My father served with the US Army Air Force, 1107th Base Unit, during World War II. In September of 1942 he was a UC Berkeley art student and ordered to report to the Presidio at Monterey. Before shipping out, he and my mother June rode the train to Colorado Springs where they were married at the Army base in a group ceremony along with other enlisted men and their brides. Dad was then sent overseas where he served in Italy during the battles of Rome and Arno.
(The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) were the military aviation service of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, successor to the United States Army Air Corps and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force.)
I have been told that the Italian campaign suffered some of the heaviest European casualties of the war (for both sides); father rarely spoke of his time in Italy or of the war, but then he wasn’t a big talker in general. One memento he brought home is a set of beautifully carved and painted figurines of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which throughout my childhood made an appearance once a year at Christmas. Mother now has them at the memory care facility where she lives in the Sierra foothills.
At the time the article was written the elder Joseph Rice was 81 and reportedly the oldest Army veteran in Japan. Born in Hungary in 1882 and orphaned at an early age, he began his uniformed career in the French Foreign Legion in 1899. After a five-year hitch with the legion in North Africa, he sailed to the US to see the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (and his brother Samuel who was living there at the time) where he reportedly saw the US Army 16th Infantry Regiment marching in a parade and was inspired to enlist. In 1911 he was assigned to the Philippines. From there he traveled with the US Expeditionary Forces to Siberia, China and Japan.
It was during this time that he met my grandmother in Tientsin, China. When they married he was 31 and she 15. By age 20, she had three children, my father being the youngest.
After WWI, the senior Rice left the service and bought a farm near Manila. With the advent of WWII, he left his farm for the mountains to escape capture, where, as he told the Stars & Stripes reporter, he worked behind enemy lines to organize and advise patriotic guerilla forces. He was commissioned a major in the Luzon Guerrilla Army Forces. When the US liberated the islands, he became an advisor to senior US Army officials. After the war he was chief of a private police force in the Philippines, a job from which he retired from in 1961.
At the time of his death in Japan, my grandfather was living with a daughter (presumably a half-sister to my father) and two grandsons. The Stars & Stripes article does not mention the family that preceded this one, the wife and children who set sail for San Francisco in 1931. The article does mention a 450-page manuscript on his experiences.
“Someday,” Joseph Rice is reported to have said, “I hope to have it published. Right now, I want to stay with my daughter and two grandsons.”
My grandfather visited the United States several times to see his children and he corresponded with Esther until her death. The possible existence of a lost manuscript is but another detail in a life left mostly mysterious to much of his American family.