After 70 years of searching for a long-lost love he left in Japan, a 91-year-old Korean War veteran finally tracked her down and reunited in an emotional meeting earlier this week.
Korean War Navy veteran Duane Mann first met Peggy Yamaguchi in 1953 while he was stationed in Japan from 1953 to 1954. During his free time, Mann would work as a slot machine repairman at an Air Force NCO Club where Peggy worked as a “hat check girl.” In a final attempt to reunite with Yamaguchi, Mann recalled in a Facebook post spending “a lot of time dancing together” as they fell in love and began a relationship.
The two had plans to marry until Mann was discharged and sent back to the U.S. two months early. When Mann returned home, he discovered his father had spent all of his savings, which he planned to use to bring Yamaguchi to the U.S. Mann and Yamaguchi regularly exchanged letters until he stopped receiving them after one month. He later found out his mother had burned the letters because she did not want Mann “to marry a Japanese girl.”
Mann expressed having “a very heavy heart” after leaving Yamaguchi, who was pregnant when Mann returned to the U.S. He felt compelled to reunite with her to tell her that he never abandoned her and explain why they were unable to see each other.
After Mann’s story went viral, Theresa Wong, a 23-year-old History Channel researcher from Vancouver, Canada, tracked down Yamaguchi after discovering a 1956 article with the headline “Tokyo Bride Makes Life in Escanaba.”
Yamaguchi, who is also 91, has been living with her Navy husband in Escanaba, Michigan, where she raised three sons.
Mann’s son and Yamaguchi’s son set up a reunion for the two nine days after the story aired on KETV NewsWatch 7. They finally reunited in a conference room at the Island Resort and Casino in Escanaba. The two reminisced about the time they spent together in Japan many years ago and Mann was finally able to explain what had happened after he left the country.
“I’m here to tell you that I didn’t abandon you at all. I just couldn’t find you,” Duane told Yamaguchi during their reunion.
Mann showed Yamaguchi all the photos of her that he kept in his wallet for 70 years.
“Thank you for remembering and [saving] all the pictures, you must have loved me,” Yamaguchi responded while hugging and kissing Mann.
It was also revealed that Yamaguchi had given her son, Mike Sedenquist, the middle name Duane.
“Duane. D-U-A-N-E. Now it just came to light how I really got that name and it wasn’t by happenstance, it was for a reason,” her son said.
Mann described his reunion with Yamaguchi as a “freeing experience.”