Exhibit looks at lives of Americans who lived on Okinawa after WWII
With help from American families, a visual history of the island post-WWII is going public
By Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, January 26, 2008

NANJO, Okinawa — Quonset-hut homes and schools.

Bustling, downtown black-market streets.

The bashful smiles of children and landscapes of war-torn Okinawa.

These scenes, recorded more than 60 years ago through the camera lenses of the first Americans to remain on Okinawa after World War II, will be on display here in March.

Many of the 600 still photographs and 12 rolls of 8 mm film were taken between the mid-1940s and late 1950s, some as early as 1946, when the first group of military dependents and civilian workers came to the island.

The exhibition — titled “From the Ashes: Courage and Determination” — will take place March 1-9 at Ozato Noson Kankyo Kaizen Center in Ozato of Nanjo City.

The images were donated by 15 American families who lived on Okinawa when the island was struggling to rise from the ashes of World War II, said Shizuo “Alex” Kishaba, chairman of the Ryukyu American Historical Research Society, the exhibition sponsor.

“The pictures taken by American people are a precious treasure of Okinawa because hardly any Okinawa people had cameras or 8 mm movie cameras in those days,” he said.

Judy Scott of North Carolina was 5 when she, her mother, Martha Holdsworth, and her younger sister, Kathryn, joined her father, Army Maj. Edward Holdsworth, on Okinawa in 1947.

Their Quonset home, which was located where Awase Golf Course is now, was primitive and goods were scarce, but the life was full of excitement, Scott wrote in a recent e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

“I remember sleeping on an Army cot with mosquito netting around it,” she said, adding that a military jeep occasionally would come by and spray DDT to kill mosquitoes.

“It’s a wonder we’re still living!” she joked.

She cherishes the memories of her sixth birthday, the day Super Typhoon Libby hit the island and her family was evacuated to a shelter. In the middle of the night, her mother gave her a special present.

“My mother was able to find a cupcake from somebody,” Scott said.

The shelves at the commissary had limited supplies of food and household supplies, she said. So everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of supply ships from the States.

Looking out from a hilltop where their home was, her mother could tell when a ship came in and would rush to the commissary Scott said.

Among the photos in the exhibit is a picture of exhausted-looking people disembarking a ship at Naha port after a two-week voyage from Fort Mason in San Francisco. Records show that 27 families arrived aboard the SS David C. Shanks at the Naha port on July 27, 1946. They were the first military dependents.

One-year-old Albert William Andrew, his mother Wilhelmina and his older brother, Sam Andrew III, were among those to join his father, Chief Warrant Officer Sam Andrew Jr.

Their adventure on the island was vividly described in a letter his mother wrote to her son, Sam, in 1999.

The voyage across the Pacific aboard a ship with no air conditioning made all the children aboard get heat rash, she wrote. But their thrilling new experience started as soon as they landed on Okinawa. Their arrival was welcomed by several B-29 bombers that flew over the boat to salute them, her letter said.

“We were the first Army and Air Corps dependents to arrive as the Peace Treaty was signed only eleven months before,” she wrote.

Their Quonset home featured a kerosene-burning refrigerator but no stove. The commissary was stocked with Army rations in large cans, and the post exchange was not ready for family members.

“The PX was really bare; their stock consisted of shoestrings, polish, GI socks … there were no shoes for women or kids,” Andrew wrote.

Yet, people in the small military community helped each other and got along well, she said.

“We were all trying to sew, make curtains — share ideas and scraps of cloth,” she said.

She made her baby’s baptism dress from a piece of parachute. “It was real nice. I embroidered it.”

The scarcity of goods was not a major concern for the Andrew family, Bill Andrew said from his California home during a recent phone interview.

“What was important for us was we could all be together,” he said.

The Andrews returned to the States after a two-year stay and came to the island for the second time in 1959, when Bill Andrew was a teenager.

He said the highlight of the second tour was when he and his father met legendary golfer Lee Trevino, then a Marine Corps sergeant, at the Awase Golf Course.

Andrew also recalled the beautiful islands he saw from Hedo Point and the happy and friendly Okinawan people.

“It was just a wonderful experience that we always fondly look back on,” he said.

Scott could not agree more. Her family stayed on Okinawa until 1949, and the memories are still sharp.

“I will never forget our two years there, even though I was only 5 to 6 years old,” she said.

WWII-era film and photos shot on Okinawa wanted.
Ryukyu American Historical Research Society, a nonprofit organization, is looking for photographs and motion-picture film shot on Okinawa during the war or the postwar period that can be loaned or donated to the exhibit.

For more information, contact Shizuo “Alex” Kishaba at Kishaba@ryubei.com or 81-98-895-7109.

The Web site for Ryukyu American Historical Research Society is www.ryubei.com.

Photo exhibition
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 1-9
Where: Ozato Noson Kankyo Kaizen Center at Ozato in Nanjo City.
Directions: Take Highway 329 south and proceed until it meets Highway 330 at Yonabaru
Intersection. Turn to the right at the intersection and stay on Highway 329 until you see the circus-tent-like pachinko parlor “E-Space.” Turn to the left at the traffic signal to Highway 77. There will be a sign posted at the turn for the exhibition. Continue driving through Nakama Intersection. Look for a sign for the exhibit that directs you to turn right.

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