‘I just can’t get that out of my soul,’ Korean War Navy vet searching for lost love he left in Japan 70 years ago

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It’s a question we all ask at least once in our lifetime.What if you made a different decision?What if you chose the other path?”I’ve had a great life and I’ve been blessed a lot, but I just have that one thing that has stuck with me,” said Duane Mann.That one. The one. Duane Mann, 91, just can’t shake from his heart. “I’m standing there, I’m 23 years old and I’m in love with this girl and I’m not going to leave her,” Mann said.While sitting in his Woodbine, Iowa home, he’s surrounded by pictures of his large family. “I just had that one regret,” he said.The Korean War Navy veteran can’t stop thinking about a choice he made in 1954. “I can see her standing there, crying and pregnant,” he said tearfully.Before we get to that pivotal moment, let’s return to how the romance between a 21-year- old Iowa farm boy and a young Japanese woman started in Yokosuka, Japan.”Her name is Peggy Yamaguchi,” Mann said as he holds a framed picture of her.The airman second class petty officer, who was in charge of the military base aviation warehouse, spent his free time moonlighting at the Air Force NCO club, fixing the slot machines.Peggy worked as the hat check girl. “I really loved to dance and she and I found out we could really dance together, I mean to where people would watch us,” he said. “And gradually we fell in love, we couldn’t stop it.” Fourteen months of courtship, captured in these photographs Mann snapped with a new camera he bought at the PX. “It was a beautiful, beautiful day and we had been out walking around all the cherry blossoms and everything,” Mann said.The happy couple thought they had three months to plan their wedding before his Navy discharge. Suddenly, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pulled all Navy personnel from Japan. Mann received papers he was to be shipped back to the U.S. in one week. “We didn’t have any time to get married, we were just trapped,” Mann said. “I reassured her, ‘Don’t be afraid when I get home I am just going to send for you.”Mann thought he had enough savings at home. But when he got home, he learned his father ran into tough times and spent all of it.Mann quickly found a job building highways throughout the Midwest.It was hard work but it paid well. He needed money to bring his love to America. “I corresponded with her. I would get a letter a week,” Mann said.After some time, Peggy’s letters stopped arriving in the mail and three months later, he received one final letter. “In that letter, she told me she married an Air Force man and that she had lost the baby and that was just dead for me,” Mann said. “I was pretty well devastated.” Mann said he found out later, Peggy was indeed still writing to him.He was told his mother had intercepted the letters and burned them.”She didn’t want me to marry a Japanese girl. She wanted me to marry a girl from the church,” Mann said.Mann thought his first love was over, so he moved on. “He recollects his time in Japan very fondly,” said his youngest daughter Janel Cogdill.Cogdill is one of his six children. He also has 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Mann had two marriages, one lasted 17 years and the second 47 years.”For me and my siblings, we’re all glad things that turned out the way they did because we wouldn’t be here, had he sent for Peggy and she came to the United States and they lived happily ever after,” Cogdill said.But even with all his happiness from his large family, Mann has never forgotten about Peggy.”It began to haunt me more and more through the years … I left her standing there, pregnant,” he cried.Mann shared his story of his search on Facebook, with the blessing of his children. “It’s something that’s bothered him all his life,” Cogdill said.Mann hopes someone recognizes Peggy from the photograph he took of her in Japan. The only clues he has is she would be in her late 80s or early 90s, she said she married a man in the Air Force, who is from Wisconsin. “The big thing that really makes it hard is that she thinks I abandoned her and I just can’t get that out of my soul,” Mann said.Now he chooses to make things right.”I never missed a night praying for that,” Mann said.And if this path leads him to Peggy after 70 years?”I would say, ‘I come to see you late in life. There’s one thing I want you to know that I did not abandon you.'” Email Michelle if you recognize Peggy.

duane mann

It’s a question we all ask at least once in our lifetime.

What if you made a different decision?

What if you chose the other path?

“I’ve had a great life and I’ve been blessed a lot, but I just have that one thing that has stuck with me,” said Duane Mann.

That one. The one. Duane Mann, 91, just can’t shake from his heart.

“I’m standing there, I’m 23 years old and I’m in love with this girl and I’m not going to leave her,” Mann said.

While sitting in his Woodbine, Iowa home, he’s surrounded by pictures of his large family.

“I just had that one regret,” he said.

The Korean War Navy veteran can’t stop thinking about a choice he made in 1954.

“I can see her standing there, crying and pregnant,” he said tearfully.

Before we get to that pivotal moment, let’s return to how the romance between a 21-year- old Iowa farm boy and a young Japanese woman started in Yokosuka, Japan.

“Her name is Peggy Yamaguchi,” Mann said as he holds a framed picture of her.

The airman second class petty officer, who was in charge of the military base aviation warehouse, spent his free time moonlighting at the Air Force NCO club, fixing the slot machines.

Peggy worked as the hat check girl.

“I really loved to dance and she and I found out we could really dance together, I mean to where people would watch us,” he said. “And gradually we fell in love, we couldn’t stop it.”

Fourteen months of courtship, captured in these photographs Mann snapped with a new camera he bought at the PX.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful day and we had been out walking around all the cherry blossoms and everything,” Mann said.

duane mann

The happy couple thought they had three months to plan their wedding before his Navy discharge. Suddenly, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pulled all Navy personnel from Japan. Mann received papers he was to be shipped back to the U.S. in one week.

“We didn’t have any time to get married, we were just trapped,” Mann said.
“I reassured her, ‘Don’t be afraid when I get home I am just going to send for you.”

Mann thought he had enough savings at home. But when he got home, he learned his father ran into tough times and spent all of it.

Mann quickly found a job building highways throughout the Midwest.

It was hard work but it paid well. He needed money to bring his love to America.

“I corresponded with her. I would get a letter a week,” Mann said.

After some time, Peggy’s letters stopped arriving in the mail and three months later, he received one final letter.

“In that letter, she told me she married an Air Force man and that she had lost the baby and that was just dead for me,” Mann said. “I was pretty well devastated.”

Mann said he found out later, Peggy was indeed still writing to him.

He was told his mother had intercepted the letters and burned them.

“She didn’t want me to marry a Japanese girl. She wanted me to marry a girl from the church,” Mann said.

Mann thought his first love was over, so he moved on.

“He recollects his time in Japan very fondly,” said his youngest daughter Janel Cogdill.

Cogdill is one of his six children. He also has 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Mann had two marriages, one lasted 17 years and the second 47 years.

duane mann

“For me and my siblings, we’re all glad things that turned out the way they did because we wouldn’t be here, had he sent for Peggy and she came to the United States and they lived happily ever after,” Cogdill said.

But even with all his happiness from his large family, Mann has never forgotten about Peggy.

“It began to haunt me more and more through the years … I left her standing there, pregnant,” he cried.

Mann shared his story of his search on Facebook, with the blessing of his children.

“It’s something that’s bothered him all his life,” Cogdill said.

Mann hopes someone recognizes Peggy from the photograph he took of her in Japan. The only clues he has is she would be in her late 80s or early 90s, she said she married a man in the Air Force, who is from Wisconsin.

“The big thing that really makes it hard is that she thinks I abandoned her and I just can’t get that out of my soul,” Mann said.

Now he chooses to make things right.

“I never missed a night praying for that,” Mann said.

And if this path leads him to Peggy after 70 years?

“I would say, ‘I come to see you late in life. There’s one thing I want you to know that I did not abandon you.'”

Email Michelle if you recognize Peggy.





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