INSIDE GRANDPA'S OLD FOOTLOCKER
by M.J. Spangler
World War II has been over for over for over 60 years. The Korean War has been over for over 55 years. Hidden away in closets, attics and basements may be boxes and footlockers containing letters, photos and memorabilia collected by Grandpa while he served our country. Many of these containers may not have been opened since the wars were over. With Grandpa’s passing these boxes may now reside with his heirs. In many cases the new owners are unaware of their historical importance or are unwilling to donate them to a library for preservation because of sentimental attachment.
Recognizing the importance of these collections and the need to locate, copy and catalog as many of these collections, the non-profit Beser Foundation was established. The vision of this Foundation is to “Preserve the Past for the Benefit of the Future”. To accomplish this the Foundation is set up to provide a safe no-cost repository of digital copies in order to ensure the valuable history contained in these old documents will be preserved and accessible to all. Simply stated the Foundation does not desire to retain the original documents. Instead it will catalog the documents, make digital copies and place them on-line as a resource for families; genealogists, historians and authors dedicated to accurately recording the events of our military history.
On Veterans Day 2007, representatives from the Foundation attended a book signing in Wellsboro, PA. Thanks to a local radio station - the event was covered all afternoon. During the afternoon several appeals were made over the air for listeners who might have some of “Grandpa” memorabilia to bring it down to the book signing so we could see it.
During the afternoon several photos and documents of significant historical value were brought down. In particular one lady, whose grandfather had been a photographer in the Pacific during the war brought in over 30 photos and documents that had been brought home by her grandfather and were lying around in an old shoe box. Upon examination of the photos, several were especially significant.
This is a picture of a Japanese prisoner of war cemetery on the Island of Okinawa. Notice the Japanese soldiers in the background. During the fighting the markers were destroyed. The location of the cemetery is known to the WWII Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. However, none of the names of the individuals nor the unit in which they served interned here were known. All of the legible names shown on the markers are listed as MIA (Missing in Action) in the official government records. In addition to the legible names, the shoulder patches could be identified on other markers. This also helps in the identification of the men interned here. As a result of this one picture, recovery and medical identification of 36 MIAs is in process.
Another significant picture in the lot was a photo of some ancient artifacts that were found in an undisturbed burial tomb on Okinawa. The tombs on Okinawa resemble houses, complete with a courtyard, family name markers and a "porch" upon which offerings are arranged. Inside the tomb is stored the remains of several generations of family members.
Various taboos exist in relation to the tombs. It is considered dangerous to desecrate a tomb by disturbing offerings or by damaging the tomb in any way. Also considered dangerous is to approach a tomb without proper authority from a relation of the family. The Japanese soldiers respected these taboos and the royal tombs remained unscathed during the battle for Okinawa,
The search for history continues. If you own or are aware of someone’s “Grandpa’s box of pictures or Dads memories of war” or are a family of a MIA seeking information I encourage you to contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.