tiger.  What was the little girl's name where you visited -- the little 5 yr old?  We'll name the doll after her.  The cap fits nicely and the box itself is interesting.

I have shown the laundry notice and other papers to several people.  They all enjoy them very much, but somehow I feel that they can't really appreciate them thoroughly until they have really studied Japanese.

I called Mr. Bolen, editor of the telephone news, and told him that you had a change of address.  He said that he had just received yours in the mail but was glad to verify it.  He said that he'd just received a letter from Lt. Col. Jacobs.  How about sending him a copy of the laundry notice for the magazine?

Mr. Weisiger called and said that Dr. Willis Sutton was scheduled to arrive in Tokyo Feb 13.  Look him up, for he is most interesting -- but then you already know him.

The lady who bought Donald's house sent me a nasty letter -- registered -- and demanded that I pay her about forty dollars for lack of notice, cleaning, garbage and water bills.  She threatened to send the letter to your C.O. if I didn't pay.  I went out to Ft. McPherson to see the Judge Advocate about it.  The garbage was three boxes of old clothes and stuff that I couldn't burn or bury.  I forgot to ask Carol to attend to it for me, so the woman had to.  She wanted me to pay a $15 cleaning charge, a $3.90 water bill and a month's extra rent.  I agreed to pay nine days additional rent to make up the two weeks notice, the garbage and water.  I wrote her and told her that if she'd send me a statement agreeing to that, I'd send her a check in receipt of statement.

In my next letter I will tell you all about this and ask you what in the world to do.  I am trying to think up some more things, too, because I think it would be wonderful to talk to you, my angel.

Monty received her letter and handkerchief.  She was delighted with it.  She will write to you soon.

Tonight I made out the tax bill, sent checks for it and checks to Ruth, Elizabeth and Cousin Herbert for their share of the cotton money.  The bank finally sent me check blanks yesterday.  That is why I am just doing it.  My commission was $60.85.  I sent it to Charlottesville.

On the trip over, I had to draw out about two hundred dollars there to pay Father, Grandmother's rent and travelers checks to go to Memphis.  I still have the checks.  I thought I'd just keep them and take the trip as soon as I can.  I have paid it back now and am some ahead.

I still have some in Monterey.  As soon as I get a statement, I will draw it out and put it in Charlottesville.

I know I make many mistakes, but I certainly am trying to learn fast so it won't cost you too much money!

Today I received a government bill of lading from the Presidio stating that my stuff was shipped from there Jan. 23.

There is only one condition that I shall most definitely insist upon if Martha has a playmate and that is that I must derive some pleasure from it myself!  This test tube business!  It's not worth the trouble if I can't have some fun, too!

Emily was asking me about an arithmetic problem tonight.  She said, "If 6 people could eat a pound loaf of bread in one day and a half --" but before she could finish her question, Monty chirped up and said, "But Daddy could eat it all by himself in one day!"

All my love,


P.S. I sent two rolls of film and another lock today.


The tiger reference is from an 1899 children's book called "Little Black Sambo" written by the Scottish author Helen Bannerman.  The book is based on an old Madras, India, tale of a small boy who is confronted by tigers who threated to eat him unless he gives them his fancy clothes and belongings.  However, the boy wins his clothes back as the jealous tigers chase each other around the tree until they are reduced to a puddle of melted butter.  The book was later banned because the name Sambo had become a pejorative term for black Americans and the original illustrations were perceived as racially insensitive.  However, there have appeared several race-neutral versions of the tale recently, and, interestingly, the story is extremely popular in Japan.

Frontispiece from an early U.S. version of the book

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The first letter from Nikko

Before we turn to today's letter, I wanted to mention that I just received in the mail the record of Maj. Gillham at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA, and as the cover letter states, there's "not much."  It's basically his entry in the GHQ telephone directory, or "jockey exchange," from May 1946.  He is listed in Statistics and Reports Division B, and his office telephone number is 2-2667, which I assume is at the "barn down the street" he is about to be moved to.  His quarters telephone number is listed as DAH 669, which, as we know from his earlier letters, is Room 669 of the Dai Ichi Hotel.

