University of Florida
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
University of Florida General Collection
Interviewee: Edythe Parsons Austin
Interviewer: Steve Kerber
Date: January 18, 1979
K: Today is January 18, 1979. My name is Steve Kerber and I am going to be
interviewing Mrs. Edythe Parsons Austin. Mrs. Austin is the wife of Dr.
Oliver Austin, former curator of ornithology in the Florida State Museum.
Let's begin by having you tell me your full name.
A: Edythe Parsons Austin.
K: And where.were you born?
A: Ardsley on-Hudson, New York, in Westchester County.
K: What was your father's name?
A: William Usher Parsons.
K: And your mother's?
A: Catherine Corbin.
K: Now are you from families that have lived in New York for a long time?
A: No, actually my father came from Maine and Savannah, Georgia, if you can
imagine such a combination. They established a home in New York City. My
mother actually was an army brat. Her father was a general in the army and
she lived most of her life either abroad or in Washington, D.C. So she did
not come to the Hudson, really, until she got married.
K: Where did you grow up and go to grade school?
A: I grew up on the Hudson and I went to a ghastly school called Miss Masters',
which I hated cordially. When -I was about eleven, rightafter World War I,
we moved into New Your City, and from there I went to Miss Chapin's school
which was as good as Masters' was awful, and I loved it.
K: Were they both boarding schools?
A: Masters' was a boarding school, but I went as a day student, and Chapins'
was day students only.
K: Did you recieve much in the way of what you would today consider an education
at that time, or was it more of a polishing school for young girls?
A: Oh no, Chapins was a very stern school as far as educational content is con-
cerned. I would call it quite advanced in it's methods, although it was
very strict, and still. I got a report from the school recently and I be-
lieve they had in the senior class last year seven merit scholars out of a
class of twenty-five.
K: That is fantastic. When you finished, did you receive the equivalent of a
high school degree.
A: Oh very definitely so, but actually I was ripped out of Chapins because my
mother had a theory that whenever I was having to much fun she did something
about it. And I went to Walker's School in Simsbury, Connecticut, which was
completely a boarding school. Which I again disliked thoroughly. I think
it was very uneven, some of the classes I had were excellent, such as Latin,
and some of those, like math, were just abominable.
K: When did your mother switch you to Connecticut?
A: I should have had three more years to go, but I disliked it to such an ex-
tent that I skipped a year, which was not very good, because I went to
college when I was barely sixteen. I graduated from high school when I
K: Did you go immediately into college.
A: Yes I did. I think my father was instrumental in my going to Iymawr, be-
cause my sister went to Vassal, but she had a bit of a skirmish with the
powers that be there. She went on a college-sponsored trip to Europe and
went AWOL for two weeks in Paris and had herself a whirl, but it did not sit
well with the authorities, so that she almost got fired. So my father
thought it would be better if we were separated.
K: How many brothers and sister did you have?
A: An older sister with whom I was very congenial, and a younger brother whom I
am not that congenial with. I like him, but we have nothing in common.
K: What was your sister's name?
A: Katharine Parsons, and she married a Swede in the Diplomatic Service.
K: When did you begin classes at Brymawr?
A: I went in 1923.
K: Did you enjoy it?
A: Yes and no. I think sometimes education is wasted on the young. I think I
had a real handicap in being as young as I was, both scholastically and
socially. But some of the classes were excellent. But like so many of the
small girls' schools, I think a great many of the professors came there to
sort of get their education really, in teaching. And when they got really
good they were apt to move to some other, more important spot. The women
teachers, I think on the whole, where much better than the men.
K: They were fairly stable as far as being permanent fixtures on the campus?
A: Yes, not the men so much, although the head of the music department was
Horace Alvin who was quite famous in Philidelphia. Oddly enough, being a
Quaker school, we could not have any music on campus. So the music depart-
ment was off campus where Alvin had his own house, and it was a very good
place to study, and to learn music.
K: Didcyou have a career goal in mind when you started college, or was it just
t-ha-ite-wee assumed that you would receive a college education?
A: Well it was partly assumed that I would receive a college education, although
my mother fought it like crazy. She had been to a finishing school, and felt
that it made you a bluestocking if you went to college. But I was always in-
terested in journalism, and I think that was largely my goal. I started out
in the classics, I think I had eight or ten years of Latin all told. But
it suddenly became sort of a point of no return, what in the hell was I going
to do with it?
K: About how far through did you decide that journalism was really your main
A: I guess probably the end of my sophomore years. Because Brymawr was set up,
you had to finish all your required courses, which took about two years, in
order to graduate. And I took them all my freshman and sophomore years, so
that by the time I got to junior year, I knew pretty much which way I was
heading and changed from the classics to history and literature.
K: Who were some of the people that you recall as being influential with regard
to your aspirations or your education at that time? In other words, who were
some of your favorite professors? Was there anyone who stood out?
A: Oh yes, definitely so. There was Georgianna Goddard King, who was a friend
and a colleague of the art critic Beronsen. She had an extraordinarily good
art criticism course. My classics teacher in Latin was excellent too. Also
I had a teacher in English writing, Regina Crandall also very well known, who
was very influential in steering me towards the direction in which I wanted
to go. I think on the whole I had awfully good teachers in English Liter-
ature a Miss Donnelly, who was excellent, and Samuel Arthur Chew, who wrote
quite a few books on Shakespeare, and was quite a Shakespearian Scholar.
They are the ones plus Alvin who was head of the music school, that I prin-j
K: Did you find yourself getting more involved in social activities and extra-
curricular activities than you had before?
