Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mysteries From The Past...!


I'm sure that this must have been quite a surprise to these veterans.

Probably had many of them scratching their heads as well! After you read the whole story, you'll see it's really pretty cool!

Thank-you cards from China pose mystery for WWII vets
By LINDSAY WISE, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Updated 11:09 p.m., Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ed Denzler was baffled by the postcard from China he received in Pearland. Even when an engineer at NASA translated it, the World War II veteran was stumped.

The postcard arrived in Ed Denzler's mailbox in Pearland last month, a mystery from his past nestled among the routine bills and coupons.

Addressed in neat block letters to Denzler, the handwritten note reads, in English: "It takes a strong man to save himself, a great man to save another. Thank you for 1944. From China."

On the front is a black-and-white photograph of U.S. and Chinese service members listening to an American with a fiddle accompany two Chinese soldiers on traditional stringed instruments called erhus

The card was mailed from China, postmarked Aug. 27, and had Chinese writing on the back that Denzler couldn't decipher.

The 88-year-old World War II veteran fought in Burma in 1944 with Merrill's Marauders, a famous volunteer unit, and served with the Chinese Combat Command in 1945. But he had no idea what would have prompted such a note more than 60 years later.

"I couldn't imagine where it came from," said Denzler.

Baffled, he emailed Robert Passanisi, the historian and chairman of Merrill's Marauders Association. The 87-year-old Passanisi told him that at least four other Marauders and their descendants had received similar postcards. The messages and images varied, but the sign-off was always the same: "Thank you for 1944."

Denzler was determined to figure out who sent the cards.

At first he thought maybe his card was from Frank Chen, a Chinese interpreter he befriended during the war. The two men corresponded for a while, but Chen's letters stopped coming during China's Cultural Revolution. Denzler hasn't heard from him since.

Then he wondered if the postcard might be from an American researcher, Pat Lucas, who interviewed Denzler for a Chinese history project a few years back. But when Denzler tried to email him, the message bounced back.

Denzler even took the card to a Chinese-speaking engineer at NASA for translation. 
Denzler had spent 34 years as an engineer at Grumman, working on the Apollo lunar module and other NASA projects. His fellow engineer told him the Chinese characters on the card read, "National Memories," but could offer no other clues.

So Denzler called the Houston Chronicle.

Some Internet sleuthing by a reporter revealed a plausible answer to Denzler's postcard puzzle: A Shenzhen Daily article published online reported that students at Shenzhen Foreign Languages School in China's Guangdong Province had decided to write postcards to thank U.S. veterans for helping China resist the Japanese invasion.

The students came up with the idea this summer after visiting an exhibit of World War II photographs, according to the article.

The pictures on the postcards are from the exhibit. They have been compiled in a book titled National Memories

John Easterbrook, a grandson of former U.S. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, apparently provided names and addresses of veterans who served in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II.

The article quotes a teacher, Mei Yi, who says the postcards prove that in China, young people don't forget history.

"By expressing their gratitude, the students learned that peace does not naturally occur," Mei said. "We have to strive for it."

Denzler's face lit up when he heard the story.

"Ha ha! Isn't that great?" he said.

He wants the students in China to know how much he appreciated their note. "It kind of helped me, in my recovery from a stroke, to remember things I thought I'd forgotten."

Another veteran, Jay Campbell, 86, of New York, also received a postcard. The message was the same as Denzler's, but the picture showed a Chinese boy with his thumbs up.

Campbell was so befuddled that he took the card to the post office to verify it really came from China.

"I couldn't understand it," he said.

Campbell served with the Marauders in Burma, earning three Purple Hearts.

"A lot of these guys don't talk a lot about it," said his daughter, Debbie Campbell Rice. "All he's ever said to me is, 'If I told you what I saw or did or about my nightmares, you'd lock me up in a straightjacket,' so it must have been pretty bad."

When told that the card likely came from a Chinese student, Campbell was delighted.