Today Maj. Gillham arrives in Nikko for a well-deserved stint of rest and relaxation.  The letter is written on smaller, thinner paper, perhaps that which was provided by the hotel.

Nikko, Japan
29 Jan 1946

Dearest Darling,

Arrived Nikko on schedule about 1400 this afternoon.  The trip up was a little different from most of my previous traveling in Japan in that I rode in special U.S. Army coaches.  There were about six Captains that left Tokyo with me to come here.  We left on the main government R.R. in a "Pullman" car and came to Utsunomiya and changed trains.  This sleeper had seats on each side that were lengthwise to the car.  The could be made down into single upper and lower bunks about 5-1/2 ft. long.  Due to the coal shortage they are not running as many trains as normal now and the remaining ones are terribly crowded, even for Japan.  Each train we saw was carrying about 50 to 75 persons in the coal tender to the locomotive.

This hotel is a very nice one that was evidently built a number of years ago to cater to the occidental 1st-class tourist trade.  It is located just above the sacred bridge and my room looks out on the stream and across to the temple area, the Emperor's summer palace and the snow-covered mountains beyond.

The program here is all optional, but there is quite a round of sightseeing, skiing and bathing available.  I think I will try the skiing tomorrow.  I have always wanted to have a fling at that.

I am rooming with a Capt. who is a lawyer, a Harvard graduate, and a very nice fellow.

I found Steinbeck's book "Pastures of Heaven" in an Army overseas library here.  You know its setting is in Carmel Valley.  I have started reading it with a great deal of interest.

I will tell you more as things develop, but there is one fact that I don't have to wait to develop.  That is simply that I love you.

There are two Red Cross girls on the staff to give the place an atmosphere and two nurses taking the cure, but I think it would be much nicer if you were here, too.

Much love,



In 1946 the only way to get from Tokyo to Nikko by train was via Utsunomiya, a large town about 60 miles north of Tokyo.  Today there are several more direct train routes, as you can see from the map below:

Click on the map to enlarge.  The Japan Railways routes
were the only ones available in 1946

John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven is a story cycle published in 1932 consisting of twelve interrelated stories about the Carmel Valley east of Monterey, California.  The stories take place during the time of the Spanish settlement of California.  This is the area where Robles del Rio is located, so Maj. Gillham was especially eager to read it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some disheartening news about the workplace

Today I am posting two separate letters from Maj. Gillham that were both dated the same.  Unfortunately, I am not in possession of the two enclosures that are mentioned in the letters.

Also, I am in possession of the Christmas notes that Frances forwarded to Maj. Gillham, which he mentions in the first letter below, but as Frances enclosed no accompanying letter, I did not mention these notes in my earlier posts.  The other reason for not mentioning them is that I would have to scan the Christmas cards to get the full effect.  If anyone is just dying to read the contents of the Christmas cards sent to the Gillham family, just leave a comment and I will gladly post the cards.

28 Jan 1946

Dearest Love,

Well, it looks like I will go to Nikko tomorrow.  I don't know the details yet, but I should get them this afternoon.  I will continue to write to you, but I will not get your mail to me until I return to Tokyo.

The enclosed clipping looks like our mail will be slowed down and we won't know what to count on.  If you feel like doing a little crusading on your own part, why don't you write your congressman?  Prompt and dependable mail is the greatest single item contributing to good morale in the Army overseas.  With Congress already worried about the low sate of morale, you might be able to stir them up about this.

I received your letter mailed Jan 17 and also the one enclosing the Christmas notes.  I enjoyed them all.  I am glad you are getting a little freedom and the opportunity to go out once in a while.

We just got word that we will have to move our office out of the Dai Ichi Bldg. to some barn down the street.  It will be field conditions again I am afraid.  Thank goodness the move will take place while I am at Nikko.  This was caused by the movement of the rear eschelon from Manila up here.  The G's will occupy this building, i.e. G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4.

You go ahead and do the best you can with Anthony, but I am going to make him sweat next year.  I am learning a few trading techniques myself over here.

I talked to the finance office about our Oct., Nov. and Dec. bonds.  He said the authorization didn't leave here until 8 Dec., so you should get them before long.  They should be $100 bonds.

I love you more than anything else in the world.