A: I did very little at college. I wasn't a joiner, I never really have been.
Having been locked up in the Connecticut mountains, I wanted to play. I
studied very hard from Monday to Friday, then I went Princeton or Harvard or
any place that was handy for the weekends. I went to New York, of course,
as often as I could. I do not think I every spent a weekend on campus. As
long as your grades were up, you had unlimited weekends, your were not re-
stricted in any way.
K: About how long did it take you to get to New York at that time?
A: Well, we had to take a local into Philadelphia to New York. But we almost
got into quite a lot of trouble on that. We used to get these commuter
tickets. We would pick up the punched from the floor, put them back into
the commuter ticket again and one unhappy day the conductor seized it rather
forcible and all the stubs fell out and we were held up for the damages that
we had caused, (laughter).
K: Now when did you finish up at Brynmawr?
K: Did you go on from there to Columbia?
A: Well I got married in between. Then I went to Columbia for one year to the
school of journalism, actually I guess I was there two years. I studied
under Brander Mathews.
K: Was it to study with this particular person that you chose to go there, or
was the reputation of the journalism school.
A: It was partly the reputation of the journalism school and also partly be-
cause my sister was going to the Beauty Arts school of architecture there.
So we traveled together pretty much and.our interests were pretty much a-
long the same lines. I did choose it, though, on account of Mathews, because
I respected him very much and respected his ability.
K: Did you have the opportunity to take many classes with him?
A: Yes, almost everything he taught. The groups were small so that he oversaw
the schedules completely, and was very helpful to what was going on with
each student's work. Of course you did not get any degree for this.
K: Were you taking classes in journalism, or were you doing journalistic work
on a newspaper?
A: Well, both. A great many of the newspapers, including the times, did allow
students journalists to come and do certain stints in the drama department
for one. The they had classes as well in which techniques were discussed and
a good deal of reading involved. It was really quite a Sinecure when I look
back on it.
K: Were you then pursuing an academic degree, or were you just attempting to
gain this knowledge?
A: Well I was just trying to gain some knowledge and also to find something that
looked like a career. But shortly after the two years were up, my family
moved to Boston and I had two children by that time, so I transferred to
Harvard to what they called the university extension and I took some more
writing courses there. None of them aimed towards degree.
K: Could you tell us a little bit more about the nature of the program at Harvard?
A: There was one teacher I had almost all the time, Dean White was quite well
known and George Barker, and Le Barow Briggs who were also very well known.
We had a lot of experience in different types of writing, essays, biography,
and so forth. I only stayed one year there, but I found it a very rewarding
experience and I liked it. But practically I do not think it really did all
that much for me.
K: Were you actually doing any newspaper work at that time?
A: I did some work for the Boston Globe, some for the Boston Transcript, and
some for the Christian Science Monitor, all of which were interested in
K: I should really stop you before we go any further, and ask you to tell me
a little bit about your first husband. What his name, background and
A: His name was Vincent Lawson Rich, his father was the ractor of Corpus Christ
Church in New York City. He was an Episcopalian, although neither of us
went with the faith too much. He started out in life with the Munson
Steamship Company and had a great taste for travel. He was in World War I,
first as an ambulance driver with the field service, and then he transferred
to the American army. After war was declared, he was quite severely wounded.
He was only nineteen at the time, but he was the only survivor of a squad of
eleven. He had quite a serious head wound and also a bad should wound as
well, which had repercussions in later life. And then, when we moved to
Boston, he got a job with a brokerage form because Munson Steamship Company
folded up. He remained with Rutter Company in Boston until the Second
World War was declared, at which time he joined the navy.
K: Let's get back to you and your career in Boston, now after you finished with
the Harvard program, what did you do?
A: Well I was pretty much, I am sorry to say, a housewife. Those were the days
when one did not have an awful lot of servants, I think I had two at that
point, which would seem like a lot now, but as the kids were growing up, we
had quite a menagerie of animals, horses, dogs, pigs, and so forth, which
was rather time consuming. Not only that, but after the blitz we had three
adopted British children who stayed with us for almost five years. And then
my two nieces were evacuated from Japan, so I had seven kids in that house
in Hingham. You could hardly sneeze between the driving, the cooking, and
the cleaning up, and the planning and so forth really consumed most of my
time until the war was over.
K: Would you give us your own children's names?
A: Yes, Richard Usher Rich was my son, and Susannah Rich is my daughter.
K: Now, I take it up to the Second World War then, is the time period you were
referring to when you were acting as a housewife.
A: That is it, housewife, manager, game keeper, you name it and I did it.
K: You said your husband went into the navy during the Second World War?
A: That is right.
K: Could you tell me a little bit about what happened to you in the interval
after he went into the navy and then events you told me about before, when
I was interviewing Dr. Austin, and how you got to the Pacific?
A: During the war it was pretty rough, especially on the eastern seaboard, be-
cause rationing was very strict. We had only four gallons of gasoline a
month after my husband went overseas. We lost our "A" card. At that time
the farm just became too much for me to handle, so I moved in town, got an
apartment, and took a job. The two girls went to the May School, which was
a finishing school in Boston, and my son went to Phillifos Exeter, and the
English boy went to Dublin School. And so I only had the whole family at
holiday times. By that time my brother-in-law had been evacuated from Japan,
and he went to Washington as counselor of the Swedish legation there, and
my sister joined him with the little girls. So our family was reduced to
four, which seemed plenty.
K: Now your brother-in-law was'a diplomat in Japan?
