25
Jul

The Story Behind the Friendship Dolls of 1926

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Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, there was strife between Japan and the United States as early as 1907 when the US passed immigration laws making it challenging for Japanese citizens to immigrate to the US. In 1924, an Immigration Act effectively barred Japanese from entering the US, even making it difficult for Japanese war brides to return to the US with their husbands.

Saddened by the deteriorating relations between the countries, in 1924, Reverend Sidney L. Gulick, a missionary to Japan, founded a committee called World Friendship Among Children. They began collecting dolls from United States children, planning to send them on a good will mission the children of Japan and scheduled to arrive in time for their national doll festival on March 3rd.

The committee collected 12,739 blue-eyed, blonde haired dolls, and dressed them in typical American clothes. They attached a message to each doll. “May the United States of America and Japan always stay friends. I am being sent to Japan on a mission of friendship. Please let me join the doll festival on March 3 in your country” The dolls carried a passport which read, “This doll is a good citizen of the United States of America. She will obey all the laws and customs of your country. Please take care of her while she is with you.”

The dolls were well-received by the children in schools and kindergartens around Japan. As a return good-will gesture, in November, 1927, fifty-eight Japanese Ambassador dolls were returned to the United States. Each was named for a particular province or Japanese town, such as Miss Akita, or Miss Ehime. Each stood 81 cm tall and was exquisitely dressed in authentically styled kimonos of fine silks and brocades, each created and valued at $2,400 (by today’s monetary standards).

The American Friendship dolls and the Japanese Ambassador dolls were displayed in museums and places of honor until the war in 1941. Sadly, large numbers of the US Friendship Dolls were destroyed in Japan during the war and most of the Japanese Ambassador Dolls in the US were put in storage or lost.

To date, at least 270 of the American dolls and 35 of the original Japanese Ambassador dolls have been recovered in Japan and America by people interested in preserving history. Many hold places of honor in museums, schools and collections both in Japan and the U.S. Many of the Japanese Ambassador dolls make their way annually back to Japan in time to celebrate the March 3rd Japanese Doll festival.

Reverend Gulick’s family continues to make and send dolls to the children of Japan in a continued friendship gesture. Since 1986, they have sent approximately ten dolls each year to schools in Japan, each dressed in traveling clothes and carrying a handbag and a passport.

A local Sacramento author, Shirley Parenteau, has written a delightful children’s book about the Friendship Dolls called SHIP OF DOLLS. It can be purchased at her website, www.shirleyparenteau.com or at Amazon under the title SHIP OF DOLLS.

As I child, I collected storybook dolls. I still have several of my childhood dolls on display in china cabinets. Tell me about your favorite doll or doll related story. I’d love to hear from you.

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27
Apr

All Aboard the Friendship Train

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While doing research for the WWII novel I’m currently writing, I often find information of little remembered history from WWII. I recently learned of the Friendship Train sent to France and Italy following the war.

Much of Europe was devastated during WWII and following the war, the people continued to suffer years of deprivation, limited food supplies and a slow reconstruction of their towns.

While Drew Pearson, a popular journalist of the time, visited Europe during 1947, he heard that the Communists were being thanked for sending a few carloads of grain to the Europeans. Feeling that the United States could do more to help our European neighbors; he conceived the vision of the Friendship Train. His suggestions appeared in his newscast columns on October 11, 1947. He asked our citizens to donate food and clothing to help the people of France and Italy. I’m sure he must have been amazed at the response to his request.

Immediately, towns, cities, and the citizens of every state in the USA collected food for the Friendship Train. The plan was met with such enthusiasm that competition among the communities, counties, and states began for collecting and sending the largest contribution.

Five weeks later, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its trek beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state sent boxcars or trucks filled with goods to meet the Friendship Train at a junction. When it arrived in New York, we had collected and shipped $40 million in food and supplies to Europe aboard the 700-car American Friendship Train.

No money was ever spent in the process. The transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading and the use of the ships was all provided by volunteers and donations. The train's mission was an incredible display of goodwill from the people of the United States to France and Italy.

Every package had this label: "All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops." Also on every label were these words, "This gift is sent to you by: 'first and last name and address of donor.’” This message was written in Italian and French and printed beside the American flag.

In 1949, France reciprocated by collecting 49 boxcars full of gifts donated by the French citizens and returned to the USA in their Merci Train as a thank-you for our generosity. One boxcar went to each state. Upon arrival, the gifts were distributed in various ways. Some freely given, others auctioned off and many items placed in local museums. The boxcars, called 40 and 8 boxcars were vintage, having been used to transport troops during WWI and then again during WWII. Many veterans remembered being transported across Europe in these boxcars. The Merci Train cars were restored and kept in museums across the country as memorials to those who had fought and died. Most of these boxcars have survived, many now over 100 years old, and are on display in museums in 43 states.

More information about the Friendship Train and the Merci Train can be found on the internet.

14
Jan

THE DAY JAPAN BOMBED OREGON

220px-Japanese_fire_balloon_moffetRESEARCH: While researching World War II history for my latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy’s Wartime Adventure, I found another little known piece of history.