28 Jan 46

Dearest Darling,

Enclosed is a copy of my order for the "rest and recuperation."  I leave tomorrow morning.  I am well equipped.  I have gotten a pair of shoe-packs and extra heavy wool sox issued to me, too.  Will you please stick this order in with my others?

And while you are in the file, please send me a list of my past leaves, showing date and number of days of each.  It is all compiled in long hand right in front of all my leave orders.  I will need this information when I start to go home and I might as well get it now and have it on hand.

I love you very much.  I wish you were going along with me.  Couldn't we have fun?  I see that the Army is giving ex-P.W.'s leaves of this sort in the states and letting them take their families along, all at government expense.  I think it is a fine idea.

Anyhow, we will have us a little fling before very long.

Much love,



I am assuming that the G's he refers to in the first letter are generals. and that a G-1 is a brigadier general (one star), and so on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maj. Gillham answers Frances' letters (which we've just read)

Day Two in Google Analytics was indeed a bit better, with 15 visits to ths blog site on Monday.  However, I am still trying to figure out if it's counting my own visits to the site, as well.

In today's letter we find out the actual fate of the letters that Maj. Gillham had sent to Frances via General Delivery in cities along the family's route to Atlanta.  We also find out a little more about his upcoming trip to Nikko.

25 Jan 1946

Dearest Love,

I sent on to you today my letter to you at La Jolla which was returned.  I am sorry you didn't get my letters while you were en route.  I had spotted them all across the country so you would hear from me at frequent intervals.

I got a card today from cousin Pearl in which she said she liked the place where Mother is staying now.  It really must be good if she approves.  I sent the note in a letter to Mother.

Yours of 15 Jan came today.  I am glad you got lined up at Ft. McPherson.  You might as well take advantage of that while it lasts.  Thanks for getting the things for me.  I hope it doesn't put you to too much trouble.  I am just fine now except that today I turned my ankle for the second time within a week and it is pretty sore.  Every time I try wearing low shoes, I step in a hole in one of these streets and sprain my ankle.  I brought that pet ankle bandage of mine and it comes in handy.

I still hope to get up to Nikko next week for a week's relaxation, if something doesn't come up to block it.  I am due to leave Tuesday.  The only bad feature is that I won't be able to get your letters while I am up there, but I will look forward to reading them when I return.  This is a good deal in that it doesn't count against your leave time.  It is called "temporary duty."

Also, today I received your card from Jacumba, Calif.  I don't remember where that is, but judge it is just east of San Diego.  It is a pretty card.

The PX had some black silk stockings left over that they couldn't sell so I bought a pair for Cora.  I will try to get a good loud scarf to put with it and send it soon.

I am glad Carl and Bryant have some prospects of getting together soon.

I hope Tom Lemly's trouble doesn't come back on him.  He had a close call.

Tell Emily I am proud of her for sticking to her arithmatic, even if it isn't interesting.  I know she does it with a smile.  Speaking of smiles, are the girls getting lined up with the Brownies and Scouts?

Lots of love to all, and especially to you, my sweet.



Maj. Gillham was right about Jacumba, CA.  It is located about 60 miles east of San Diego on the Mexican border along what used to be U.S. 80, the family's route east.  At the time the family drove through it in 1945, the town was a world-class spa destination with the five-star Hotel Jacumba, which was a playground for the Hollywood set.  After the rise in popularity of the much closer Palm Springs and the construction of Interstate 8 farther north, the town fell into a precipitous decline and is just a dusty wayside today. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Maj. Gillham takes account of his correspondence

While I was wading through the piles of my blog email today, I came across a letter from one of our Followers who suggested that I create some sort of Gillham/Holsenbeck family tree as a reference for those readers who aren't family members.  I think this is a good idea, and I am working on a solution that will somehow fit the parameters of these blog pages.  Most likely I will create a family tree page that you can access via a link on the blog sidebar, which will be available on all posts.  In the meantime, if you have any family tree questions, just leave a comment and I will answer it within 24 hours.

I just signed up my blog for Google Analytics, which is a handy new application that tracks my hits and creates reports about my blog traffic.  So far, though, the numbers have been rather sobering:  yesterday I had 5 visits to my blog.  We'll see if things pick up during the week.