A: Yes, he was in Japan before the war, and I visited them at that time. I have
gotthe exact dates here. I have sort of forgotten it all, it sort of runs in
together. It must have been 1936.
K: Now was that the first time you had been to Japan?
A: Yes, I went by myself.
K: Could you tell us something about that?
A: It was quite interesting, and rather hectic because the war with China had
started. As I left Seattle, there were ships actually loaded with scrap
going out to Japan, of course they threw it all back at us later on. I
met with no hostility at all, although some people did. I had an awfully
good time there and I loved it. I came back quite pro-Japanese, which was
extraordinary because I went out with all sorts of prejudices under my belt.
But my sister and I traveled all over the country. She was a great walker,
and we went up through the Hokkaido, and the only thing that we really were
anrgy about was going down to Formosa, as it was called then. Everyday we
would go down and ask for our passage and they would say "Terribly sorry,
big storm/" It was beautiful weahter and sunshine, so finally we got the
message that they just did not want foreigners there right then, and subse-
quently it turned out to have been a staging area for the Chinese war.
K: Had you ever done any teading or had any real background knowledge about
Japan, Japanese culture, or civilization before you went?
A: I read as much as I could, and when I was at college I took a course in far
eastern art.. I also was very keen on Lafeadio Hearn and had all his books.
I would read those a great deal. But aside from that I just learned as I
went. My sister spoke perfect Japanese and I did take Japanese lessons when
I was there, so that we were able to travel without interpreters or couriers
or anything like that.
K: So it was just the two of you, in effect, on a train and a walking tour?
A: Train, bus, ship, whatever transportation we could get.
K: So you really must have encountered people from all different walks of
A: We did, and we were welcomed everywhere and of course the SwedeS were very
close to the Japanese because of the lumber industry, so my brother-in-law
had great many friends who were very nice to us particularly in Hakkaido.
We were entertained in Japanese clubs and things offthat sort. But the
Japanese, even at that time, did not take people very often into their
homes. They entertained at hotels or clubs or something similar. We did
have some friends, especially the ones who had been in the United States or
England or Europe. We were entertained in their homes and they came to my
sister's home. But by in large it was quite unusual to have home enter-
tainment. I remember when the Takz-Tsukasas invited us to their house during
the Occupation. I realized it was something very special. The Japanese
women had very little social life, except the Americanized women or the
Europeanized women, and had very little social life as far as the foreign
community was concerned, and as the war became more intense, the split be-
K: But you never encountered anything that you would have considered as ill-will
A: Not at all. Absolutely not. Of course at that point (Joseph) Grew was the
ambassador there, he was exceedingly popular, and I think that his popularity
sort of spilled over on to the American colony there, which was quite small
actually, compared to the other nations that were involved. No, I had an
awfully good time and I liked it, but I was quite ready to go home when the
K: Would you please tell me about how you got involved with being a foster
mother to these British children during the blitz?
A: It was a little bit complicated, because I think that on the Eastern Sea-
board we had much more feeling about the war, than for instance in the
Middle West or even the Far West. I realize that after Pearl Harbor, there
was a tremendous anti-Japanese feeling in California, Seattle, and Oregon,
but on the Eastern Seaboard, I think from the word go, long before the word
go, because most of us saw that the war was coming, and were very pro-British
and very pro-French. When France fell I think it was a tremendous blow to
everybody. My sympathies were very strongly with England, and I felt at
that time, especially during the blitz, that they were doing the job for us.
And then my numero uno husband was head of the Transcript fund for taking
children and finding them homes. This was partly under the Aegis of the
Field Foundation. So when we were asked if we would take two kids, it was
very difficult to say no, even though we were quite crowded. We got them
sight unseen and I did not lay eyes on them until the night we went up to
this extraordinary spot called the New England Home for Little Wanderers,
and so I asked my little nieces what did they suggest? They said, "Well,
stuff all the animals in the car and that will make the feel at home," so
we went to pick them up in a rattly old station wagon with for dogs, two
cats and a cage of canaries. So they immediately felt at ease and we had
no problems with them at all. Then the oldest boy, David, who is one of
the best kids I ever had, was what we called a spit-back. He would been
with a family, and he was very unhappy and actually had gotten in some
trouble. So the social worker came down and asked me if I would take him.
'Look, I do not have a room, but we will squeeze in somehow." He came for
two weeks, stayed for three years, and did not go home until he had to join
the service, when he got to be eighteen.
K: How old were the children that you received?
A: Johnny was about eight, Maggie was five going on six, and they were-very
small emaciated because they had been through a good many hardships. The
trip over was difficult for them, I guess, because they were on deck most
of the time on account of submarines scares. They had been deprived of
food for quite a long time, even though their parents were fairly well off,
I would say middle middle-class.
K: Did you happen to notice any particular pattern, or were you aware of any
pattern in the children coming into the families of the people that you
knew? In other words were they from a certain economic class, from a cer-
tain part of England or the British Isles?
A: Well my guess would be that most of them were within striking distance of
London. But I would say that most of the kids the Field Foundation dealt
with were those who were not able to come over on their own. I think we had
about ten or twelve families in Hingham that had children, but in Massachu-
setts alone, there were almost 5,000 or 6,000. The schools were very good
about taking them in. My children were going to private school at that point
and they took the kids in as non-paying guests. My son went through Exeter
on a navy scholarship, so that was very easy, and the May School also took
the little girl for free when we moved in town. I think upper class, kids
mostly came on their own, their families paid their way and they were visit-
ors, rather than members of a family. Although the Shercliff's kids, one
of them stayed and became an American, the other went back. Its forty years
now since the kids went back. They think if they wait any longer for fifty
there would not be anybody alive who remembers that. So, as I have kept in
toucj with the kids all these years, actually some of them are now grand-
parents. I will do my best to get in touch with them and see how their
parents are still alive.
