Mrs Joyce Hill, nee Joyce Davis, was a member of the WAS(B) -- the Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma) -- in 1944 and 1945. Her brother, Michael, was one of the airmen killed with my mother's first husband when their Liberator was shot down over Rangoon on 29 Feb 1944. (See 159 Squadron section for details I'd previously posted to the site)
During the war Joyce was living in Bombay, where her father was a Captain in the Royal Indian Navy. After Michael was posted as missing, she joined the WAS(B) -- and eventually made her way into Burma with British troops.
Arriving at the site of a just-completed Burma battle in late 1944, she found a correspondence and some stamps and currency alongside the body of a dead Japanese soldier.
All these years later she lent me the letter, which I had translated. It turned out to be a personal correspondence to a named officer from a lady representing his Tokyo neighborhood's Women's Committee, and it wished him well in his difficult duties on the front. Furthermore, it mentioned that his wife and children were fine, so he should not worry.
In the summer of 1999, with Joyce's permission, I contacted the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC (near to where I live in America) and initiated a search for the widow. Late in the following spring I received word that she was alive in Japan and would greatly appreciate acquiring the letter. I visited the Embassy in June 2000 and handed over this artifact, to be immediately sent to the widow via channels. I have had no contact with her.
I am told that ancestor worship is central to the Japanese culture and Shinto religion. More importantly, to many believers, the soul of a soldier who was missing in action could never return home to Japan until his remains, OR a battle flag or diary or personal letter taken from the corpse, could be "set free." In the eyes of the widow, perhaps, the return of the letter to Japan has allowed this soldier's spirit to finally come home -- a major event.
The full contents of the letter are as follows:
To Mr. Fukukichi Hiramoto
It is the time when mornings and evenings are getting chilly. I hope that you are keeping busy with your duties every day. I am sure that things are not easy working in the front line.
We, the women's association, greatly appreciate your command. Your neighbors and children are doing well. Your wife is also doing well so please do not be concerned.
The winter is coming up soon, so please take care of yourself and I hope your duties go well.
Asayo Koyama October 8th (1944)
12 Enokicho Ushigomeku, Tokyo