Letter arrives more than 60 years later

OCEANSIDE — A letter written to a Japanese lieutenant stationed in Iwo Jima in World War II was found and hand-delivered to his family more than 60 years later in a friendship ceremony at El Camino Country Club on April 1. The letter was returned thanks to the efforts of the Oceanside Sister Cities Foundation and its sister organization Kisarazu International Friendship Association in Kisarazu, Japan.
Vickie Prosser, secretary of the Oceanside Sister Cities Foundation and aide to Councilman Jack Feller, got a call that a letter written by a Japanese mother to her son had been found and the owner of the World War II artifact was looking for the family.
Prosser contacted friends she knew in Japan through the Sister Cities Foundation and in a short time the Hattori family was tracked down through the Japanese International Register.
“It was luck, technology and very organized lists,” Prosser said. “The family was thrilled.”
The nephew of the lieutenant was located and his son Motoki Hattori made the trip from Japan to Oceanside to receive the letter.
“It was something tangible,” Prosser said. “A piece of their heritage. It returned a little bit of history to their family.”
“During this very trying time in Japan, when so many have lost every bit of their family history through earthquake, tsunami or radiation, the return of one bit of history to a very proud family is heart wrenching,” Prosser added.
The letter painted a vivid picture of the World War II era. In the letter the mother told her son she was praying for him and proud of his service.
“Ouchi san says you are fulfilling a duty which equals to tens of person’s (sic) work, and it’s really the height of honor,” Machiko Hattori wrote.
Hattori also updated her son on news of family members and the new crop of sweet potatoes.
The trail of where the letter started was in Iwo Jima, Japan, where it was found by Marine, PFC John W. Puett. Puett sent the letter to his son in the United States in 1945. Years later, the Puett family sold the World War II artifact and it was purchased by Rex Butler of Cornelius, N.C.
Butler became curious about the Japanese family that had written the letter and decided to search for the family and return the letter.
After a bit of investigation, Butler found out the name of the family and that they lived in Kisarazu, Japan. That is when he contacted the Oceanside Sister Cities Foundation and the rest of the pieces of the puzzle fell together.
Motoki Hattori and his wife Mihoko Hattori attended the friendship ceremony on April 1 to receive the letter. In addition to the Hattori family, Japanese students and chaperones from the Kisarazu International Friendship Association were at the celebration.
The Japanese exchange students were in Oceanside for a weeklong visit coordinated by the Sister Cities Foundation. Students stayed with host families, visited local landmarks and attractions and attended Oceanside High School during their visit.


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