K::It sounds like a very interesting project. How did your children react to
the new influence?
A: Very well, I think, because of the fact that they were almost two and half
years apart. Being boy girl, their interests were quite separate. So I
once asked them. They said "Ma, you were tc5 lazy to have any more kids,
thank God you did this for us." This was their attitude, and there was very
little fighting and quarrelling because there was always somebody to play
with. If you got mad at somebody you could always turn around and find
another playmate around the corner.
K: How did you present it to them? Were they of an age and of an interest
where they already understood the situation and you did not really have to
explain why these children were there?
A: Pretty much so. One family was very politically-oriented so I think they
had heard a good deal of conversation about the war and what was going on.
Not only that but they had already had their cousins, my Swedish nieces who
had been as I told you, evacuated from Japan. They arrived speaking nothing
but Swedish and Japanese, which was rather experimental, and they had to
adjust to that. I think they were quite prepared. They were rather con-
spicuous, you see, and they enjoyed this enormously. Flaunting around,
"Oh we are having English kids, why aren't you?" That kind of thing.
K: Kind of a status symbol.
K: I would like you to tell me about your career into the war and how you got
out to the Pacific.
A: Well when my husband went overseas, he was in the Philippines and also in
New Guinea. While he was in New Guinea, he acquired a disease called jungle
rot. So many of the navy men at that time coming back you could tell immedi-
ately where they had been, because they turned this strange yellow color
from taking atabrine as the Japanese had purloined all the anti-malarial
drugs. After Vicent got this jungle rot and could not throw it off so he
was home after about ten, eleven months overseas. At that point, thank God,
the kids had not gone back yet, so I had him to help me before the edict
came and they had to go home. Oh yes, I forgot, I got another kid too, when
I was living in Boston. Some of the children had been sent home before V.E.
day, and had been turned back because of submarine scares. I came home from
work one day and here was this kid on my front doorstep. So I said, "What
are you doing here?" she said, "I am not going back to those people I am
going to stay with you." I said, "Okie-doke." We just moved over and there
we were. They came and went. When the war was over and the British kids
went home, David was home already because he had to join the service, it was
quite a wrench for everybody involved. I knew that the Reunion with the
parents of my two middle kids was rather poor, because when the kids got off
the train they recognized their parents, but the parents did not recognize
kids. They had been living on the fat of the land and here they went back to
a land of austerity, without horses, pigs, dogs, and stuff, and found it very
I think there was considerable conflict with the parents when they did
return. In any case my nieces had also been taken care of, so that we were
pretty footlose, because my son was about ready to go to Princeton, and Sue
was very adaptable so we were just plain sick of suburban life. I had really
outgrown Hingham when we got a chance to go out to Guam with the Foreign
Liquidation Commission. He said, What do you think about it? I said, "Well
fine, let's try it for a year and see how we like it." Guam is not a place
I would want to stay indefinitely, especially right after the war it was
K: What time did you go out there?
A: To Guam, wait a minute, I have to check on my dates, because so many thing
come in between that I have forgotten, it was 1946 and 1947 that we were
stationed on Guam, but we also went to Tirian, Saipan, and Truk to visit.
K: Could you explain in a little more detail about the kind of work that he was
involved in with this liquidation business?
A: Yes, It was all the surplus war materials, because there was a lot out there
that was never delivered because Guam was a staging area, as you know, for
Hiroshima, Nogasaki, and some of the other places too. The manufactures in
the United States got together. They didn't want all this stuff brought
back and thrown on the market. So the Foreign Liquidation Commission was
under the State Department, and the navy, too, who was in charge of dis-
posing of this raw materiel and a great deal of it, I am sorry to say, went
to Chiang Kai-shek, and I think was eventually shot in the wrong direction.
Namely I think the Chinese in North Korea threw some of it back at us. But
everything was disposed of, and it was really shocking. You would go out to
the airplane dumps we used to go and steal stuff there all the time. And
there would be perfectly good bomber noses with the jungle growing through
them we used to use them for the babies' bathtubs! The waste was just
appalling. There were a couple minor scandals where a hospital was sold
without a proper inventory. The next thing they knew it was advertised in
the Shanghai papers, "American Blood is An Aphrodisiac". Which caused con-
siderable stir shall we.say. There were three forces on the island, the
army, which we never saw at all, and the navy, which we were completely
surrounded by, and the air force and none of them spoke to each other. It
was completely separate settlements, as it were. Anyhow, one of the visiting
foreign generals we were constantly having them come in and they were causing
an awful lot of trouble. Came into Agame by mistake, and parked his plane
where the planes that were designated for Free China were also parked. But
the only way that they could be sent to Free China was by having the bomber
noses cut off. So when he came back to go home he had no nose on his plane,
and he was fit to be tied. So everybody was running around like crazy.
While we were on Guam we went to the Philippines to visit and then to Bangkok,
Hong Kong, and then an railroad to Shanghai, because we could not go there
on our own, but we were not allowed to go any farther inland than that
because the fighting was still going on.
K: Now was it at the time you were based on Guam that you became involved in
reporting on the war crimes in the Marianas Islands?
