The US Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School Archival Project
Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries
Number 58 Remember September 11, 2001 December 1, 2002
Our Mission invitations to join the program to Japanese. He once unthinkingly Chaffin also has another
people who had been named to answered a military police remarkable souvenir, a lovely
In the Spring of 2000, the the college academic honorary officer's question in Japanese sake bottle, one side marred by
Archives continued the origi- society Phi Beta Kappa -- people before he caught himself. some sort of molten mass. He
nal efforts of Captain Roger like Chaffin. Another retired After more training in a U.S. picked it out of rubble in
Pineau and William Hudson, UGA professor was also among Navy intelligence school, Hiroshima, he said.
and the Archives first at- those who answered the call -- Chaffin began the work he had Later, Chaffin's country asked
tempts in 1992, to gather the John Dowling, former dean of been training to do. Mainly at for his help again. A Navy
papers, letters, photographs, UGA's graduate school. Naval Intelligence headquarters reservist after World War II
and records of graduates of Chaffin, already in U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor, he translated ended, Chaffin was called up
the US Navy Japanese/ training up at the University of captured documents, including when the Korean Conflict began.
Oriental Language School, Notre Dame, was intrigued. diaries kept by Japanese soldiers, In Japan, he found he could no
University of Colorado at ''I didn't really know what I was translated intercepted broadcasts. longer speak or comprehend
Boulder, 1942-1946. We getting into. I said, 'I've been to Most of it was not very exciting fluently -- but it came back after
assemble these papers in law school, I ought to be able to work, and they never knew what a couple of weeks, he said.
recognition of the contribu- learn Japanese,''' he recalled. difference if any their work Many of the people who
tions made by JLS/OLS He signed up, and became made. graduated from the school in
instructors and graduates to one of the group that came to be ''We never really knew to what Colorado turned their training in
the War effort in the Pacific called ''Boulderites,'' to use the information would be Japanese into careers, said David
and the Cold War, to the distinguish themselves from put, and there was never any Hays, an archivist with the
creation of East Asian Harvard, Berkeley and Tokyo follow-up, except by indirection. University of Colorado, which
language programs across trained JLOs. Nearly 100 of the You don't have the complete has begun a collection of letters,
the country, and to the 1,100 who attended the U.S. picture, and no one does at any memoirs and other material
development of Japanese- Navy Japanese Language School one time,'' said Chaffin, now 83. related to the language school.
American cultural rec- between 1942 and 1946 were ''You were just getting Hays helped organize the
onciliation programs after women. fragments, and then you make school's 60-year reunion earlier
World War II. For most of his waking hours some deductions.'' this month.
over the next year, Chaffin was Later, he helped when Some became diplomats,
Answering immersed in the language and
culture of the Japanese nation,
American troops occupied the
vanquished nation of Japan, and
some stayed in the CIA or other
intelligence agencies, others
the Call his teacher -- his sensei -- a small
man who had been a
learned how good his training
had been -- or maybe it was how
entered academia, and in all
those fields some of the
Former UGA professor, kindergarten teacher. Like many good a student he had been. graduates became leading
WWII veteran tells his story other Japanese Americans, As part of his studies Chaffin authorities on Japanese and
of being a JLO after Suzuki Sensei had been placed in had prepared a monograph on Asian culture, politics and
Pearl Harbor a camp behind barbed war after Osaka, and when peace came language.
war broke out, but like the other Chaffin visited the city. He knew Dowling, the other retired
By Lee Shearer teachers, he was glad to help in the place better than his taxi UGA professor who attended the
email@example.com the war effort -- he was an driver. school, specialized academically
American. ''I felt like I had been there. I not in Japanese but Romance
Verner Chaffin flew to Colorado At Chaffin's first class in felt like it was my hometown. It languages.
recently for a school reunion he March 1943, professor Suzuki was an unusual feeling,'' he said. Chaffin went back to the law,
never thought he'd be attending - came with pockets packed with And he saw another side of the though, retiring in 1989 after
- one that took the retired pens, crayons and strings, circles war. One of his most treasured teaching more than 30 years in
University of Georgia law and other shapes cut from poster mementos, a small beaded the University of Georgia's
professor half a century and half board. calculator called a soroban -- the School of Law.
a globe away. Suzuki told Chaffin, a Toccoa Japanese abacus -- brings back But evidence of Chaffin's
It was there at the University native, not to worry that he the vivid memory of a day he regard for Japanese art and
of Colorado that Chaffin joined a spoke Japanese with a Southern spent in Japan right after the war culture abounds in the Athens
select group in 1943, volunteers accent -- the people in Okinawa ended. A Japanese man, a home he shares with Ethel
who signed up to immerse had Southern accents, too, he seventh-grade school teacher, Chaffin, his wife of nearly 60
themselves in Japanese language said. That was no joke, Chaffin invited Chaffin to his home. years. Japanese prints adorn the
and culture for a year. was to discover when he did go Chaffin was suspicious at first, walls, for example, and, a low
This was in the days just after to Okinawa later in the war. The but went. They shared sake and round table, finely carved in
Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. difference between the language talked for hours. The man's wife some light wood, has a place of
Navy looked around and found in Okinawa and Tokyo was and children had been killed in a honor in the living room.
just a few dozen officers fluent similar to the difference between bombing raid. He was one of ''I've profited (from the
in the language of the enemy to the speech of Georgia and that of several people Chaffin met in Japanese language studies), but
the east -- a few dozen in the New York, Chaffin said. Japan who had lost their entire indirectly,'' said Chaffin. ''It
whole U.S. Navy. By the end of the year, families in the war. The soroban opened my eyes up to another
The Navy and other branches Chaffin was dreaming in was the man's gift to Chaffin. culture.''
of the military sent out
Ethel and Verner Chaffin met Komesu #3 are both in touch with Maxine is poor, so it is difficult to talk to
on a train going from Georgia to and with Komesu. Glen and I him by phone. He is living in an
Louisiana. Ethel, a Louisiana girl Ahoy, David and Crew! dubbed him "Tony" since he was comfortable Okinawan version
who studied modern dance with I just received your Special dark and swarthy, and could well of an assisted care facility.
Martha Graham, had come to Reunion Issue #3 - a superb pass for a South Italian. We put Uehara visits Tony, and says he
Milledgeville to teach at Georgia rundown on a masterfully him in a little Marine dungaree is always the center of an
College for Women, and was choreographed event. Enjoyed uniform with an armband, but attentive coterie of female
headed home to Nacogdoches to the bash vicariously, still always kept him close to us. His companions....whatta guy!
visit her family, and Verner was regretting my inability to be English was non-existent and we Sincerely,
headed for Baton Rouge for a there. The plaque also was were afraid some Marine might Glenn Nelson
convention of his college handsomely and appropriately have taken him for a Nip JLS 1943
leadership organization -- but done. infiltrator. I just sent Tony a [Ed. Note: Sorry to be so late with
I was delighted to see Maxine letters, this one is from middle of
that's another story. birthday card. Uehara tells me
July’02.Still, I find it interesting to get
Pineau's "Reprise on Tony Tony is not positive, but thinks
Athens Banner-Herald three takes on the same event.]
Komesu". Glen Slaughter and I he is going on 100. His hearing
Thursday, June 20, 2002.