Speaking of tracking things, in our next letter Maj. Gillham goes geek on us and creates a table of the letters he has received in the past two days.  Clearly the long hours of work in the Statistics Division are starting to get to him.  That will soon change, though, as he tells Frances of his upcoming week-long assignment in Nikko.

24 Jan 1946

Dearest Darling,

During the last few days I have been doing well on mail.  Some of it is that which was caught in the Christmas rush and delayed, as can be plainly seen in the following table:

MAIL RECEIVED               
22 - 24 Jan 1946               

Addressor                         Location                        Date Mailed

Walter Oates                     Kerrville                       A - 9 Jan
Monty                                Los Angeles                  O - 17 Dec
Emily                                 Los Angeles                  O - 17 Dec
Dan                                    Kingsport                       A - 8 Jan
Ellen                                  Alameda, Calif             A - 17 Dec
Wasson                             Charlotte, NC               O - 14 Dec
You*                                  Robles                            O -  **
You***                             Atlanta                          A - 14 Jan
A - Air mail
O - Ordinary mail
* - my darling
** - postmark illegible
*** - two very sweet letters

It looks like I would get tired of that kind of foolishness after doing it all day, doesn't it?  This is by no means a model table, but I did work up a couple of samples which are used as models in all our documents.

Ellen's letter, although air mail, evidently got lost in a mountain of Christmas cards.  She sent me three sewing machine needles.

Walter told me in detail about how he got eight geese with one shot.

Wasson said they had 4 million unfilled orders for telephones in Southern Bell.  Housing is tight everywhere and he expects it to remain so for two or three years.

Dan wanted me to see about Alvin Cates, who is on Kyushu.  I have the Red Cross helping me.

Your letters told about the Ballet Russe.  The piece from Robles was the desert psalm and picture.  They are both beautiful.  I hate to think of leaving the desert and never being able to get back to it.  It seems to do something to you that makes you want to return.

I am glad you got the money and are taking such good care of it.  Yes, I think we had best save all we can right now, for the next few months may be our last opportunity to lay anything by for a long time.  I wonder what will come up this time to take it away from us?  I will continue to send you as much as I can.

Have any of the other packages gotten through?  I received the first one that you sent to me and am still enjoying the contents.

Are you taking any movies?  Don't forget to take a few shots of Martha for the record so I can see them when I get home.  I am getting some Jap film now, but they say it isn't very good.  I haven't used any yet.

It now looks like I will get a week's temporary duty at a luxury hotel at Nikko next week.  Our section of GHQ has a quota on this and gets to send about one officer per month.  I was doubtful if I would get a turn before I left, but they asked me today if I wanted to go and I said yes.  It will be a break away from this grind and they should have some winter sports up there at this time.  In a way I would prefer to go to some place I hadn't been, or to wait and go in the spring, but I ain't turning nuthin' down.  Also, the one-day reconnaissance that I did before will help me to know how to get around.  I will try to get some better pictures this time.

I have been completely over my cold for some time and since it started being so temperate I have been feeling fine.  I have had no severe arthritis.  I think a little mountain climbing or skiing will do me good.

The Tokyo climate has been excellent so far.  It is more like Atlanta than any place I can think of at this time of the year.  I hope to leave before the heavy June rains.  It seems that a warm current hits the coast near here and modifies this locality.

I know it feels good to get back to a part of the country where you don't have to fight or worm your way in.

As to what we do for a vacation when I return, if the children can go with us, I think we had best go somewhere, get a cottage and a servant and stay put.  The Smokies would be fine.  If just you and I go, I had just as soon take off for Canada or Mexico or anywhere we can work it.  I guess we will have to wait and see how things develop.

I think you are mighty sweet.




As he mentions above, Maj. Gillham has been to Nikko before, but as you may remember from a previous letter, he regretted the fact that he had been so busy that he hadn't been able to recount his trip to Frances.  Nikko is a resort town in the mountains located about 150 miles north of Tokyo.  It is a popular winter sports destination and also has many natural hot springs in the area.  There are also three historic Shinto Buddhist temples in the town dating from the eighth century, and they now comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The town of Nikko in 2008

The famous Shinkyo ("God Bridge"),
the symbol of Nikko

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Frances gets a kimono in the mail

This is a decidedly personal letter from Frances, and it gives us a little insight into their relationship.  Frances was rather hurt by Maj. Gillham's recent letter, but she is able to put a positive spin on it and, as we have seen in all the letters from both sides, end on a romantic note. 