A: That is right because Guam, was the court center there. Naval Courts and
Boards was the center of all the minor war crimes. The major ones were
held in Tokyo under international auspices, but these were under purely
American auspices. They were very interesting, for we still had Japs run-
ning around in the jungle when we arrived there. You were not allowed to
leave the post without breaking your arms and even the prisoners were fairly
free and easy, I remember one time that the admiral, his name was Pownel, he
was an awfully nice Joe. He was incensed because his underwear kept dis-
appearing off the wash line and his garbage cans were always tipped over,
and they thought the dogs were doing it, "Till one night they found that the
Japs were coming down out of the hills and raiding the admiral's garden and
going home with clothing and food. We had the problem of language. A lot
of these soldiers had not surrendered because they did not believe the war was
over. So they had to get small destroyers, and broadcast the emperor's
speech very loud in common Japanese language. Then they surrendered in
droves and that was the end of it. I think a few of them held out, on Truk.
Although I knew what the Japense had been up to, I felt a lot of it was very
unfair, because I think we were judging easterners by western Christian
standards and they did not understand what we were talking about half the
time. I know at one of the trials, I think it was of three or four aviators
had been shot down over Truk. After their capture they were killed and
their livers were eaten in the officers' mess that night, and everybody was
terribly shocked by it. And they used as extenuating circumstances, the
fact they put flowers around their grave. The court laughed, but I did
not laugh because that was their way of honoring, them, and of course it goes
back to the old Shinto idea, that I believe it Spartans had too eating part
of the enemy gives you strength. Captain Martin Carlson was the head of the
defense, he is now dead. He worked like crazy and he was a marvelous lawyer.
They found that all the verdicts had been predirected from Washington. He
just wasted his time. He published this in the Navy Journal. That prevented
his getting to be admiral, which was too bad.
K: Do you remember when evidence of this nature was offered against the Japanese,
the people who were the witnesses? In other words, did this sort of testi-
mony, damaging testimony of so-called war crimes or criminal behavior again-
st the Japanese, come mostly from American prisoners of war, or was it ever
A: Some of the island natives were brought in who had witnessed some of these
events, but most of it, I am sorry to say, was hearsay and a great deal was
written testimony, depositions that were taken down either in Japan or in
the United States, or the islands. The way the board was set up I do not
know whether all the naval courts and boards are like this, but the last one
I attended had eleven members.of captains rank or higher. I think they were
all admirals, as I remember, but they were a strange as sortment. There was
a dental admiral and a medical admiral, and I think we even had a veterinary
admiral, I am not sure. So their connections with either history or justice,
I think, were very tenuous. I felt the whole thing was rather a farce. I
did attend war crimes in Tokyo and I thought they were a bird of another
feather, although some of them were unfair too, I felt.
K: Did you feel, in the Marianas, that the Japanese received adequately a repre-
sentation from what you saw?
A: Yes, I think they did, but when a verdict is predirected. It doesn't make
much difference except in your own eyes, and with the Japanese face means so
much that I think that they were happy to be well represented, especially by
K: Did they ever have the opportunity, or was it possible, to be represented by
a Japanese attorney or anyone other than an American military attorney?
A: There was a Japanese attorney in court, because they had to have an inter-
preter. Adniral Robinson, who was the head of the war crimes there, insist-
ed that the interpreter be a lawyer so that he could explain the questions
to the defendants. I know one marine sergeant, he turned to me and he said,
"Thank God we won the war, we would have done even worse if it had been our
turn." So I do not think there was really much reason for it, except and eye
for an eye and tooth for a tooth. I think with the Nazis it was something
else again. But there is so many facets to this idea that its very hard to
disentangle them all.
K: Who were you covering these for when you were writing, who were you writing
A: I wrote for the Boston Herald and for a while for the Boston Transcript,
and the Washington Post. There were syndicated and were only sent to areas
where there was interest in that kind of thing. In other words, I do not
think Chicago would have wanted it or the South.
K: How had you gotten involved in it in the first place? Who had commissioned
you or spoken with you about doing this reporting? Or did you get in touch
with someone that you knew back home?
A: I got in touch with somebody I knew back home, largely because I was bored.
I did not have enough to do, and also the war crimes building was the only
air-conditioned place on Guam, so it was a very pleasant place to work. We
came in with a typhoon of no mean proportions, with the result that all the
barracks were blown down and our house was a mess. Even when it was fixed
it was like camping out pretty much. Although we did have a jeep there was
not any place to go. I was glad to have something to do, so I wrote to my
friends on the Post. I cannot remember the name of the syndicated columnist's
who bought stuff like that and peddled it around to whatever papers were in-
terested. It was a short term thing, it was very good for me because it kept
me busy, and I liked the people involved and got to be great friends with
Carlson, who was the defense attorney. He let me come in and talk with some
of the prisoners, which was very interesting. The minute they found out that
I had been in Japan before the war was somewhat familiar with their homeland,
they would open up like crazy. They were so homesick that it was very pathe-
K: Did they accept the situation they found themselves in fairly well?
A: Very definitely I think they were going back to the old Shinto idea that if
you are conquered you respect your enemy as being stronger and better than
you are, and that is that. No, I was amazed all during the Occupation that
I never saw an over-hand raised by anybody, or even a complaint. I think
now the Japanese are very loath to remember the occupation. I know when I
was in Washington, and met with some of the more recent members of the
embassy there, and they asked where I had been, and I said I was there be-
fore the war, but I was also there in the occupation and then there would be
a dead silence. They don't like to talk about it. I think during that per-
iod of the occupation itself, there was an extraordinary lack of resistance
of any sort, and I think the same thing was true with the prisoners on Guam.
Of course, according to the Japanese code you are not supposed to be captured
anyway. You are supposed to commit hara-kiri rather than be captured.
