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Wearing the American Military Uniform

 

 

   When many of us Shanghailanders* in our early teens or younger were living in the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto after having fled with our parents from Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, little did we know that one day, later in our life, we would be wearing a U.S. military uniform. Even when we saw all the U.S. Forces pouring into Shanghai after the war giving us Hershey bars and cigarettes (Figure one) for our parents to sell on the black market, did we realize that this could  become the case in the future.

   President Bush stated the following during his speech when he commemorated the 60th Anniversary of V-J Day (Figure two): “The men and women of WW-2 brought honor to the uniform, and to our flag, and to our country”

The stamp (Figure three, Scott number 2981), honors the servicemen of WW-2 in their uniform. This honor also applies indirectly to the soldiers that served in the Korean War, Scott number 2152 and the Vietnam War, Scott 1802  (Figure four) in which our young Shanghailanders were serving.

   It was shortly after General Douglas Mac Arthur accepted the Japanese surrender during this historic event aboard the USS Missouri (Figure five) when several branches of the U.S. Armed Force were sent to Shanghai making a positive impact on the lives of Jewish refugees in the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto. For example, a number of refugees that learned a trade in the country in which they immigrated from were employed by the American troops after the war to perform certain tasks at Shanghai airfields and army depots thus earning a good salary in U.S. dollars. A photograph shows a Jewish  refugee sitting in a weapons carrier with a GI (Figure six) and the picture that follows shows a group of working refugees posing with their U.S. army advisors (Figure seven).

 Another example is several young Jewish females who married American GIs in Shanghai, affording them the opportunity to leave the primitive conditions behind and go to America. One of those cases was a refugee girl by the name of Ellie (Hacker) Grasse who met and married a GI by the name of Bill Grasse.* Bill who met Ellie in Shanghai later became a very successful businessman in California, owning his own business in industrial equipment. A picture of the couple, married for over sixty years, was taken in a popular park called Public Gardens, adjacent to the Garden Bridge in the heart of the Shanghai Settlement (Figure eight).

There were also smaller benefits Jewish refugees derived from the U.S. troops stationed for a relatively short time in Shanghai like the large amount of surplus fruit, including Sunkist oranges, stored on U.S. Navy ships that were handed out at random to adults and children visiting the Hongkew Wharf.  For many, it was their first fruit they tasted since the war had begun four years before. Many older children from the ghetto and teenagers were also invited by the midshipmen and navy officers to eat on board U.S. navy vessels. While visiting the ships they were offered, among other foods not previously known to them, freshly prepared Southern fried chicken, an American specialty they never experienced before especially during the ghetto years.

   It was always a delight and exciting for children and adults to approach the US military on the streets in Shanghai after the war. Of course, the attraction was always the uniform we so much admired. Thus, to repeat, this article embraces the following rhetorical question and the statement above:  Did we, while living in the Shanghai Ghetto, or our parents, ever think for a moment that one day we, the younger generation, will also be dressed in one of the respective uniforms and serve the country that liberated us? 

      Following emigration to America many of us, then at the right age, have served in the U.S. Armed forces either by having been drafted or by volunteering. This is illustrated by the many photographs in this report***. It should be mentioned at this point that many were drafted the moment they set foot to this country without yet having made their U.S. citizenship. This also holds true for those who were denied emigration at the beginning because of the quota system, and thus had to setup residence in another country like Israel, Australia or Canada before coming to America.

 After they served their newly adopted country, the United States, either as a draftee or volunteer, a large percentage of them led a successful career as civilians either in the academic world or in business.

 

*     Jewish refugees that immigrated to Shanghai in the late 30’s that likes to refer to

         each other by that name.

**    Bill sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 90

*** The photographs are identified by capital letters and correspond on a list with the name of the servicemen, years of service, branch, and place where the individual was stationed.

 

 

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