BOMB DROPPED IN BROOKINGS, OREGON: In September, 1942, a Japanese submarine off the coast of Oregon launched a float plane loaded with two 76 kilogram incendiary bombs, which it succeeded in dropping in the Siskiyou National Forest, near Brookings, Oregon. A forest fire ensued. The fire was spotted by a fire lookout tower on Mount Emily and two rangers were dispatched to the site. They were able to control the fire throughout the night until a fire crew arrived the next morning. A recent rain had kept the area wet which helped the fire crews contain the blaze.
According to records reviewed after the war, the floatplane carried two bombs. Though both were dropped, no trace was found of the second bomb.

BALLOON BOMBS: Between 1944 and 1945, the Japanese hatched a new plot to attack and torment the American citizens. They launched more than 9,000 air-balloon bombs, 70 feet tall with a 33 foot diameter made of paper and filled with hydrogen. Each carried an anti-personnel bomb and two incendiary bombs. These were launched during the fall and carried across the Pacific Ocean in about three days via the jet stream at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
Three hundred sixty one of the balloons were found in 26 states, Canada and Mexico. Several were found in San Pedro, near Redding and near Santa Rosa, California. It is likely that more balloon bombs landed in unpopulated areas of North America.
CONSEQUENCES: Some of the balloon bombs were sighted by citizens and dispatched by fighter pilots. Others landed in populated areas and caused some degree of damage by igniting fires. One fatality and 22 injuries resulted from subsequent fires caused by the balloons.

TRAGIC RESULTS: In May, 1945, while picnicking, a balloon bomb was found by a woman and five children. A witness warned them away, but before they could retreat, the bomb exploded, creating a 1-foot deep, 3-foot wide hole and killing the woman and all the children. Their cause of their death was withheld from the public and stated “the six were killed by an explosion of unannounced cause.” Later the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and a monument built. The six are the only known deaths in the continental USA as a result of enemy action during WWII. Japanese visitors have since visited the monument to plant cherry trees as a symbol of peace.
BLACK-OUT: Due to a press black-out during the year of the attacks, no evidence of the success of the program reached Japan and the mission was considered a total fiasco, thus the program was abandoned.

POST WWII: The remains of balloons continued to be discovered during the 1940’s and 1950’s and two in the 1960’s.

Do you know an interesting bit of history related to WWII? Can you share it on this site?

3
Jan

OWNEY, THE GLOBE-TROTTING POSTAL MASCOT

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OWNEY –The Globe-Trotting Mail Mascot - I ran across an interesting story the other day about a little mutt dog that became the nation’s Post Office mascot from 1888 - 1897. Owney, a little mixed terrier, traveled for nine years across the nation’s railways on mail trains, always returning to Albany, PA, a key division point on the New York Central railroad system, one of the two largest railroads in the U.S. at that time. Over the years, he was given medals and citations by various organizations, as the country marveled at the little dog’s dedication to the mail service.

Once, it’s said, that a mail bag fell from a delivery wagon. Owney jumped off the wagon and guarded the bag until a postal worker missed him and the mail bag and returned to find him sleeping on top of the bag, preventing anyone from touching it except a postal worker.

OWNEY’S MEDALS: Over the years, post workers around the country where Owney visited, hung medals on his collar until he had accumulated hundreds of medals. It was necessary to give him a vest on which to pin the medals. He jingled like sleigh bells when he walked.

Occasionally, Owney would jump on an outbound train and disappear for weeks or months until he would reappear in the Albany post office. A train trip into Canada got him into trouble once, when he was detained by the Canadians and held for ransom, demanding charges for his board. The Albany postmen pooled their money and bailed poor Owney out of Canada. He was returned once more to the Albany post office.

EUROPEAN TRAVELS: It is documented that in 1895, Owney traveled via steamship and rail, riding with mail bags throughout Asia and across Europe. He was fed and tended by postal workers along the way. The Emperor of Japan awarded him several medals bearing the Japanese Coat of Arms. His triumphant return to American was covered by newspapers nationwide. He became world famous after the trip.

As the years progressed, Owney’s eyesight and health failed. On orders of the local postmaster in Toledo, Ohio, they detained him (I suppose they thought for his own good) and kept him tied in a basement. The report is that he became aggressive (probably from despair at being held against his will). He allegedly attacked a postal worker and bit him. He was shot and killed on June 11, 1897.
PRESERVED AND HONORED: The nation’s postal workers refused to bury their beloved mascot. They asked that the dog receive the honor of being preserved and taxidermied. His remains were sent to the Post Office Department Headquarters and eventually to the Smithsonian Museum. His remains required an extensive taxidermy makeover by 2011 when the USPS issued a stamp honoring Owney.
Owney has been the subject of five books. His remains now stand in a glass case in the Smithsonian Institute in the National Postal Museum atrium in Washington D.C., wearing his harness and surrounded by many of his tags.

MORE INFORMATION: You can find more information about Owney in Wikipedia and other internet online resources. 273349-pb-110727-owney-stamp-rs_blocks_desktop_small

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