Jan. 24, 1946


Today your letter arrived written Jan. 11 where you had received no mail from me.  You made me feel terrible and such a heel.  Since I got my second wind around here, I've been trying to do better.

I love you darling and I enjoy writing to you.  Each letter is like a little visit with you.  When I am not good company for myself and those around here, I hate to have you see me that way, even in a letter visit.

I am proud of you and your work with MacArthur's reports.  I feel like you do, that at last you are in the middle of important happenings.  You know what occurs and why.  I am glad you can get the broad scope of things -- that you can see the stars above the city's glittering lights.

I am still very much of a woman and I just thoroughly enjoy the sweet little love messages you write in your letters.  They are balm for my lonely heart.

This letter made me feel like you were really here.  You started off reprimanding me for not writing you and ended up by telling me that you loved me and had dreamed about me.  It was like our quarrels.  They start off with words flying thick and fast and end up with kisses.

Darling, the lovely kimono came today. It was mailed Dec. 18 and reached here Jan. 24.  It was well wrapped.  You did an excellent job on that.  I love the colors in the kimono.  I think it is the loveliest that I've seen.  It fits nicely except in length and I think when the obi is wrapped around it will be just right.  You are an angel to think of me and select such a nice one for me!

Mother 'Cile is still in bed, but Bryant and I are carrying on in our fashion.  Mother got up once today and let us know our fashion wasn't hers.  I have Bryant now to the point where she can laugh it off and not let it get her down.

I bought Martha a toidy chair like Emily and Monty used to have.  I left her little seat at Carol West's and she never did send it.  Anyway, this arrangement has many advantages.  I start tomorrow to retrain her.  Before leaving Robles, I purchased a little pot, but when I put it under the chair it didn't fit.  I had to buy a Pyrex dish to fit!

Martha loves the children.  She makes up to them -- Margaret included -- and enjoys them to the utmost.  They play with her, feed her and care for her all the time.  She is growing so much that she is about to outgrow her little corduroys that I bought in Pacific Grove.

The other day Monty came home late from school.  I asked her if she'd had to stay in because she had talked.  She said that she had!  She also added this bit, "Yesterday, the teacher said she'd give us one more chance to stop talking, but today she didn't."  Monty learned a bit of life there!

Last night Frank Dixon came out to have dinner with us.  You met his father and mother one time at the Piedmont Hospital.  He is Mother Ki's great nephew.  During the war he was cited for his bravery in combat twice.  He flew low altitude bombers from New Guinea.  He is now a freshman at Tech.  He is twenty two, been half way around the world, fought all thru a war and is now starting to school again. 

He says that if this Col. Van Leer continues as president of Ga. Tech, Tech will emerge as "the" technical school of the world.  Van Leer has just secured $300,000 from the Ga. Power Company.  He has posters all around the campus like this --

1899 -- Georgia Tech -- Outstanding technical school in the South
1959 -- Georgia Tech -- Outstanding technical school in the World

They are striving to make it better than M.I.T. before that.

He is making all the professors who haven't got the proper degrees go to evening school and get them.

There is still a Naval V-12 unit there.

With all my love to the dearest angel in the whole wide world.  You are so sweet and I could just eat you up!



Blake Ragsdale Van Leer was the fifth president of Georgia Tech, from 1944 until he died in 1956.  He graduated from Purdue University in 1915 and was on the faculty of several southern schools before WWII.  After the war, where he had attained the rank of colonel, he returned to become the president of Georgia Tech.  As Frank Dixon correctly points out, Van Leer did a lot to attract businesses to Atlanta and professors to Tech to make the area a technical hub.  He died short of his 1959 deadline, but the electrical and computer engineering building bears his name today.