K: So basically they had lost, you might say, the psychological props of their
A: They had, and of course they were worried about going home, what people were
going to say when they got back, whether they would be blamed for surrender-
ing or not. So they were in a pretty chancy position. I think I covered
about twenty of the small trials. Of course you cannot say small when
cannibalism was committed, but still, I think I think of that twenty only six
were executed. And they were executed privately, there were no public execu-
tions. The Japanese did execute people publicly, as sort of a morale builder,
or something of that sort, I guess.
K: Now, how did you come to get to Japan?
A: We came back from Guam after about a year and a half, then a post came up
in Tokyo with the Economic and Scientific section of SCAP. The State
Department no longer had any control over Japan at all; it was completely
McArthur and McArthur's men, all the kings men. I was torn in a way, be-
cause I had been in Japan before the war and I was wondering if green
pastures are rather dangerous to revisit. But it looked like a pretty plushy
post so that, after some deliberation, I brought my daughter with me for
the first year. I forgot to say that while we were on Guam, she went to the
navy school and simply could not stand it. I was very offended when one day
the teacher was touting Longfellow, and she said, "My mother said that Walt
Whitman's a much better poet," and they went to it. So she came home and
said, "I'm not going vack to that damn school." I said, "Alright, you will
have to do something." So she learned Chamorran and taught in the chamorran
school, Which was very convenien, because we could not get any vegetables or
fresh fruits or anything, and all her boyfriends used to bring her presents
of fish, vegetables, and fruits, so we won out on that. But when she went
back to the states, it was very difficult because while she was 800 and some-
thing like that on her college boards, she had not had enough time in the
school room. So the only place she could get in was the University of
Chicago, under the Hutchins plan, the accelerated plan. She adored Chicago,
had a marvelous time. But it was a question of ripping her out of school
for a year, plus my son had started in Princeton and he was dependent on
family for holidays, which was not completely happy. I would had always
had itchy feet, but at this point I had never had to pay for them before.
So we really lived the life of Riley. We had a house and four servants sup-
plied by the government, a car, traveled any where we wanted and the best
clubs had been seized by the occupation. You could get a martini for
twenty-five cents. It was plush living.
K: Did you live in Tokyo?
A: In the suburbs, only two blocks away from Oliver.
K: What was your husband's job, what did it involve?
A: Well, it was in the Economic and Scientific section and concerned with re-
vamping the Japanese economy, I guess you would say.
K: He was in charge of the "sterling area" too.
A: Ues. Why would that involve Oliver? I never really understood it.
K: It was everything that, had anything to do with the Vritish.
A: Well the "sterling area" was bigger than that, it was Norway and Sweden, and
Denmark too, I think, because we had relations with all those people. I
think the French also were in on it. But it was a very interesting job,
and he liked it enormously and of course I liked it because I got a job
teaching right off. Had no problem with that at all. So I was occupied
that way. Then I traveled just as much as I possibly could, which was
K: Could you tell us about your teaching job there, what you were teaching
and whom you were teaching?
A: Most of it was with English, and actually I had one Latin class which was a
terrible headache. But all teaching of English and other foreign languages
was stopped during the war you see, so there is a great gap, both from the
teaching staff, most of the teachers could not speak much English and from
the students because they would get to college level with in basics in En-
glish at all. It was very difficult.
There was no integration of sexes, I believe that came later as one of the
occupational reforms. It was a girls' school and it was quite uncomfortable
physically, because all the glass had been blown out during the war and
never replaced. The winters in Tokyo can be pretty server. Little hibachis,
charcoal stoves, in the rooms, were the only hear we had. So you would go
with your hands in gloves, and try to write on a blackboard with mittens, not
all that easy. And all the kids had hankershiefs pinned on their coats which
was very useful because they certainly needed them. They would always bring
us hot tea in the intervals between classes, but I can remember going back
home absolutely chilled to the bone and getting into a long hot Japanese
bath and staying there for about an hour until I got my bones warmed up. But
it was lots of fun, I really enjoyed it. I was surprised that they were so
A: Yes, I would say much worse than/'American girls of that ilk. They thought
with foreigners they could say anything they wanted to and get away with it.
Of course I understood enough Japanese so that they did not try that very
often. But it took me a couple of weeks to get things in shape. I had
three other American women helping me.
K: Now was this a school, I take it, that had existed before the war?
A: Yes. It was an old school. It was named after Lafcadio Hearns Yakumo was
his Japanese name.
K: It was now being run by the American occupation forces?
A: No, it was still a Japanese private school. There were three professors who
ran it, I suppose at a modest profit, for it could not have brought in very
much. But the facilities were very, very difficult. For instance I could
not get any paper. I used to go to my husband's office and empty his
wastebasket, and the kids would write their exercises on things marked "top
secret." Chalk was very hard to come by, things like that. I believe the
technical term for it now is learning aids. Even textbooks were hard to come
by. We wrote our own textbooks, by and large, because of the different
abilities of the kids.
K: There is so many questions I want to ask you about this. Where did the
girls come from, as far as what class or what background.
A: I believe most of them were uper middle class kids. Education was com-
compulsory in Japan and they had a very high literacy rate, one of the high-
est in the world, considering what they had to learn, which is an enormous
amount. I think most of the poor families went to public school, and those
I would say in the professions, were the parents of the girls that I taught.
K: Was it a very common for Japanese girls of this age group to be educated
before the war in this type .f school, or was it a fairly unique kind of
school before the war?
