Monday, December 26, 2011

Maj. Gillham arrives safely in Nagasaki

Maj. Gillham finally makes it to Kyushu, and the weather is also cooperating.  He visits the hot springs resort of Beppu as well as the devastated city of Nagasaki.  This is one of the rare occasions where Maj. Gillham failed to write the date or place on his letter, and we can only go by the postmark, which is April 23, 1946.

Dearest Darling,

Got to Fukuoka OK and had a very interesting stay. Visited a Japanese Power plant there. Left by train as the weather was still foul, and went to Beppu. Had a Japanese dinner with the Power Co. officials at Fukuoka. The president of the company there gave me a furoshiki (large square scarf) which is very pretty.

Beppu is the nicest place I have seen in Japan. It was not damaged and is a very charming city. The Marines are currently occupying Kyushu, but there are very few in Beppu. We were quartered in a lovely Japanese hotel overlooking the bay. The Marines at Beppu have had sense enough not to try to change Japan overnight. When they take a Japanese hotel for a billet they are continuing to operate it in the Japanese manner. You remove your shoes upon entering, sleep on the floor in a futon, etc. When that method is followed, it doesn't upset the Japs' routine and everything is deluxe. The power officials there gave us a party with all the trimmings. I learned a couple of new games that I think are good. In the afternoon they took us on a tour of the many hot springs in the area. Also, we visited the home of a prosperous farmer and had tea. It was all very interesting indeed. Now I feel that I have seen a fairly good cross section of Japan.

The weather for the last two days has been beautiful. We were able to get a plane out of Oita, near Beppu, for Omura today. From Omura we came to Nagasaki in a little two-seater cab. They had to make two trips to bring us over. It was a most interesting flight. We landed on a strip that the Sea Bees have built right in the middle of the devastated area. Due to the hills, the damaged area is not as extensive as at Hiroshima, but the area that was hit is certainly laid waste.

We are staying at the field officers' billet here. A very nice Japanese house. Only about six Marines living here. I will write more detail later. I love you darling.



A furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, which originally was used to wrap clothing while one was at a bath.  Now it can be used for anything, and is often used to wrap presents.

Beppu is a major tourist destination on the island of Kyushu, mainly popular for its hot springs (known in Japanese as onsen).  The town was settled relatively recently, in 1924, so it was barely 20 years old when Maj. Gillham visited it.  The city is famous for its nine "hells," or hot springs.  Below is a photo of one of them, known as the "Sea Hell."

Nagasaki, also on the island of Kyushu, was bombed by the Allied Forces three days after the destruction of Hiroshima, on August 9, 1945.  Unlike the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima, this bomb was plutonium, and the amount of damage to the city was minimized because of the vicinity of the mountains, as Maj. Gillham mentions in his letter.  Still, nearly 75,000 people were killed upon the impact of the bomb, and most of the Mitsubishi armament plants were destroyed (which had built the weaponry used to bomb Pearl Harbor).  Below is a photo of the destruction, showing the mountains.

Below is a map of Kyushu, showing the various prefectures and cities, including Beppu (in Oita Prefecture), Fukuoka, and Nagasaki.

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