Saturday, August 7, 2010

The cherry blossoms will be blooming soon

Spring is in the air in Tokyo as well as Atlanta, and Maj. Gillham gives a report about the famed cherry blossoms of Japan.  This is a very brief letter, but, interestingly, he wrote it on GHQ-SCAP stationery, which gave me an opportunity to let you see it via a scan. 

26 Mar 1946

Dearest Darling,

I got a letter today from Walter Oates' boy, Buddy.  He says he is in the ninth grade.  I can't realize it.  I must be getting to be an old man.

I got a pair of Japanese Army binoculars today.  I will send them along before long as all such trophies have to be mailed before 1 May.

The weather is a little better now and the Japs are forecasting that the cherries will bloom within a week.  I am anxious to see that -- then I will be ready to come home.

There really isn't much to write about tonight, but I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I still love you.  Every day that passes now is one less that we will have to be separated.  They can't go by too quickly to suit me.  I'll bet that all of the children will have grown so much I will scarcely recognize them.

I certainly hope you are all well now and will stay that way.  I am taking the vitamin pills that you sent me regularly.

Loads of love,



Here is the first paragraph of the above letter, showing the letterhead of SCAP:

Incidentally, Walter Oates was a childhood friend of Maj. Gillam's, from Kerrville, Tennessee.  I visited him in 1974 with Frances and Maj. Gillham, and again in 1989 on my own while I was driving through Memphis.  On the second trip I got to meet Buddy's son, as well. 

Interestingly, the date of this letter is almost exactly 34 years after the planting of the first two cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, on March 27, 1912.  The trees were a gift of the mayor of Tokyo and were planted by the First Lady, Helen Taft, and the wife of the Japanese ambassador, Viscountess Chinda.  The first National Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935, but festivals during the war were suspended and the tradition began again in the spring of 1947, a year after Maj. Gillham's letter.

In 1968 Lady Bird Johnson accepted a gift from the Japanese government of 3,800 new cherry trees, which were planted around the Tidal Basin.  I distinctly remember hearing about this when I was growing up, and for a long time I was under the false impression that these were the very first trees gifted to the U.S.  Below is a photo of the trees in bloom with the Jefferson Memorial


1 comment:

Martha Waskey said...

The scanner works great! Thanks Andrew.
I remember hearing about Walter Oats during my childhood, but don't really remember meeting him. I think they used to go boating together as in The Adventures of William Tucker.