Hawaii POW letters written between 1945 and 1946 discovered

Hawaii POW letters written between 1945 and 1946 discovered

Copy of letters addressed to Okinawan descendants written by Okinawan POWs who were sent to and/or detained in Hawaii

August 24, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Chie Tome and Tomoki Yasutomi


On August 23, 15 letters addressed to Okinawans and Okinawan descendants living in Hawaii sent from a prisoner of war (POW) camp between 1945 and 1946 were discovered.

The letters were written by people originally from Okinawa, who became POWs of the U.S. military during the Battle of Okinawa.

They were relocated and forced to live as POWs in Hawaii. The letters detailed various sentiments and scenes, such as: the gratitude felt toward emotional and material support experienced while in Hawaii, the determination stirred up by the idea of reconstructing one’s homeland after returning, and struggling with the post-war aftereffects.

An expert in literature regarding the Battle of Okinawa and former University of the Ryukyus Professor Masanori Nakahodo said, “This is the first time that I’ve seen letters that were written from the inside of the POW camp. These are a valuable resource for understanding the time period.”


The letters were kept by Masao Kinjyo, who lives in Hawaii and is the father-in-law of Jimmy’s company President Seiichiro Inamine.

The letters were then donated to the University of Hawaii.

According to President Inamine, Kinjyo has been a teacher at a Japanese language school for many years and since he is also an expert in dialects, pupils of Okinawan descent and/or their families entrusted him with the letters several decades ago.


“Kindness that is deeper than the ocean and higher than the mountains; how shall I repay that kindness?” read a letter that detailed the joy felt by a POW who was reunited with their older biological sister, who had left for Hawaii before the war.

The letter also writes how “A Painting of a Keepsake” that was drawn while the POW was in the camp was sent as a token of appreciation for a hospitable reception.


Another letter wrote about gratitude. The letter was addressed to an Okinawan who frequently delivered things to POWs who worked near the person’s home, even though meeting with POWs was forbidden. The letter wrote, “I cannot help but cry for your warm sympathy, despite being a complete stranger.”

Some letters wrote about how Okinawan descendants in Hawaii promptly delivered relief goods to Okinawa post-war as a part of relief work for victims. The same people also prayed for the quick recovery of their homeland.


Regardless of the content of the letters, the POWs were very likely to have given the letters directly to Okinawans and Okinawan descendants in Hawaii or delivered them through family members and acquaintances.



(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)


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