Monday, February 18, 2013

Mystery Monday: Update on Japanese Passport

Maka Kanehawa, 1931
Last week I revealed a mystery that lay hidden inside my Uncle Nolan's WWII scrapbook.  (You can read that post HERE.)  Well, I sent the mysterious Japanese passport to my former colleague, Japanese teacher, Nathan Patton, and asked him to tell me what he could about it.  Today, I have some answers.

The passport belonged to Maka Kanehawa, and she lived in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.  She was married to Mr. Kogi Kanehawa, and her occupation was in agriculture.  Presumably, she was a farmer.  Her height was 155 centimeters, or about 5' 1."  On July 13, 1931, Maka Kanehawa got permission from the Japanese government and the Argentine consulate in Kobe, Japan to travel to Argentina.  She arrived in Argentina on September 4, 1931, and visited the Japanese consulate in Buenos Aires on September 7, 1931.  That seems to be all the passport reveals.

My colleague, Mr. Patton, adds the following historical note and his educated guess about the passport:
Because of the U. S. Congress restricting immigration from Asia in the 1920's and the world wide depression in the early 1930's, there was emigration from Japan to South America (mostly to Brazil and Peru) in the early 1930's.  Being that [Maka Kanehawa] was a farmer, going to Argentina might have been somehow related to this emigration wave from Japan.  Since the U. S. has had a large military presence in Okinawa since the end of WWII, my guess is that a passport like this could have easily ended up in the hands of your uncle if he was stationed in Okinawa during or after the war.  Perhaps Ms. Kanehawa died in the battle for Okinawa?

With the identity and place of residence of the passport owner revealed, I took another look at my uncle's scrapbook and military records.  According to his discharge certificate, Nolan A. Lane was part of the 9th Naval Construction Battalion from October 22, 1943, until his honorable discharge on November 27, 1945.  The 9th USN Construction Battalion arrived in Okinawa, Japan, on June 26, 1945, and remained there until the end of the war.  According to Naval History and Heritage, while in Okinawa, the 9th constructed a four lane coral-surface highway, a compound for the 17th USN Construction Regiment, internal roads, shops for aircraft repairs, a 1600 foot quay wall, and a marine railway.  They also operated a coral pit and rock crusher.

Photo of sign in Okinawa, Japan, from the
WWII scrapbook of Nolan A. Lane
So my uncle WAS in Okinawa, home of Maka Kanehawa, after the Battle of Okinawa and at the end of WWII.  Did he encounter Maka Kanehawa or her family?  Did someone give him the mysterious passport, or did he simply find it while the Seabees were completing a construction project?  I still want to explore this a bit more, so I hope you'll visit again for my next Mystery Monday post.  As always, I'd love to hear from you!


"9th Naval Construction Battalion Historical Information," Naval History and Heritage, pages 1-5

Laura Lacey, "Battle of Okinawa,"  Military History Online, April 13, 2003.


  1. Moving right along! I can't wrap my mind around how your uncle came to have the passport. I can't imagine it would have been given to him, but I also can't imagine it was just left sitting about for him to find it. Maybe it was found during one of the construction projects. Perhaps they had to do some home demo to make way for a project and found it there? So many options. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

    1. Heather, several articles I've read about the Battle of Okinawa discuss how the Okinawan citizens fled their homes and shelters in fear of American forces. I can imagine belongings being left behind and not recovered. I also came across an internet site set up by someone to collect, display, and auction relics from the Battle of Okinawa. I also found a small museum in Okinawa that displays relics of the battle. I get the feeling that personal items belonging to the Okinawans displaced and killed in the battle were not too hard to find and that a number of soldiers picked up items as keepsakes of their time there. You're right--my uncle did do some demolition and clearing of damaged structures. The more I learn, the more I believe he found the passport and kept it as a souvenier?