A: No, I think it was fairly common,because the Sacred Heart had schools in
Tokyo, which are mostly for diplomatic children and the Japanese who had
been overseas put their children in the Sacred Heart, which had three or
four branches in Japan. I really had no experience in education before the
war when I was there with my sister, because her children were too young to
be going to school. But if they had gone to school I think they would have
gone to the Sacard Heart.
K: How did you get the opportunity to teach in this school? How did you make
that connection? Were they trying to get as many American faculty as pos-
A: It was partly the fact that the pool of so-called language teachers was ex-
ceedingly small. Among the Japanese there were not any because for the bet-
ter part of ten years none of them were sent to the States, first because
of hostilities and then second because of financial problems. That was one
reason, and then second reason .was I taught at-Tsada College. Miss Tsuda
was a Bry Maur graduate, which was where I had the connection there. The
education department at Tsuda, got interested in helping the primary schools
and the secondary schools to get their language programs back on the track.
So most of their teachers were asked if they would do extra work. It was
all volunteer work, we were not allowed to receive pay from anybody, because
we were not allowed to hold Japanese money.
K: So then you taught at the other first, before you taught at Tsuda?
A: No, simultaneously.
K: Could you tell us something about the other situation.
A: Well, Tsuda was equally uncomfortable in a way, physically that is. It was
a large stone buidling and all the heating equipment had been ripped out
during the war, the metal fixings and so forth. So that, again, you had to
go dressed in boots and sweaters and hats and stuff. If was terribly cold,
and stone sweats when it was as cold as that. But the girls were older,
Tsuda was an old college; Miss Tsuda must have graduated long before I was
there, in the early 1900s would be my guess. So that the students were
largely from the intelligent, I would say. Some of the royal family went
there, although the top flight ones were educated at home.
K: Was this again an all-girls school?
A: All-girl school., I think it still is.
K: You were teaching English as a foreign language?
A: English as a foreign language, and English Literature for college entry in
the United States, because that was the goal of most of them. Not many made
it, but they still want to go.
K: Now was the college also a private enterprise.
A: Private institution. I think some of the students were really quite unhappy.
One of my daughter's best friends went to the United States, and then to
England. She also was a graduate of Tsuda and one of my students there, she
earned a Ph. D. in philosophy. She taught at the University of Leeds. Then
she went back to Japan briefly and found that still the Japanese were not all
that excited about an intelligent woman. She was not included in on the
political discussions or planning sessions or anything else. She got dis-
gusted and went back to England to live. Another girl I had was caught in
the same dilemia because they still arrange marriages, I do not care who says
they do not because I know they do. The mother-in-laws were not very keen on
having these college-bred girls coming into their family, they wanted some-
body to wait on them, because the mother-in-laws all-important. So most of
them went back and found their chances for marriage if they were interested
in that were about nil. Then they had to make up their minds either to go
back into the kimono again or continue their intellectual pursuits. I would
say it's about half and half.
K: Did you find that the college girls displayed the same sort of behavior
problems or discipline problems that you referred to with the high school
A: Yes, in a way, although there was less of it because they were older. But
the Japanese are a very gily people. I think sometimes it is a form of em-
barrassment. So a lot of it, I think, was just not naughtiness, it was
just edginess, or uneasiness, or even embarrassment. If they did not know
something, instead of saying so they would go, "Hee hee hee hee," like that.
It was madening.
K: How long did you continue to, to teach at the two institutions?
A: The first year I did two, the second year I did two, and then the third year
the Korean war started and at that point I got involved with the Red Cross,
to my never-ending charging. It was just too much, so I kept on at Tsuda
and got a substitute to take over my job at Ya Kumo. At that time many
more dependants were coming out and looking for something to do, who wanted
to be part of the Japanese scene, and who were learning Japanese. So it
was not hard to get somebody to take my place at Ya Kumo. At Tsuda you had
to be accredited, so that was a bird of another feather.
K: Before we get up to the Korean War and the Red Cross business, would you
tell me a little bit about your traveling around Japan and possibly com-
pare it with your impressions on that earlier trip before the war?
A: As a member of the Occupation you could go nowhere without orders. One
reason I was glad to teach, was because it gave me an off-limits pass, if
you know what that means. I could go places that the occupation normally
was excluded from. We were excluded from all Japanese inns unless we had
special permission, which to me was a great deprivation because they were
the nicest places to stay. But after I got my off-limits papers I could
go most anywhere. Sometimes I had to get permission, but usually I just
went. It amussed me very much because my husband very often had to go to
places like Ueno Park on my pass, which made me feel highly superior. We
rented a little Japanese house down on the seacoast at a place called
Hayana. I think we paid twenty-five dollars a year for it. Of course it v
was a wreck, being right after the war. We replaced the glass and put new
tatami down and it was a most beautiful spot, absolutely lovely. On a clear
day Fuji would come up and hang over the clouds. We used to go down weekends
quite a lot, sleep on the floor and live really Japanese. Once I had two
visiting boys about ten or eleven years old, I guess, and they went swimming.
It was early in the morning, nine or something like that, and to my horror I
saw that they were swimming out to one of the Japanese fishing boats that
was anchored in the harbor, and I knew it was time for them to take off. So
I yelled, and they did not hear me and their mothers were just about crazy.
The youngsters climbed about the Japanese ship, it soon weighed anchor and
off it went for the day. We had to wait there until they came back that
night. I could have skinned them alive, but they had a lovely day. Such
fun, the sailors were so nice to them, and they helped fish and so forth.
