Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My mother hated the Japanese

Eileen Flora, Easter dinner 1999, MCL Cafeteria, West Lafayette, IN It’s probably a good thing my mother didn’t live to see the Japanese Trifecta Disaster.

You see, Mom hated the Japanese with an implacable white-hot passion.

Why? Because her nephew Norman was a U.S. Navy ensign who was captured by the Japanese in the fall of Corregidor, the last U.S. stronghold in the Philippines in World War II. Norman suffered through three years of brutal abuse in a Japanese prison camp. At one point, American prisoners of war were being shipped from the Philippines to Japan to work as slave labor in the mines. Norman was judged too ill to make the voyage, a twist of fate that saved his life. The transport ship in which he would have sailed was mistakenly torpedoed and sunk by an American submarine.

All of this, plus his condition when he returned home, fed a hatred that became stronger and more irrational in Mom’s later years. I remember several occasions when we took her to lunch or dinner and noticed Japanese students from nearby Purdue University. She would mutter darkly and make us cringe for fear of serious public embarrassment. Fortunately, it never went further than that.

I’d like to think she’d have some pity for the Japan of today, but I kinda doubt it.

For his part, Norman is alive and well at 90, living in southern California. He was an ad exec for Toyota before his retirement in 1985.

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