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At Pier F in Jersey City, the repatriated Americans got off the Red Cross exchange ship Gripsholm, and the community of fate dissolved into 1,223 individual owners of 1,223 individual ration books.

They had been caught, despite warnings over & over again from the Army and the State Department, in Japan, North China, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, French Indo-China. They had been interned for as long as 21 months, living on wormy rice, fish and greasy soup—and hope. They had lost some weight (average only 15 lb.) and most of their worldly good’s. They had also lost their identity.

Now they owed their country their lives and $610 travel expenses each. On Oct. 19, in the Portuguese-Indian harbor of Mormugão, they moved from the dreary Japanese freighter Teia Marti to the Gripsholm’s marvels of tablecloth, roast turkey and freedom. In the opposite direction marched 1,330 Japanese repatriates, straight from U.S. camps, healthy-looking, well-dressed.

Six weeks later they saw, grey in the distance, the aged, blue-green bronze that is the substance of dreams—the Statue of Liberty. Only they could say what that meant to them, and of the 1,223, not one could voice what is unvoiceable. But one wavering voice began to sing God Bless America—and they all sang it, the sophisticated and the plain, and meant it.

Then, suddenly, they had come home, and began to feel that they had not been away. When one of them asked a Western Union office for a messenger, the counterman growled: “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

Some of the repatriates had really forgotten. Said a woman missionary: “Why, I love the Japanese. They are a wonderful people.”

They walked through the streets of New York, saw marabou bed jackets and ermine ear muffs in shop windows, taxis scurrying everywhere, ice cream plentiful. They were back home.

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