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Mom & Dad, WWII Veterans

Mom sailed home from Shanghai on the SS Gordon in April 1948 when UNRRA folded. Dad stayed on, taking a job with the U.S. Relief Mission. Over the summer, however, he realized how much he missed Mom, so called long distance (Mom got the call at 3 in the morning her time in Colorado) and proposed. They set the wedding date for July 31, 1948, sent out announcements and Mom grabbed a plane back to China. Things didn't go off quite as planned and here is Mom's letter, dated August 10, 1948.

We left Wake Island about 45 minutes ahead of schedule on Friday evening, but after three hours out the No. 1 port engine went out, so the captain decided to return to Wake. I had slept through all the excitement and didn't know anything about it until they turned on the lights - said we were landing at Wake and why. I guess you know there couldn't have been an unhappier girl in the world as I was at four o'clock on the morning of 31 July as we walked off that plane. Also, Wake has no facilities for sending messages, commercially, that is, and any message has to be Urgent to get through. I contacted the communication officer, told him why I wanted to get a message off and he agreed with me of its urgency, so he sent one - which I discovered after arriving here didn't get through - but I felt better anyway.

We were all taken to the Wake Hotel which is a Quonset hut divided into two rooms, and were all in bed by five a.m. We were all up at eight for breakfast (approximately 8 men and 7 women) and then a couple of the fellows took us on a tour of the island. I'd decided that since there wasn't anything I could do about the situation, I might as well enter into the spirit of the thing and enjoy myself. We took pictures, and while part of the group went swimming in the afternoon, four of us played bridge. I'd already gotten a sunburn so didn't dare go swimming. Two hours in that tropical sun really fixed me up that afternoon. I went to the dispensary and the doctor put about an inch of salve all over my legs, arms, face and neck and told me to keep it on and I wouldn't blister, so I did, and if I wasn't a pretty looking sight for dinner, and when we finally went about at 7:30 p.m.

We had to have a complete new engine and fortunately there was one on the island or we'd been there another day while one was flown from Honolulu. So after we celebrated my wedding day and one of the fellow's birthdays, we departed and arrived in Tokyo at 2:30 Sunday morning. Two hours of sitting in the waiting room and then off for Shanghai.

It was getting daylight and since Japan is so beautiful from the air, didn't get any more sleep that night. There was the most beautiful sunrise - it just kept us busy looking. We circled Hiroshima and I took pictures which I hope turn out.

And then at 9:00 a.m. 1 August, I arrived at Shanghai and Jim was there waiting for me. Took about an hour to get through customs, and my standing there in a wool suit, carrying a fur coat, in all that heat, which I was really noticing coming directly from the mountains of Colorado. I'd already begun to get prickly heat at Wake and needless to say I have it from my ears down to my toes at present. I couldn't even get close enough to hand anything to Jim until after I'd gotten through all the red tape, so I was just about a grease spot. Anyway, I finally got through customs and Jim brought me up to the apartment where a shower, clean clothes and a beer really hit the spot.

Jim hadn't found out about the plane being late until he called the airport around eleven a.m. and then all he got was a Chinese who couldn't speak very good English, but who said, "Plane no come today - maybe tomorrow" so with only that information he was really up in the air. He got ahold of Chuck and between the two of them they notified the wedding guests. Of the 130 invitations they managed to reach everyone but one couple so I thought they did very well under the circumstances. . He managed to run off a special mimeographed notice calling the reception off and also saying "a bigger and better party next week". Layle took Jim out to the Columbia Country Club in the afternoon for he was feeling so blue and he said he thought everyone in Shanghai knew about our wedding. Perfect strangers came up to him saying, "Oh, you're the fellow that was supposed to be married today." Pan American employees here sure took a beating.

Anyway, Rev. Snavely had said five o'clock Sunday, August 1 would be okay provided I got in, so with a few phone calls we went ahead for that time. He took me down to Layle's room about three and I got ready there and a car picked us up and took us to the church.


James Barton Behling
Dorothy Chloe Williams
Married at 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 1 August, 1948
Community Church of Shanghai

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All photos taken by my parents and © 2003 Sam Behling. All rights reserved.