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.