"I'll be darned," he said. "That is something, isn't it? Boy, oh, boy!"

In Colorado, Irene Clurman received a card with a photo showing an American GI reading to a Chinese boy. The message reads, "Thank you for 1944, and best wishes. From: China."

Her father, Charles Clurman, also had served in Burma with the Marauders. He died in 2001 at age 82.

Clurman said the card carries special meaning because her father was born in China.

"His father was murdered by Japanese in occupied Manchuria, and so when the United States declared war, my father signed up, and then he volunteered to go to the Pacific to avenge his father," she said. "I wish he were alive to see this card from China because it's all coming full circle."

Sorry about the length of the post, but I thought the story was great enough to share the whole thing with you.

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside for a bit!

16 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

Linked this; hope you don't mind.

HermitJim said...

Hey Gorges...
My friend, I don't mind a bit! I think it's a good story!

Thanks for coming over today!

Tatersmama said...

Amazing stuff, and I'm glad you shared it with us! No coffee for me right now as I'm well past my bedtime, but you have a wonderful day my friend - and hopefully you'll be enjoying better weather this time of year...

thecottagebythecranelakeolof1 said...

What a great story!

Have a great day!
Christer.

Ken said...

...good one Jim,a little ironic also...we,as a nation,have saved sooo many,and all they do is come back and bite us in the ass...
...but sumtimes,people are just people,know what i mean...

Lon said...

Thank you for sharing this with me, for I really enjoyed reading this!

It's funny because I'm usually just a tea drinker, but before getting to the end of this story I was actually enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

Sixbears said...

No need to apologize for the length. Good story.

Momlady said...

Great post, thank you, Jim.

SHARON said...

What a great story, Jim. They are truly "The Great Generation", and we are losing them SO fast.
I know you won't mind if I copy it and send it to my friend, Sylvia, whose husband is Chinese.
Thanks, my friend.

Dizzy-Dick said...

It gives me some hope for the future when the young people of China did this on their own. Makes me feel warm all over.

JoJo said...

What a wonderful story. Great Post.

Rick Kratzke said...

You just never know when a good deed get's repaid in some form or anther, great read.

HermitJim said...

Hey Tatersmama...
Don't worry about staying up on our account...you just get to bed!

I do appreciate you dropping by today, my friend!


Hey Christer...
Thanks, my friend. That means a lot!

Happy you could drop over today!


Hey Ken...
When we remove the politics and the bosses out of the picture, all of us are more alike than we know!

Good to see you again, buddy! Thanks for coming over today!


Hey Lon...
Always glad to have folks drop in. I do hope that drinking coffee doesn't have any adverse effects on ya!

Come back by often and thanks for the visit!


Hey Sixbears...
I'm glad you liked it!

Thanks for dropping in today!


Hey Momlady...
Always a pleasure to see you! I'm glad you liked the story, and glad you could drop by today!


Hey Sharon...
I certainly don't mind if you send this on to anyone you think might enjoy it!

Sad but true that so many of that generation is fading fast! Hope we learned at least some of the lessons they tried to pass on to us!

Thanks for coming over today!


Hey DD...
It is pretty cool that in this day where showing any kind of kindness to our country could almost be considered a crime, these students felt it was important enough to do it!

Thank for coming over today, buddy!

HermitJim said...

Hey JoJo...
Glad you enjoyed the post, sweetie!

Hope you got the sound back on your television, and that you get the internet straightened out pretty soon!

Always super nice to see your smiling face!


Hey Rick...
Boy, ain't that the truth? No one was more surprised that these veterans, I'm thinking!

I saw a picture in the paper of one of them holding up his card and he sure did have a big ol' smile on his face!

As always, heartfelt thanks and blessings go out to all our veterans for all their service everywhere!

Thanks for coming over today!

Ben in Texas said...

Great story. thanks again teacher

Bobby said...

Just like that. Out of the blue. Great story. Thanks for sharing this with us.