So we had very good relations with everybody in the village and they were
awfully nice to us. They would bring us presents from their garden and stuff
like that, so it was one of the highlights having this sort of escape hatch
down there. Then we also went, I think Oliver mentioned Oshima, which has
an extinct volcano on it, which was quite interesting. Later we went far-
ther out to one of the islands called Hajijoima, which I believe is the outer-
most one. It took us overnight from Tokyo, and we struck a typhoon. It
was something unbelievable. I did not think I was every going to get off
that one alive. But I did. And this was a marvelous trip because the six
of us who went stayed completely Japanese the whole way. One of the men
had been governor of Hachijajima right after the.war, and also governor of
tinian,/so his Japanese was very good. Not only that, but he knew every-
body on the island because they had all been on Tinian with him before. We
were entertained regally and we even went to a dance at the local school-
house that night. It was extraordinary, and we had a lot of fun, I put on
a Charleston for them, which wowed the audience. I got all the way back to
the hotel and then remembered that I had forgotten my shoes in the excite-
ment. And then when the Korean war began it was an extraordinary situations
because all the general out there had private railroad cars. When they were
sent to Korea all these private cars were up for begs. We had a friend
Kirby Etter with the transportation section, and whenever we wanted to go
anywhere, and could take a week or ten days off, Kirby would commandeer a
private car for us. We would just look at the timetable and tell the
engineer wherever we wanted to go and off we went. We had three man-
servants to wait on us, a steward and a cook and a cleaner-upper. We would
stop at the stations, and the cook would go out and buy whatever we wanted
for dinner that night. We lived the life of Riley. We went up to Hokkaido
one Christmas time, it was absolutely marvelous because at New Years the
snow was so high it was like going through a white tunnel. And New Year's
day we stayed at a Japanese inn and the snow was coming down. It looked
just like a Hiroshisibrint. You know those little Japanese ladies out with
their umbrellas, and the snow coming down over them, it was just beautiful.
It was much plusher than anything I ever did before the war, when I would
no more have dreamed of even looking at a private train, much less getting
into one. And then all these places like Kawana'that had been fright fully
expensive before the war and still are. You'd go for a dollar a night, and
while the food was not all that good, but so what it was free. That is the
main difference I think.
K: I asked Dr. Austin, and Lrwould like to ask you, if you ever had the wish
or the opportunity to visit the two cities that were destroyed by the
A: Yes, I went to both of them, and I had:a feeling when I went, especially to
Hiroshima, that I wanted to get down on my knees especially in that square.
You know they have save one square, where a man was squashed up against the
wall, it was perfectly horrible. I felt like getting down to every Japanese
I met and saying, "Excuse me I am sorry." It was very frightening to see
what happened. Nagasaki you do not have nearly as much physical evidence,
because they misjudged the wind, or the wind changed. And so the explosion
blew up the gorge outside of Nagasaki and killed a lot of people in the
villages and a lot of cattle and other things, but the damage to the city
itself was not as extensive as it was in Hiroshima, but I guess it was much
K: Did you notice any different attitude at all on the part of the occupants of
either of those areas towards you or towards Americans?
A: No, there did not seem to be any resentment at all, and I could not under-
stand it because if it happened to me I would not have looked cross-eyed at
anybody that had anything to do with it. When I was on Guam they had in
the hospital for tropical diseases, we were not supposed to see it, I got
in there by accident, a lot of the children who had been damaged during the
atomic bombing. The most horrible thing, they had big califlowers coming out
of their necks and their hair would fall out for no known reason. Things of
this sort in small kids just made you feel sick.
K: I wanted to ask you to tell me a little bit about how you got involved with
some of Dr. Austin's bird expeditions that I think you both told me about last
A: Well, I would say that it was my avocation not my vocation, right? But I
have always been interested in birds, and we had a small island off the coast
of Georgia where I used to go, and still do, which was very good for birding
and then I had a friend who's a member of the Nuttall Club, who got me inte-
rested in it. When I went out to Tokyo Oliver took me on several expeditions.
I remember one with the Boy Scouts, I will never forget as long as I live,
because I had a brand new pair of binocular, very expensive binoculars, and
among the scouts was Arthur McArthur. So all the kids asked if they could
use my binos, so I said sure but do not put your hands on the lenses because
it will fog them up. So they were all very good and all of the sudden I saw
this brat with his grubby fingers all over my lenses. So I said. "Take your
mitts off of those and quick." The other kids said, "That's Arthur McArthur!"
I said, "I do not care if he is Jesus H. Christ, he cannot put his hands on
my binoculars." It was the first time anybody every pulled Arthur down in
his entire life. And I was quite infuriated. But we made several expeditions
also to the heronvies did not we?
0: Yes, to the Heron roosts near Tokyo.
A: The Japanese put straw mats under the nesting trees to catch the guano
for fertilizer. The great concentration of birds was quite interesting.
The we went to Sendai and on over to Aomori to see the wild swans that
winter there. We got up very early in the morning just at dawn because the
birds take off as soon as it gets light. One of the swans had died, I do
not know whether it had been killed or whether it died of old age, anyhow
the Shinto priests had a great procession and were walking down the street
with the swan with its wings outstretched, and they were all mourning the
death of the swan. Then we were able to get out quite close to the swans.
We got some marvelous pictures and then just at dawn they all took off in
this great white flight, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
K: Sounds wonderful.
A: After I came home I went down to the Everglades and saw all sorts of things
that I had never seen before. The birds of Florida were quite different
from what I was used to.
K: Would you go back and tell me a little bit about what you meant by getting
involved with the Red Cross and events at that time of the beginning of the