The V-12 Naval College Training Program was set up during World War II on campuses across the country in order to augment the supply of naval officers in the war effort. The program began in 1943 and was phased out in June 1946, so not too long after Frances wrote this letter the program was ended at Georgia Tech. Some notable graduates of the program were Robert F. Kennedy, Johnny Carson, Jack Lemmon, Bowie Kuhn, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Maj. Gillham tells of his jeep trip on his day off

Here is a quick note written by Maj. Gillham after traveling about the countryside in his jeep on his day off.

22 Jan 1946

Dearest Love,

I haven't been by the office today so I don't know whether I got a letter or not.

I got the jeep this morning.  It had beautiful pea green seat covers, which they have gotten the Japs to make especially for jeeps.  It rained all last night, but today was a fine day.  It was cool and fresh, but I wore long underwear and was very comfortable.  I got a Capt. Lehman who works for me and we toured the countryside making all the back roads and not knowing exactly where we were half the time.

About noon we went by the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Div., which is about 25 miles out of Tokyo.  That is where Geo. Bull is stationed, so we went by to see him, and he had us for dinner.  They are located at an old Japanese military school or camp.  It is somewhat better than the 4th Replacement Depot, but nothing to brag about.  However, they have fixed it up pretty nice.  The ceiling of the officers' club is all festooned with silk from parachutes and they have a bar which is open at noon.  They had built the bar from airplane aluminum and done a swell job.  I have also seen a number of excellent cabs built on jeeps from the same material.  The G.I. is certainly ingenious, especially when it come to looking after his own comfort.

Lehman lives at the Peers Club, so when we got back I went there and had dinner with him.  It was built as a sort of town club for the members of the House of Lords when the diet is in session.  It was modeled after the English and is very "heavy" and elegant.

I am nice and physically tired tonight.  I feel relaxed and like I will sleep very well.

So, good night, sweetheart -- I love you.



The First Cavalry Division is one of the most storied divisions of the U.S. Army.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the fall of Manila, the "First Cav" was one of the divisions that amassed in Australia and was led by Gen. MacArthur up through Indonesia and eventually won back the Philippines.  The division figured heavily in MacArthur's plans for a ground invasion of Japan, but these were never implemented due to the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The First Cav was the first division to arrive in Japan after the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.  The installation Maj. Gillham visits in this letter was known as Camp Drake, which had once been a Japanese troop facility.  It was First Cav headquarters and was located near the town of Asaka in the Saitama Prefecture, about 25 miles northwest of Tokyo.  It remained a U.S. Army installation until 1998, when it was given back to the Japanese.

The shoulder insignia patch of the First Cavalry Division

Friday, April 9, 2010

Maj. Gillham receives a package from home

Here is another quick letter from Maj. Gillham, this time letting Frances know that his cold is behind him and that he has received her package.

21 Jan 46

Dearest Darling,

I think I am on the upper part of my curve now, for I am feeling much better.  In addition, several nice things have happened to me lately.  In the first place, I am planning to take off tomorrow and that makes the future brighter.  Then today I got your card from Capistrano and the first box that you sent me.  Tonight I found that I had won a good 15-jewel wrist watch in a PX raffle.

Thanks a thousand times for the nice box.  It looked like a steam roller had run over it but everything was in good shape.  The little decoration is pretty and cheerful and I have hung it on my wall.  The light bulb was intact and although I don't need it as badly as when I first requested it, I am still glad to have it.  The toothpicks were a pleasant surprise.  I was wondering the other day why I hadn't put some in my foot locker.  The sox are a perfect fit, and very appropriate, since I am wearing low shoes here more than I had expected to.  And you know the dates and apricots hit the spot with me.  There is nothing available in Japan in any way similar to them.  I am only afraid they won't last long enough.  Although I am only drinking chlorinated water at present, I am sure the little cork coasters will come in handy.  Thanks again so much.  It makes me feel like I have almost had a little visit with you.  The little packages were very pretty and look like you must have had some smart helpers.

The watch I got is a 15-jewel Swiss.  I think it is a good one.  Now I must try to get Dan's watch back to him without anything happening to it, but I won't mail it.

Now that I have arranged to get off tomorrow, it has started raining.  I am going to get a jeep and do a little scouting anyhow.  I think I will drive myself -- wonder how I will get along driving on the left.  I haven't tried it yet.

