The Letter from Iwo Jima

The Letter from Iwo Jima

WWII vet Frank Hobbs seized an envelope from a fallen Japanese soldier and returned its contents to the man's daughters ... 65 years later. (NYT)

What was thought to be an interesting souvenir from the horrific battle of Iwo Jima was found to have deep personal meaning many decades later, for both the daughters of the fallen Japanese soldier they belonged to, and for the U.S. soldier who took and kept them.

Corporal Frank Hobbs found an envelope protruding from the pocket of Japanese casualty Matsui Takagawa that contained a child’s drawing of a fire drill and a photo of a baby, and brought it home after the war. The story of how the memento causes their lives to intertwine unfolds at an unhurried pace in this multi-sourced New York Times video story.

For decades, the objects hung in a frame on the wall of the Hobbs family home. Recently, Hobbs, now 85, decided to try and find the deceased man’s family. Through a circuitous route, involving Japanese translators at his church and connections in Japan, both the child artist, Chie, and the infant in the photo, Yoko, were located. Coincidentally, Yoko, now 65, lives in the U.S. not far from Hobbs.

This touching video follows the emotional journey of the letter from the personable Hobbs to the grateful Japanese women, who could now close the book on their father’s death. Chie, the elder daughter who drew the picture, was happily surprised that her father cherished her drawing, and now has it displayed in a shrine in her home in Japan. For Yoko, the Iwo Jima relic awakened long dormant feelings for her father, whom she now knows carried her baby picture next to his heart to the last.

CHANNEL: New York Times

Length: 8:00

Erik Olsen & Lizette Alvarez
Photography: Mark Thompson
Additional video: Japhet Weeks