Also, today I got my Christmas present from the Telephone Co.  A book called "I'll Try Anything Twice," looks like good light reading.  It was sent to Chicago.  I have sent them a number of address-change notices, but they seem to have a wrong file.

The only trouble with getting a letter that comes very quickly, like my last from you, is that then it is always several days before you get another one.

I love you, my little darling.  You have become the center of my universe, and all my plans, hopes, and desires revolve in relation to you.  You still remain my most successful venture.  I can always say that at least once I bet on the right horse -- a 100% winner by ten lengths.  And I have already cashed in much happiness and satisfaction on that ticket, and see no reason why it should not continue to pay off.  There!  Have you ever been compared to a horse before?  Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the race, too.

Lots of love,



As I had mentioned before, the Japanese drive on the left side of the road, and it has nothing to do with British influence.  The practice dates back centuries to samurai warriors that would pass each other on the left so that the hilts of their swords would touch, thereby making it difficult for a (presumably right-handed) warrior to unlimber his sword against the other. 

The book I'll Try Anything Twice was written by legendary sportswriter Fred Russell in 1945.  Russell was based in Nashville, TN, but was well-known nationally and wrote in the traditional manner of such greats as Red Smith, Grantland Rice and Ring Lardner.  This book was actually a follow-up to his spectacularly popular first effort from 1944, I'll Go Quietly, which was written primarily for the armed forces in World War II as a form of entertainment during their duties.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Frances joins her family's church

In this short letter, Frances describes her first visit to Druid Hills Methodist Church, which her parents and sister attend regularly.  It was then located at the corner of Blue Ridge and Seminole Avenues, near the corner of Highland and Ponce de Leon Avenues.  It has since been relocated to the northeast corner of Ponce de Leon and Briarcliff Avenues, about two blocks from the original site.

Jan. 20, 1946


Enclosed is a copy of the Methodist Paper at Druid Hills.  The preacher had me come up to the front by myself and shake hands with him.  The the congregation stood up and sang "Bless Be the Ties that Bind."  Never have I had such a reception.

The preacher is from Virginia and very much like Bob Montague.  He doesn't have much to do with the "common rabble," including my family.  When he found out I had lived in Charlottesville and was married to a Montague and that Mother was descended from the French Huguenots, he can't be nice enough!

I told him that you attended the U. of Va.  He asked me if you had studied law.  I told him that you had studied military government.  Evidently he had been thinking how fine it was that you had graduated from there in law that he didn't understand my explanation.  In the pulpit yesterday he talked seven minutes about you and me and Virginia -- and that you had graduated from the University in law!

Blanche and I had dinner downtown last night and went to the Rialto to see "Kiss and Tell."  Wasn't it darling?

Emily went back to school today.  So, she is well again.

Much love,



The "Methodist Paper" Frances refers to is actually what we would call a Sunday bulletin, this one dated January 20, 1946.  I have the bulletin, but unfortunately I have no scanner here at my place in Atlanta, but I can transcribe the section pertaining to the Gillham family:

"We are happy to welcome Major and Mrs. W. T. Gillham.  Mrs. Gillham was the former Miss Holsenbeck and is now living with her mother at 992 Washita Avenue, N.E., Wa. 2462.  Major Gillham is now in Japan and is a member of the staff of General Douglas MacArthur.  They come to us from the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia.  They have three children, Emily Helen, 10, Frances Montague, 7, and Martha Bryant, 11 months."

The Huguenots were French Calvinists who, since the 17th century, had been persecuted for their Protestant beliefs.  Many were driven from France to various other European countries, including Britain.  Many of those in Britain then left for the colonies, mainly New York and South Carolina.  The first Huguenots to settle in New York were from the De La Noye family, which shortened its name to Delano.  Franklin Roosevelt's mother came from this line.

Kiss and Tell was a movie from 1945 starring Shirley Temple in one of her several teenage roles.  Maj. Gillham had written earlier that he had seen the movie in Japan, as well.  The Rialto Theater in Atlanta, located not far from Herren's Restaurant, was built in 1916 as a movie theater, but was razed in 1962 to make way for a new theater.  That theater is still in existence today, owned by Georgia State University, and is known as the Rialto Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Meanwhile, back at HQ...

Today we return to Maj. Gillham briefly, as he writes a letter from his office using pale green paper.  In this letter he recounts a trip to a local park and tells Frances of the new stay-healthy campaign that he has started for himself.  He also confirms his final release day, which now gives both parties a specific date to look forward to.

20 Jan 46

Dearest Love,

How do you like my pretty green paper?  I am at the office and this is what we use for file copies.  I was on duty today.  It is now 1830 and I have to stay here until 2100.  The rest of the force was off today.  Col. Buchanan had to come do some work here this afternoon, so he let me get away for a few hours.

I went out to the zoo and museum at Ueno Park.  It was a very nice zoo and they still have a good many animals left, but they are mostly herbiverous.  There were some fine giraffes, kangaroos, monkeys, etc., and quite a collection of fowl.  Two things that surprised me as zoo items were Holstein cows and ordinary pigs.  I went to a natural history and science museum.  They has some very good exhibits, but it had run down somewhat.  There were some stuffed long-tailed roosters whose tails were about 12 ft. long.  I wanted to go to the Imperial Household Museum there, but it is closed until March.  It is the finest in Japan.

I had a rather novel experience the other day.  I ate breakfast with a Russian officer who could not speak English, and as my Russian is a little rusty we conversed in Japanese.  He was good in Japanese, but he used a low or impolite form and had a gutteral accent.  I used the rather stilted, very polite forms that we learned at Chicago and had a southern U.S. accent, but in spite of it all we made ourselves understood.

You remember the sample translations I sent you recently?  Well, I have been working on a real tough one.  It is a paper on British economics by a Russian author translated into English by a Japanese editor.

Recently I began to notice that I was becoming more and more nervous.  The pressure and working conditions of my job are nerve-wracking in themselves.  They pour coffee at us all the time and I had been drinking a good deal of it.  Also, I was smoking more and more, and taking a nip or bottle of beer each evening.  I decided it was all doing me no good, so several days ago I cut out tobacco, alcohol and coffee all at once.  Until then I didn't realize how insidiously they had crept in on me.  I went around quaking like an aspen for a couple of days, but now I am beginning to feel much better and calmer.  I will probably go back to all three, but in moderation.  I think I learned a good lesson -- and in time.

I just got a December Reader's Digest.  Did you read the article in there about the emotional cycle, "Why we all have 'ups and downs'"?  I have been vaguely conscious of it for some time and believe it accounts for a good bit.

I would like to see Martha on her birthday.  I'll be she is cute.  I sent her a little present which should arrive on time.  You may have take it up a bit, but then you can let it out as she grows.

There was an interesting article about house planning in a current (here) Life.  It has some good points.  How does the housing situation look in that vicinity?

My release date from the Army looks like 15 May.  That may mean I start leaving here at that time.  Whenever it is it will be wonderful to have you in my arms again.




Ueno Park, located about three miles northeast of the Dai Ichi building and the Imperial Palace, is a very popular park in Tokyo and is still the location of the zoo and the natural science museum. 

Ueno Park, Tokyo, in the spring of 2004,
with cherry trees in blossom.

The Ueno Zoo is the oldest in Japan, founded in 1882 during the Meiji Empire.  Astoundingly, the zoo was used for propaganda purposes in March 1945 (less than a year before this letter) when captured U.S. Army Air Force pilot Ray Halloran was placed naked in an empty tiger cage and displayed to the Japanese public.  There were no tigers in the zoo because the government had ordered all wild and dangerous animals killed, for fear that a bomb might destroy their enclosures and send the ferocious animals into the streets of the city.  This would corroborate Maj. Gillham's description of the zoo as having primarily herbivorous animals at that point.

The National Museum of Nature and Science was also built during the Meiji era of westernization, and the original 1871 building still stands today.

The National Museum of Nature and Science, in 2007

Also in Ueno Park is the Tokyo National Museum, which Maj. Gillham refers to as the Imperial Household Museum.  It was founded in 1872 and was also another modernization project of the Meiji emperor.  In 1882 the museum was moved into an old temple, where it remains today.  The museum seems to be the Japanese equivalent of the Smithsonian Institute, in terms of the width and breadth of its exhibits.